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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.

None of the Above

I watched John Kerry for a few minutes on Tim Russert’s Meet the Press and all I could do was sigh. Why did the Democrats have to pick this guy? No one really likes him much whatever they think of George W. Bush.

I don’t like John Kerry, but I don’t hate the man either. I’m one of the very few people who feels exactly the same way about President Bush.

I agree with Roger L. Simon about almost everything, and I agree with Andrew Sullivan slightly more often than not. Today is no exception.

Roger said “I am not in a panic over the election the way some are.” The same goes for me for mostly the same reason. He quotes from a piece in the LA Times by Moisés Na“m, editor in chief of Foreign Policy magazine, about how history makes a president more than the other way around.

All recent U.S. presidents have learned that despite their immense power, they remain at the mercy of uncontrollable global forces, which can render their personal views and campaign promises largely irrelevant. The Clinton campaign’s famous dictum, “It’s the economy, stupid,” proved a better election-year slogan than a predictor of how often international turmoil would distract his administration from domestic issues. Bush reneged nearly as quickly on his campaign promise to adopt a “humble” foreign policy, wary of active foreign engagements and nation-building efforts.

That’s basically right. George Bush has certainly done a 180 on foreign policy since the election. He started out as a paleoconservative Buchananite and morphed into an aggressive Wilsonian hawk. He began as a shrugging isolationiast and ended up in the same place I was led to by Bosnia.

Andrew Sullivan is likewise soft in his opposition to Kerry.

Here he is in an interview with Timothy Perry.

I’m encouraged by some of the things Kerry has been saying recently…In general I trust Bush more than Kerry in this war – far more. But I’m open to persuasion and don’t think of myself as blindly in support of a person. If another person can better achieve our goals, the beauty of a democracy, unlike a dictatorship, is that we can change leaders quite easily.

I’d like to warm up to Kerry if for no other reason than that he might be our next president. If I don’t vote for him and he wins anyway, I’m not going to be one of those people who are sure to freak out and say it’s the end of us. In fact, I’ll swing around to being one of his defenders by default. I learned something by starting out as a Bush-hater and later deciding I was wasting both my energy and my time. Kerry may govern well, or at least passably. Clinton wasn’t half as bad as his worst detractors said he was, and neither is Bush. Kerry probably wouldn’t be either.

Still, I find myself more or less back to where I was during the last election when I voted for Ralph Nader. I was a paleoliberal then who was mad at the neolibs in the Democratic Party. Now I’m a neoliberal centrist annoyed with the paleos. I guess I’m just hard to please.

I don’t care for Ralph Nader as much as I used to (to say the least), but there’s one thing I really do (still) like about him. He wants an option on the ballot for “None of the Above.” I know it’s not likely to ever happen, at least not at the presidential level. But I like the fact that he brings it up anyway. I want to call do-overs. I’d like to see a Republican like John McCain run against a Democrat like Harold Ford. I would remain a centrist if we could have such a contest, but a happy one.

The First Egyptian Blog?

Glenn Reynolds found this blog from a Egyptian who calls himself GM. As far as I know, it’s the first and only Egyptian blog in English. (There may be some in Arabic, I don’t know.) He is just getting started, but it looks to be pretty interesting. Good stuff.

Directing Traffic

I understand why so many people still don’t know what a blog is, and I understand why they wouldn’t care if they did. Most of my friends are only vaguely aware I even have a Web site in the first place, and they certainly don’t read it. (A few read it, but only a few.) And that’s fine with me. While it’s fun to talk shop, so to speak, it’s also nice to be able to chill out with my friends and not yammer on about politics and the media all the time. Not to mention the fact that if I write something dumb or off the wall they won’t even know about it, let alone care about it. Nor will they hold it against me personally if I don’t vote for the same presidential candidate they do.

It does surprise me, though, how many people in “old media” are still out to lunch on this subject. They’re opinionated news junkies just like the rest of us. Maybe they just feel threatened and would rather not think about it.

Here is Jeff Jarvis on his blog today:

Many of us have seen it: A mention of a blog in a paper or a magazine or even on TV doesn’t bring in nearly the traffic of a big blog link. I get much more traffic from a mention by Glenn Reynolds than from a mention in Time magazine or the New York Times.

I remember the business head of MSNBC.com telling me sometime ago that Glenn Reynolds’ column there gets more traffic from external blogs than from the internal promotional power of the meganewssite.

See Media Drop’s comments (and links to Terry Heaton and Bill Hobbs) on a panel discussion that brought gasps to the lungs of flacks when they heard this phenom: Blogs cause more links than big, old media.

Gasps to the lungs of flacks! I’ll bet.

The truth is that big old media hardly directs any Internet traffic at all.

Howard Kurtz linked to me in the Washington Post. There was a time when I would have thought such a link would be huge. But no. Not at all. I got a grand total of 25 hits from him.

Whenever I publish a piece in Tech Central Station, a link to my blog is posted at the end. I usually get about 100 hits from that.

A few days ago Roger L. Simon linked me and gave me 500 hits.

When Glenn Reynolds links me, I get 10,000.

It’s tempting for people in the blogosphere to pat themselves on the back and say ha! to old media. Sometimes it’s a bit much, but only sometimes. I wonder if the folks at the Washington Post know just how much more traffic a blog can direct than the online version of their newspaper can.

Will the Opposition Lead?

Tonight is one of those nights I don’t have time to write. But I don’t want to leave you with nothing.

This piece in the New York Times by Paul Berman, one of the best writers and smartest thinkers around, is your required reading for Friday. Will the Opposition Lead?

New Column

My new Tech Central Station column is up: The New Neutrality.

Tripoli and Fallujah

In three months my wife and I are going to Italy to visit some friends in Milan. While we’re in the neighborhood we figure we’ll hop on over the Mediterranean and bum around Tunisia for a week. (Why Tunisia? Read this.)

It will be my first trip to an Arab country. But it won’t be my wife’s. She went to Morocco with her parents when she was a teenager. My brother got mugged there a few years ago, but she loved the place. A man offered her father a dozen camels for permission to marry her. He was probably joking, but who knows?

Look at an atlas. Tunisia is right next to Libya. Tripoli isn’t all that far from Tunisia’s capital Tunis. A person could probably get from one city to the other in a long cab ride. Since Gaddafi recently decided to be a nice little dictator, the US lifted the travel ban.

So we’ve decided to go to Libya, too. I’ve never been to a country run by a lunatic. Neither has Shelly. Posters of the leader are all over town. Supposedly the hotel rooms are bugged. Plainclothes police follow tourists around. Should be an interesting experience. (If, that is, we can get visas. I haven’t yet figured out how we’re supposed to do that. The State Department’s consular sheet is not helpful. If anyone has any advice, please advise.)

My mother thinks we’re crazy. Some of our friends think we’re brave. But you know what? It isn’t brave to visit Libya. It won’t be comfortable, but it isn’t dangerous. Libya has friendly people, low crime, no terrorism, and a nutjob boss.

You want brave? Mark Steyn is brave. He went to Fallujah. By himself.

Eleven months ago I was in Fallujah. What a dump — no disrespect to any Fallujans reading this. I had a late lunch in a seedy cafe full of Sunni men. Not a gal in the joint. And no Westerners except me. As in the movies, everyone stopped talking when I walked through the door, and every pair of eyes followed me as I made my way to a table.

I strongly dislike that veteran-foreign-correspondent look where you wander around like you’ve been sleeping round the back of the souk for a week. So I was wearing the same suit I’d wear in Washington or New York, from the Western Imperialist Aggressor line at Brooks Brothers. I had a sharp necktie I’d bought in London the week before. My cuff links were the most stylish in the room, and also the only ones in the room. I’m not a Sunni Triangulator, so there’s no point pretending to be one. If you’re an infidel and agent of colonialist decadence, you might as well dress the part.

I ordered the mixed grill, which turned out to be not that mixed. Just a tough old, stringy chicken. My tie would have been easier to chew. The locals watched me — a few obviously surly and resentful, the rest wary and suspicious. But I’ve had worse welcomes in Berkeley, so I chewed on, and, washed down with a pitcher of coliform bacteria, it wasn’t bad.

Why didn’t they kill me? Because, as Osama gloated after 9/11, when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, they go with the strong horse. And in May 2003, four weeks after the fall of Baghdad, the coalition forces were indisputably the strong horse. And so, even when a dainty little trotting gelding of a newspaper columnist comes in through the door, they figure he’s with the strong horse crowd and act accordingly.

Would they have liked to kill me? Well, I’ll bet one or two would have enjoyed giving it a go. And, if they had, I’ll bet three or four more would have beaten my corpse with their shoes. And five or six would have had no particular feelings about me one way or the other but would have been generally supportive of the decision to kill me after the fact. And the rest might have had a few qualms but they would have kept quiet.

The man is no chicken. There’s a part of me, maybe 30 percent or so, that would love to visit Fallujah. But the other 70 percent says no effing way.

There’s actually a point to Steyn’s article. It isn’t just a travel essay. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Read the rest and find out what he’s getting at.

And wish me luck with my visa. I think I’m going to need it.

More Trouble for Kos? (Updated)

I decided to take a pass on the Daily Kos “scandal” where Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, who is perhaps the most famous liberal blogger in the world, wrote a particularly nasty hate screed against the Americans massacred in Fallujah. Markos was de-linked by the official John Kerry blog, and he lost a lot of advertisers on his site. I figured he was punished enough and there was little point in piling on. Besides, I didn’t have anything original to say.

It seems our formerly esteemed blogger hasn’t yet learned that toning down the rhetoric and asininity might be wise.

There’s a new post up that deserves a little scrutiny.

Before I wade into it, I should point out that Markos himself didn’t write it. One of his contributers named Soj wrote it, but Markos seems to think it’s a worthy post. He did let it stand.

There are two serious problems.

First this choice little bit:

The only “crime” Sadr has committed is protesting the closing of his newspaper by Bremer, an American, despite the fact Powell says we’re there to bring the Iraqi people “a better life”.

Puh-leeze. As if Moqtada al-Sadr is Howard Stern’s counterpart in Iraq. Al-Sadr is a theocratic totalitarian, a terrorist, a killer of both Iraqis and Americans, an ally of Hezbollah and Hamas, and an Iranian tool. I really don’t know what else to say except that I’m amazed some people have the damnest time recognizing an enemy, even when he announces his intentions in blood and fire.

Anyway, there’s another problem with the post in question, a problem that goes well beyond an asinine throw-away line. Repeated throughout the entire piece (which is really quite long) is the assertion that Colin Powell is an “Uncle Tom” who stumps for “Massah Bush.”

This racist claptrap has got to stop. Yeah, it’s racist. It isn’t just rude and obnoxious.

It’s not racist because it implicitly says a black man can’t be successful. If Colin Powell were a Democrat working for a John Kerry administration, there is no chance an accusation of Uncle Tommery (for lack of a better phrase) would appear anywhere near a liberal blog.

Colin Powell is an “Uncle Tom” because he’s a Republican. And here’s what’s racist about it.

I don’t know of anyone who thinks a white person can’t choose his or her political party. It’s fine if you’re a white Republican. And it’s fine if you’re a white Democrat. But a certain kind of person thinks a black man can only belong to one political party. White people can choose. Black people cannot. White people can have a range of opinions. Black people need to have their opinions and associations dictated to them by someone else.

Markos Zúniga is himself an ethnic minority. He, of all people, ought to know better than to peddle this condescending, anti-democratic, illiberal crap.

I’ve lost the desire to read his blog. Ryan Boots deserves credit for bringing this post to my attention.

UPDATE: In my comments section Mithras posted the following:

The idiot who posted that did not do so as “[o]ne of [Kos's] contributers”; it was a diary entry. Anyone can create a diary at Kos. Kos exercises no editorial control over diary posts, as is his right. So how is this indicative of anything related to Kos?

If that is the case, I made a mistake bringing Markos Zúniga into this. I’m not as familiar with the mechanics of the blog as Mithras is. Markos does have contributers other than himself who post on the main page. I thought this was one of those posts. My commentary stands, but Markos is exempted. Sorry for goofing it.

Comic Relief

Not everything in Iraq is stressful and scary. Head on over to Marc Cooper’s place for some laughs at Ayatollah Sistani’s expense.

Fear

I should confess that what’s happening in Iraq is a bit scarier to me than I’ve let on the past few days. I have a good reason, though, for resisting the temptation to wring my hands in public. We need to keep in mind, always, the objective of terrorism. It is to terrorize. It’s an overblown cliche to say giving in to fear means the terrorists win. Sometimes, however, it’s true.

It’s helps to keep some perspective. Let’s say we are totally routed in Iraq. That would be a disaster. But we also need to remember that it wouldn’t be a disaster for all of us personally. I’ll still have my wife, my house, and my job. My neighborhood, my city, and my country will endure. I won’t be frog-marched into an Iraqi dungeon. And, unless you’re an Iraqi, neither will you.

The steel nerves of some people impress me. It’s relatively easy for me not to give in to fear. I live in Portland, not Baghdad. So who am I, really, to lecture anyone about keeping their cool about this?

Let me quote at length instead from Alaa, who does live in Iraq and whose life and limb depend on the endgame of the current violence sweeping across his country.

I hope you all realize that a major objective of the enemy is to produce defeatism in the U.S. and allied nations home front, counting on the democratic process to force the hand of policy makers. The War in fact never stopped from the first day of the fall of the Icon. All the events you have witnessed are part of a sustained and escalating campaign by all the forces opposed to the “Project”. I don’t presume to be able to give a knowledgeable critique about U.S. and Allied strategy, like everybody seems to be fond of doing nowadays (and there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of Gurus of the subject). Firmness would have been much easier to apply at a much earlier stage. When I say “Firmness”, it must not be construed to mean brutality. Nevertheless, and undeniably, the use of force is part of the thing, but it must be precise, measured and proportionate. This, of course, is almost stating the obvious.

One thing is fundamental though: Once you start exercising firmness it will be disastrous if you falter and show weakness again. Diplomacy and politics are essential of course, but the arguments of the strong are always much more convincing.

In any case I ask all our friends not to be too emotional and weak stomached, and above all not to help the enemy in what he is desperate to achieve, i.e. defeatism and despair.

For those of you following what’s happening in Iraq, Alaa should be on your daily reading list. He lives there, he knows what’s happening, he knows why it’s happening, and he has a far better idea how any given action or lack thereof will effect the so-called Iraqi “street.”

UPDATE: See also David Brooks in the New York Times.

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