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Fallujah and the Fog of War

I don’t know what on earth is happening in Fallujah. I get the impression, and so does Andrew Sullivan, that the folks in Washington don’t know what’s happening either. And they know a lot more than I do.

It’s tempting to come up with my own take on it, but at this point I’d be almost certain to get it all wrong.

Tacitus thinks we just lost the war. And Wretchard at the Belmont Club thinks it’s all going swimmingly. Even though they wildly disagree with each other, they’re both worth your time. They can’t both be right and they both could be wrong, but I seriously doubt either of them will be entirely wrong. Read the whole thing at both links.

A Good Anti-war Blog

If you’re a hawk like me you may have a tough time finding contrary points of view that don’t make you cringe. I know I do. It isn’t easy to find smart people with substantive criticisms of American foreign policy who don’t get under my skin.

But they are out there, and they’re worth seeking out and listening to.

So I’d like to turn you on to Marc Cooper, if you don’t already know who he is. He’s a columnist for The Nation (probably the sharpest of the bunch) and also the LA Weekly. Recently he decided to start up a blog. He must be doing something right because he already has a diverse and civil community in his comments section.

Here’s his take on Iraq in a nutshell (I am quoting him from his own comments section):

I opposed the war per se because I thought that on balance it would be counter-productive (but not immoral). I’m afraid that is being borne out by the current fix we are in. I also opposed the “peace movement” by the way as I found most of their arguments feckless. I still oppose any sort of immediate withdrawal as I guess I’m sympathetic to the Pottery Barn argument. This administration now “owns” Iraq and cannot abandon it.

If you can work with that, and I certainly can, head on over to his site. If you want to argue with him, be cool about it. Don’t be like the resident far-left bomb-throwing troll in his comments section.

An Unlikely Friendship

Roger L. Simon told me to read Imshin because it would be good for me. And he is right.

An Israeli woman meets a young Palestinian man at a wedding in France. Friendship of a sort soon follows. Find out how and why.

Discombobulated

Wow. ‘Twas the first day of the rest of my life and I’m feeling strange. It’s weird not having a day job. I took a look around the house and realized damn I’m behind on domestic crap. I can’t believe there’s so much around here that needs to be done that hasn’t been done. When I only have so much time for chores and whatnot I can only “see” so much.

I don’t feel normal. I have vestigial work stress hanging over me, like I have to get up and go to work tomorrow, or at least on Monday. I have free time to do lots of stuff that needs to be done, but it feels like that free time will end any minute. It won’t. I’ve been working seventy hours a week counting my multiple jobs and projects (including this blog) and now I’m way down. I won’t get back to that schedule for a long time because I don’t need to. That doesn’t seem real. It hasn’t sunk in yet.

I dreamed about my now-former job, which I held for four and a half years, for the first time ever last night. In my dream I went to work like it was a normal day. It was a boring dream of a boring day, and I woke from that dream feeling like I was in another dimension.

I have no idea what happened in the world today because I’ve been inside my own head. I don’t have any opinions today. It’s kinda nice for a change.

I’ll be back when I get sorted out. Could be any minute…

So Much For My Day Job

It finally happened. I got downsized. The entire department at my day job was axed at 9:00 Tuesday morning.

I saw it coming years ago when the high tech economy imploded. I’m surprised I lasted as long as I did. It was, I think, the seventh round of layoffs that finally got me. That’s not so bad. There’s no reason for me to take it personally.

There’s also no reason for me to get bent out of shape about it.

A few years ago I finally grew up enough that I could start saving money. So when the recession began I opened another bank account and started rat-holing the stuff. I didn’t get rich in high tech (I never made a penny from stock options, even though I had thousands of them), but the job was a cash cow all the same. The bank account that began as my own private unemployment insurance has transformed itself into a career-change paycheck-generator. The money was nice, but that job was in my way. Now it isn’t. I won’t have much money to buy anything, but I will be able to live a long time without another day job.

It’s a little bit freaky, though. I feel like a fish that spent his whole life in an acquarium who’s been suddenly released into the sea.

I’ve been making money writing on the side, and I have a few other tricks up my sleeve. When I called my wife at work to tell her what happened I thought she might freak out. Instead she said “Woo hoo!” She is an angel. And she knows what this means. This is great news for me. Really, it is.

I am happy.

Free Advice for John Kerry

John Kerry is among the legion of politicians who still don’t know the First Rule of Holes: When you’re in one, stop digging. He’s been jumping down into the same deep hole, shovel in hand, for more than three decades.

In 1971 he angrily threw someone’s war medals over the White House gate. Were they his own or someone else’s? Were all the medals from the Vietnam War? Or did he rudely toss World War II medals onto the lawn along with them?

As is typical for John Kerry, on Friday he says he tossed his own medals then denied it on Sunday. (See Kaus for the details.)

Most people don’t really care if John Kerry did and said dumb things in ‘71. I certainly don’t. I was only one year old at the time. I do expect him to act like an adult and be honest about it, however. He is, after all, auditioning for president of the United States.

I don’t care for John Kerry, but I’ll throw him a rope all the same. Here you go, senator. Say this on the TV: “Today’s more strident anti-war activists remind me of my own immature self back in 1971.” It will kill two proverbial birds with a single figurative stone. It will play well among people who matter. And you’ll feel a lot better.

This is just some simple free advice for the John Kerry campaign by someone who is not, at this time, a supporter. You’re welcome.

Europe Gets Jihad

Europeans are having serious problems with some of their immigrants.

LUTON, England, April 24 — The call to jihad is rising in the streets of Europe, and is being answered, counterterrorism officials say.

In this former industrial town north of London, a small group of young Britons whose parents emigrated from Pakistan after World War II have turned against their families’ new home. They say they would like to see Prime Minister Tony Blair dead or deposed and an Islamic flag hanging outside No. 10 Downing Street.

They swear allegiance to Osama bin Laden and his goal of toppling Western democracies to establish an Islamic superstate under Shariah law, like Afghanistan under the Taliban. They call the Sept. 11 hijackers the “Magnificent 19″ and regard the Madrid train bombings as a clever way to drive a wedge into Europe.

These people are not at all like the Basque ETA or the Irish Republican Army. Those groups could be appeased or even surrendered to. The IRA does not wish to conquer London. The ETA has no desire to fly its flag over Madrid. You can’t appease people who want to conquer you, especially when they don’t have the power to pull it off if you’d let them.

So far to my knowledge, the only politicians in Europe who are even willing to talk about this are far-right nutjobs like France’s Jean Marie Le Pen (a Vichy nostalgist) and Austria’s Jorge Haider (a Nazi enthusiast). This can’t go on.

Either the mainstream liberals and/or conservatives need to figure out what to do about this (and they can start by pitching political correctness over the side and admitting they have a problem) or the ghosts of Europe’s past will walk again.

Our Saudi “Allies”

I’d like to see the corrupt and reactionary House of Saud strung up on lamposts as long as they aren’t replaced with an Al Qaeda regime. The Bush Administration’s coziness with the princes is and has been troubling, but this is as good an explanation as any I’ve seen.

WASHINGTON – During the Iraq war, Saudi Arabia secretly helped the United States far more than has been acknowledged, allowing operations from at least three air bases, permitting special forces to stage attacks from Saudi soil and providing cheap fuel, U.S. and Saudi officials say.

The American air campaign against Iraq was essentially managed from inside Saudi borders, where military commanders operated an air command center and launched refueling tankers, F-16 fighter jets, and sophisticated intelligence gathering flights, according to the officials.

Much of the assistance has been kept quiet for more than a year by both countries for fear it would add to instability inside the kingdom. Many Saudis oppose the war and U.S. presence on Saudi soil has been used by Osama bin Laden to build his terror movement.

The best that can be said about them is that they are temporarily useful enemies.

Bush’s Ironic Bounce

President Bush is up in the polls.

WASHINGTON — As worries about the Iraq war and terrorism have pushed ahead of the economy among the public’s priorities, President Bush has edged ahead of Democratic challenger John Kerry, national polls suggest.

Bush is ahead of Kerry by five points in the latest CNN poll, and he’s up by six points in the latest Gallup.

Richard Cohen in the Washington Post tries to figure out how this is possible after a month of bad news.

In the past month or so, everything has gone wrong for George W. Bush. He has been criticized at hearings of the Sept. 11 commission for being lackadaisical about terrorism. Richard Clarke accused him of being weirdly obsessed with Iraq. More than 100 Americans have been killed there in the past 30 days, and Bush was so inarticulate in his recent news conference that you could say he violated the standards of his own “No Child Left Behind” policy. Still, if this keeps up, he’ll win reelection in a landslide.

I am one who would just barely answer “Bush” if a pollster called my house. For me it’s real simple.

I don’t like Bush. Didn’t vote for him. Used to hate him. Slowly grew to be neutral. (There, I just channeled his father.)

Kerry just doesn’t have it together. He’s a cipher. I have no idea how he would perform on foreign policy. And neither does anyone else. He might do a fine job. Really, he might. But “Take a chance with John Kerry” isn’t a compelling slogan unless you’re a Bush hater.

Since Al Gore received slightly more votes nationwide than Bush did, a small but significant percentage of people who didn’t vote for Bush last time around would vote for him today. Some of those people are converts. Others probably prefer the devil they know to the one that they don’t.

If I had to grade Bush I’d give him a C. The only reason I give him that high a grade is because of who he’s compared with. He gets a Gentleman’s C, and only because I’m grading on a curve. (On foreign policy, though, I would give him a B. He earned that from me.)

John Kerry does have my sympathy. He could give a “Sister Souljah” speech and distance himself from the more feral anti-war activists. Some moderates and centrists would think that was fine. The trouble is he would also give Ralph Nader a bounce at his own expense. Bad news in Iraq doesn’t help him, and he probably expected it would. He’s trapped in his own box.

A New Iranian Blog

Mohammad Ali Abtahi is the Vice President of Iran. And he has a blog.

Here is one of his entries.

I believe that America, close to the presidential elections, needs Iraq situation to be convulsed more than ever. It is because the best reason for America’s stability is these convulsions. Bush needs to announce the public in America that there is an unfinished project in Iraq that no one else other than him can make it to the last point and if doesn’t finish, the Middle East will be in war and fire and America will be injured and damaged more than any other country.

If my analysis be the right one, Moghtadi Sadr attitudes and actions in Convulsion making in Iraq and unifying Shiite and Sunnis together against America, is just exactly what America needs in such a situation.

The out of tradition attitude by America which is being shown against the convulsions in Iraq, like the blockade of Falluja or killing the innocent Iraqi citizens who are extremely tired of killings and wars, or closing some newspapers in Iraq by America, which are all opposite of the principles that America used to talk about. These are all in concern with how much do the Americans need a convincing reason for their stability in these days close to their elections and also how much would these manners be effective for Bush’s stabilization.

I hope that those who are influential in political areas of Iraq, including Shiite and Sunni parties, pay attention to this reality and do not prepare grounds for the longer stability of occupational regime and let Iraqis to be able to decide on their destiny as soon as possible.

He’s writing in English so he’s talking to us, not to Iranians.

What to make of that? Well, here’s a snip from another post that gives us an idea of his character.

Reporting is a beautiful world. I love the world in which the person should think about an event each second. Even once, Ebrahim Nabavi asked me in an interview “what is the best profession of the world?” I answered: reporting and being a correspondent.”

Sure. If he believes that, I’m a mullah.

(Hat tip: Who Knew?)

Frum Spins Woodward

Other people can read Bob Woodward’s book Plan of Attack so I don’t have to. I can only read so many books in my life, and this one doesn’t make the cut.

Still, other people’s reactions to it are interesting.

Here’s something David Frum learned from its pages:

George Bush told Saudi ambassador Bandar of his intention to go to war in Iraq before he told Colin Powell. Personally, I wonder whether this revelation is quite true. The source of this story is most likely Bandar himself — and his claims should always be swallowed with a good portion of the annual output of an especially productive salt mine.

That seems about right. Of course it might be true. Who knows? Let’s say it is and see what Frum thinks.

But if it were true, it would suggest several important and disturbing conclusions.

(1) It would rather give the lie to the claim that the Iraq war was masterminded by Israel, wouldn’t it?

I don’t see how. One thing has nothing to do with the other. Besides, anyone who thinks the United States is a Jewish sock puppet lives in a phantasmagorical mental universe. Weighing evidence is beyond them.

(2) It would suggest that by the end of 2002, the president no longer trusted Powell to do the basic work of diplomacy for him.

Eh. I don’t know.

(3) Again if true, the story would suggest that the breakdown of relations between Powell and the president did severe damage to the national security of the United States — by placing the president in a position where he had to inform doubtfully friendly states of major decisions before he told them to his own secretary of state!

Come again? Bush had to tell the Saudis what was up before he told Colin Powell? Why would he have to? Who on earth could have made him?

I’ll give Frum some slack for describing an enemy state as “doubtfully friendly.” His NR colleagues have done a fine job exposing the perfidy in that kingdom. He knows what I know.

And that’s what makes his blame-it-on Powell spin so ridiculous. Either Frum thinks Colin Powell is less trustworthy than the Saudis or he believes Bush thinks so. Either way…ptth.

I rather doubt the story Woodward is telling is true. If it is true, that’s a problem. And it’s a problem because of what George W. Bush did, not because of what Colin Powell might have done to deserve it.

It’s probably best not to blame Powell for being stabbed in the back. And it’s also probably best not to accuse him of endangering national security in the process. Let’s try to remember who supposedly did what to whom here. It’s pretty straightforward.

(Hat tip: Matt Welch)

UPDATE: On a slightly related note, it looks like the Bush campaign likes Woodward’s book. Moe Freedman has the details.

Happy Anniversary to us

Today (Tuesday) is Shelly’s and my second wedding anniversary. So you get nothin’!

Enjoy the fine blogs to your left. See you again shortly.

Another Kind of Terror

Damn this is creepy.

MADRID, Spain (CNN) — The body of a Spanish police officer who was killed in a raid on suspected Islamic terrorists was removed from its tomb Sunday night, dragged across a cemetery, doused with gasoline and burned, a Spanish police official told CNN.

I don’t believe in evil, at least not in the religious sense of the word. But this makes me think of gothic horror novels, not politics.

UPDATE: CNN completely changed that story. If you follow the link now there is no mention of what I excerpted. Here’s a cached version at Google where you can read the original before they purged it.

Paranoid Blowhard

So Rush Limbaugh thinks Hillary Clinton might murder John Kerry and dump his body in a park. That’s what happens when you spend your entire life in a dittohead partisan echo chamber.

Gary Farber explains.

I’m sure plenty of people will defend him by saying he’s joking. Well, that’s what Michael Moore says about his crackpot theories, too. I’m a comedian, he says. Yeah, whatever. Then again, maybe Al Franken can joke around about assassinating George W. Bush and conservatives will finally think he’s funny.

Duelling Opinions

Oxblog found what looks to be an interesting Web site called Opinion Duel.

It’s a collaboration project between The New Republic and National Review. If you’re interested in serious debate between smart and reasonable people, check it out. A flame war forum it definitely is not. At the time of this posting, Jonathan Chait and Ramesh Ponnuru are going at it. If they can be faulted for anything, they’re too polite.

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