Thought for the Day

Richard Cohen in the Washington Post:

I offer my own U.N. resolution. I want the United Nations to condemn Palestinian terrorism, specifically suicide bombers and, most specifically, the use of confused and sad kids for that purpose. It’s pretty simple: If you cannot condemn the murder of innocents, especially by children, then you have no business condemning anything else.

(Hat tip: Vodkapundit.)

New Column

My latest Tech Central Station column is up: The Small Pleasures of Trade.

(The blogosphere’s “hat tip” convention doesn’t work with regular articles. But I can mention on the blog that I got this idea from Randy Paul.)

Frist Unfit

It looks like Bill Frist isn’t the best person the Senate Republicans could have found to be their majority leader after all. He’s an improvement over Trent Lott, thank heaven for that. But the best they have? The most fit for the job? No. He is not.

Frist accused Richard Clarke of committing perjury without evidence.

“Mr. Clarke has told two entirely different stories under oath,” Frist said in a speech from the Senate floor, alleging that Clarke said in 2002 that the Bush administration actively sought to address the threat posed by al-Qaida before the attacks.

Frist later retreated from directly accusing Clarke of perjury, telling reporters that he personally had no knowledge that there were any discrepancies between Clarke’s two appearances.

Maybe Clarke did perjure himself. I don’t know. His testimony is classified. More important, Frist doesn’t know either. He said himself that he doesn’t know. Yet he stood there in the Senate chamber and called a man a criminal. As if it were a fact.

Josh Marshall says this will permanently change the way he sees Frist. The same goes for me.

Richard Clarke annoys me as much as he annoys his next critic. But that doesn’t mean it’s open season on him and that anything goes.

I haven’t seen the GOP attack machine in such an overdrive since the Clinton days. I’m used to seeing this kind of behavior lately from the Democrats. Now they’re both at it. In full force. At the same time.

This “national security” debate is all about the election. It has nothing to do with national security at all.

Real Terrorism in Uzbekistan

Two female suicide bombers killed at least 19 people in Uzbekistan.

Here’s how Reuters reported it.

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (Reuters) – At least 19 people were killed in a series of explosions and shoot-outs in Uzbekistan in “terrorist” actions aimed at splitting the U.S.-led anti-terror coalition, officials said Monday.

Muslims lash out at the world by blowing up other Muslims at random. And Reuters still can’t type the word terrorist without putting the damn thing in quotation marks.

I guess we should cut them some slack when they say Jews, Americans and Iraqis are killed by “terrorists.” They just don’t believe terrorism is real. Still to this day.

And look at the reason why these attacks supposedly happened. To split the US-led anti-terrorist coalition. That’s what the piece says.

Two paragraphs later, the same piece said this.

Hizb ut-Tahrir, which aims to set up a pan-Islamic state that would include post-Soviet Central Asia, and the austere Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam are both outlawed in Uzbekistan.

Any possibility that that was the reason for the attacks? I’m just asking.


The 911 Commission and the furor over Richard Clarke’s testimony gets worse every time I look at it.

Glenn Reynolds thinks Condoleeza Rice ought to testify before the commission. I agree. But he also says he hopes she says this from David Frum:

This administration came into office to discover that al Qaeda had been allowed to grow into a full-blown menace. It lost six precious weeks to the Florida recount — and then weeks after Inauguration Day to the go-slow confirmation procedures of a 50-50 Senate. As late as the summer of 2001, pitifully few of Bush’s own people had taken their jobs at State, Defense, and the NSC. Then it was hit by 9/11. And now, now the same people who allowed al Qaeda to grow up, who delayed the staffing of the administration, who did nothing when it was their turn to act, who said nothing when they could have spoken in advance of the attack — these same people accuse George Bush of doing too little? There’s a long answer to give folks like that — and also a short one. And the short one is: How dare you?

Ugh. No. Can we please not go there?

For God’s sake leave the Florida recount out of the national security debate. This is far more petty and partisan and obnoxious than anything Richard Clarke has said. I can hardly imagine anything less relevant. Imagine if he dragged the Florida recount into his testimony. The GOP would be agitating for thumb screws.

Glenn adds:

As I’ve said before, I’m willing to let bygones be bygones before September 11….

Yes. That’s the spirit. Really, it is.


The US government had a weak response to Al Qaeda before 911. The US government. Not Clinton. Not Bush. The entire government.

The media and the left just adore Richard Clarke because he beats up on Bush and praises Clinton. (Oh, and he grandstands about regime-change in Iraq, even though that has nothing whatever to do with pre-911 failures.) Meanwhile, Glenn Reynolds is cheering David Frum and hoping Condoleeza Rice will channel him in her testimony because he’s beating up on Clinton and not Bush. And bringing Florida and Senate confirmations into it, which also have nothing whatever to do with terrorism and national security.

Is no one embarrassed by the transparent partisanship of this entire charade?

The farther we get from 911 the less people seem to care about terrorism and the more they like to use it as a stick to beat up the other guy. I can’t see how this can possibly be good for the country. The transatlantic alliance is coming apart, and so is any shred of a bipartisan alliance here at home. It has become a partisan point-scoring farce.

Why Clarke Annoys

Mark Steyn zeroes in on exactly what it is about Richard Clarke that bugs me.

No, it’s not because he’s criticizing pre-911 anti-terrorism failures. That’s what he’s supposed to do. Obviously there’s plenty of blame to go around. Neither the Bush nor the Clinton Administrations did a particularly bang-up job, although I’m willing to give both of them a pass for mistakes made before that dreadful date for the same reason I don’t blame FDR or Herbert Hoover for Pearl Harbor.

It’s this kind of nonsense that’s makes it hard for me to take the guy seriously.

The media were very taken by this passage from his book, in which he alerts Mr Bush’s incoming National Security Adviser to the terrorist threat: “As I briefed Rice on al-Qa’eda, her facial expression gave me the impression that she had never heard of the term before, so I added, ‘Most people think of it as Osama bin Laden’s group, but it’s much more than that. It’s a network of affiliated terrorist organisations with cells in over 50 countries, including the US.’ “

Now, when I heard that Clarke had said that, every BS-detector in my head went off. Turns out my instincts were sound.

Mr Clarke would seem to be channelling Leslie Nielsen’s deadpan doctor in Airplane!: “Stewardess, we need to get this passenger to a hospital.”

“A hospital? What is it?”

“It’s a big building with patients, but that’s not important right now.”

As it turns out, Clarke’s ability to read “facial expressions” is not as reliable as one might wish in a “counter-terrorism expert”. In October the previous year, Dr Rice gave an interview to WJR Radio in Detroit in which she discoursed authoritatively on al-Qa’eda and bin Laden – and without ever having met Richard Clarke!

Clarke similarly said Bush’s “facial expression” ordered him to connect Iraq with Al Qaeda even if there was no connection.

I’m sure Bush had a serious look on his face when he asked Clarke to figure out if Saddam had anything to do with 911. I suspected Saddam might have had a hand in it, and I know plenty of other people who did, too.

Looks like Saddam was out of the loop. And so what? Changing his regime wasn’t an act of revenge or retaliation any more than smacking down Adolf Hitler was to punish him for Pearl Harbor.

If Clarke has something substantive to say, we ought hear him out. If he would like to propose a different anti-terror strategy, that would be great – at a separate place and time. Not at the commission that wants to know what went wrong before 911. His “facial expression” testiomony isn’t going anywhere and looks a lot like baseless character assasination. (There’s a lot of that going around these days on more side than one.) And using his witness chair to gripe about overthrowing Saddam all but guarantees a polarized reaction to his testimony.

Frist Vs. Clarke

This Richard Clarke scandal is getting serious.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is suggesting that Clarke may have lied to Congress under oath this week. Clarke also testified before the House and Senate intelligence committees two years ago, and Frist says he told two contradictory stories. Both under oath.

If it turns out that Clarke did lie under oath, he’s in some really deep shit. The media and the anti-war brigades who lionized a perjurer as a hero are going to feel pretty darned stupid. And deservedly so.

If it turns out that he didn’t lie under oath, if the GOP gets the records declassified only to find there’s no there there, Bill Frist just shot Republican Party credibility to hell. This would be beyond politics as usual, which is bad enough. Bogus accusations of criminal behavior are not so easily forgiven or forgotten.

(The fact that Clarke made contradictory statements while not under oath is a totally separate question.)

Here’s what I want to know. Does Frist already know what Clarke said in his previous testimony? In other words, is his accusation of criminal behavior a reasonable one? A sitting president was impeached for lying under oath. About sex. This is no idle charge Frist is making.

Or is this just a slimy speculation? If so, Frist is unfit for his job.

Think that’s an overstatement?

Here’s what Scott Spradling said to Howard Dean a few months back.

Governor Dean, you had once stated that you thought it was possible that the president of the United States had been forewarned about the 9/11 terrorist attacks. You later said that you didn’t really know.

A statement like that, don’t you see the possibility of some Democrats being nervous about statements like that leading them to the conclusion that you are not right for being the next commander in chief?

Inded. And the same principle will apply to Frist if it turns out that he’s just mouthing off.

Politics may be ethically corrupting to many, if not most, people who practice it. I can accept that. But there ought to be a higher standard for the Senate Majority Leader and the top counter-terrorism adviser. Their job is to protect my office tower from being hit with a truck bomb, not to slime their opponents for cheap political career points.

The Clarke “Scandal”

I’m behind the curve on this one, but I suppose I should weigh in on the Richard Clarke “scandal.”

Clarke’s ability to undermine his own self with his own words is astonishing.

I’m sure he’s telling the truth in there somewhere. I don’t know when he is and when he isn’t. At this point, none of his blatantly contradictory statements are even worth quoting. This has been covered nearly to death elsewhere. Those interested in the details can follow the link.

Matthew Yglesias doesn’t think Clark has a credibility problem.

The “serious allegations” would turn on Clarke’s credibility if and only if administration figures would explain in a clear manner which of the allegations are not true and what is untrue about them. They have not done so.

He has a point. Administration officials do need to counter any claims by Clarke that aren’t true. Maybe they have and I missed it. Honestly, I don’t really know, partly because this story bores me, and partly because I have neither the time nor the energy to parse a series of “he said” and “she said” counter allegations by bickering politicians.

Even so, Matt is only half right. Clarke is perfectly capable of creating a credibility problem all by himself. That is independent of the fact that the Bush Administration may also have its own credibility problems.

I could be wrong, obviously, but I have feeling this guy is as ephemeral as a moth. He’ll be a footnote in two weeks and his book will be consigned to the remainder bins.

I’m sorry if this is a flip and lazy response. It is. I know it is. But the man hasn’t demonstrated he’s worth my time. He seems to me an arrogant self-aggrandizing phony. He isn’t even up to speed enough to know that his previous statements are all over the Internet, that those who are interested can compare and contrast what he’s saying now with what he has said in the past.

If you’re interested in some truly devastating criticism of pre-911 government failure, read what Bob Kerrey, the former Democratic senator from Nebraska, had to say. He’s a man worth taking seriously. If I were Bush I would be very afraid of facing an opponent like him. He is relentless, and he is right.

Breaking the Cycle

Israelis appease terrorists every time they agree to a prisoner swap.

It goes like this.

Israel captures terrorists. Terrorists kidnap Israelis. Terrorists demand the release of their captured comrades. Israel capitulates. Terrorists declare victory and repeat as needed. And so on and so on. Forever.

Once this cycle of appeasement starts, it’s a bitch to get off. Israel hasn’t managed it yet. They released yet more prisoners — 436 of them — not two months ago.

But they are learning to stop a different cycle of appeasement before it becomes too much of a pattern.

In the year 2000 when Israel withdrew its forces from Lebanon under fire from Hezbollah, they withdrew behind the border recognized by the United Nations. There, they said. We’ve done what you wanted. Now, stop shooting at us.

But the shooting didn’t stop. Hezbollah celebrated the Israeli withdrawal as a tremendous victory for itself. Look at the Jew, they said. Weak and afraid. We are winning. So Hezbollah demanded Israel retreat even farther, deeper inside Israel’s own territory, so that Hezbollah can pull an old-fashioned land-grab and seize Israeli territory for itself.

Hezbollah now fires artillery not at occupation soldiers, but at civilians on the other side of the border.

Israel has learned from that mistake.

Ariel Sharon announced a withdrawal of forces from the Gaza Strip. Hamas, as expected, declared victory. What a propaganda coup, even if it’s bogus. Nothing Israel does encourages more terrorist recruits than convincing the average Palestinian that terror gets results.

So Israel zeroed in on the Hamas founder, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, and blew him to pieces in broad daylight.

Israel followed up that bold strike with an announcement. The entire Hamas leadership is now targetted for annihilation. That threat is credible and puts Hamas’s claim of victory in serious doubt. It changes the entire calculus of the Israeli withdrawal. Israelis are leaving Gaza because they feel like it, not because they are weak, scared, bullied, bloodied, or losing.

Fish in a Barrel

Noam Chomsky has a blog now. And it has a comments section. Go say hi. And be nice. I don’t want to send him any trolls.

UPDATE: Chomsky’s comments section is a nightmarish place swarming with freaks and trolls. It’s worse than I expected. A lot worse. This is not going to be a pleasant experience for him unless he shuts down the comments.

And that’s too bad. My own comments section is invaluable, and I’m more careful about what I say now that I’ve switched to Movable Type (which has comments built in) and you all can yell at me and tell me I’m full of it.

Good feedback and debate might have made Chomsky smarter and more reasonable. But no. It will never happen. He has too many passionate enemies. He has no choice but to continue to wall himself off from reality.

UPDATE: Chomsky’s comments have been disabled. That became inevitable almost instantly.

Pas Comme Les Autres

I don’t have time to write much tonight. But I would like to point you to a guest piece by Gabriel Gonzalez at Winds of Change.

Gabriel is a frequent contributer to my comments section, so some of you will recognize his name. He lives in Paris and has a great deal to say about what’s up with French foreign policy. Those who think France is an American ally, albeit a highly critical one, might want to take a fresh look from the inside.

(P.S. If you would like to comment, please read the linked piece first.)

Before the Second Storm

That was the original title to my new Tech Central Station column: Are the Jacksonians Sated?

Name-Brand Socialism

Socialism is dead.


Oh, sure, its rotting corpse hasn’t fallen over yet in Cuba. ¡Socialismo o muerte! is still Fidel Castro’s bumper sticker after all these years. It’s as old as the cars in Havana. Someone should tell Fidel: Socialismo es muerte.

Spaniards just elected a socialist prime minister. Except they didn’t. So sayeth Chris Suellentrop in Slate.

[I]t says something about the state of small-”s” socialism—in addition to the state of the world—that conservatives are attacking Zapatero for his response to terrorism, not his attitude toward capitalism.

Granted, the war in Iraq and the war against al-Qaida are the whole reason the world has been watching Spain so closely for the past week. But there’s another reason for the conservative silence about Zapatero’s economics: The socialist debate over what to do about capitalism—and the proletariat, and the theory of surplus value, and the ownership of the means of production—is largely over in Europe. If the old libel against American liberals is that they’re socialists, the new European libel against socialists is that they’re liberals—classical ones. Here are some of the economic promises on which Zapatero’s Socialist Workers Party campaigned: lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 30 percent, cutting income taxes, and reducing the value-added tax. Oh, and they’re going to balance the budget and control inflation. The man expected to be the Socialist finance minister, Miguel Sebastian, is a U.S.-educated economist with a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. He’s promising to put his faith in the Invisible Hand. “There will be a strict separation between politics and business,” he told the Financial Times. “We will be a market-friendly government.” These are socialists?

Nope. They aren’t socialists. They just kept the brand name.

More Trouble for Spain?

Spaniards may think they won a reprieve from terrorism, but Lee Smith argues in Slate that there may be more trouble ahead.

If the Spanish electorate believed that committing 1,300 troops to Iraq had needlessly exposed it to the jihadists’ ire, it ought to reconsider the 6,000 Spanish forces stationed in Ceuta and Melilla. The Spanish, whose new prime minister is fond of the word “occupation,” say there’s nothing unusual about having so many troops in Spanish cities. But these cities are not in Spain. Already some Islamist ideologues are beginning to group Ceuta and Melilla together with Palestine and Kashmir as Muslim lands to be liberated.

Ceuta and Melilla are considered by Spain to be a part of Spain. Where they aren’t is in Europe. Those cities are in Africa. They are holdovers from Spanish colonialism and are surrounded by the Mediterranean and by Morocco.

Lee Smith doesn’t say which Islamist ideologues are demanding the cities back. But since Osama bin Laden has already demanded the southern Spanish region of Andalucia, which is in Europe, it would be strange indeed if Ceuta and Melilla never become targets.

Condolences to Scott Elliot

Blogger Scott Elliot, aka The Blogging Caesar, has been linked on this blog and has frequently contributed to my comments section.

Both of his parents were killed in Iraq two days ago. I am so sorry.


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