Friday, April 30, 2004

THE FALLEN

I happened to check out the Nightline special tonight, “The Fallen”, during which, anchor Ted Koppel read aloud all the names of the servicemen who have been killed in Iraq thus far. He tried to place it in some sort of context at the end of the show – but like many things, it’s pretty hard to explain fully the how and why over 700 young men and women have been killed in battle in less than an hour. Not that Nightline really tried to explain it. If you are looking at one context of this program check out this post which compares the Life Magazine covers of WWII to the ones during Vietnam. Of course these comparisons underscore that Nightlines decision was chiefly political.

The program itself wasn’t either good or bad. But comparing it to this essay describing the ordeal of one soldier escorting one of the fallen on their final journey home, it falls much flatter.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

…AND WE’RE BACK

The title of this post has a two-folded meaning. On the one hand this is the first post in over a week – wow, where does the time go? You ever put the pen down, or in this case the keyboard, and then simply can’t pick it up again? It’s not writers block – god knows I’ve spewed thousands upon thousands of words in the past week at my regular job, but this was ridiculous. Enough of this – it’s done. (Well, at least to start with anyway)

The other reason is that it seems like we are all beginning to snap back to reality in Iraq. David Brooks today sums up the first three weeks of April thus way: “This is crazy. This is like pausing during the second day of Gettysburg to debate the wisdom of the Missouri Compromise. We're in the midst of the pivotal battle of the Iraq war and le tout Washington decides not to let itself get distracted by the ephemera of current events.”

The Belmont Club has more on the battle which heated up today in Fallujah as the Marines brought in AC-130 Gunships. John F. Burns writes: “The American command said Tuesday that it had counted 57 dead insurgents. To those, the command added seven other members of Mr. Sadr's Mahdi Army who were killed in a separate firefight a few miles up the highway on Monday afternoon, after an American convoy was ambushed. Combined with about 40 men taken to hospitals in Kufa and Najaf after the battles, the losses appeared to be a heavy blow to Mr. Sadr's fighting force. Iraqi reporters who have roamed freely around the two cities in recent days have put Mr. Sadr's fighting strength there as low as 400 to 500 men, and possibly lower.”

Brook’s is right, the over-coverage of Richard Clarke – who I saw was up in Canada this week telling us that our military sucks too. Gee, thanks buddy, so helpful. (and don’t get me wrong he has a point there) – and the coverage over Bob Woodward’s book. It is almost heartening to see that in the wake of a very intense and bloody battle of Iraq that Sen. John Kerry is spinning his wheels and even, inexplicably, losing the Village Voice. Hugh Hewitt reports on Kerry’s “Hardball” performance where he slipped up no fewer than three times even as Mathews gave him the Larry King treatment.

Democrats and the coalition of lefty anti-Bush groups must be beside themselves as Bush continues to better in the polls even as the war appears to be going worse than was before. It’s early yet – just like in Iraq. But at least the eyes are focused on Iraq again at least until Clinton’s book arrives.

…Back with more on Wednesday.

Monday, April 19, 2004

MONDAY RANTS

Tonight is game seven for the Vancouver Canucks vs. the Calgary Flames.It is the sportsworld equivalent of ‘nobody cares’. I’ve been going around work tormenting the die-hard Canuck fans by dropping some not so subtle “Go Flames” shout outs. The city is abuzz, and I haven’t watched any of it. Call me crazy but it’s not like the Canucks are the Red Sox or anything – we never traded away Babe Ruth, well, there was that Cam Neely nasty business (and he did get traded to Boston! The Neely Curse! And Boston just lost a best-of-seven series tonight too!) - The point is the storied history of the Canucks hockey franchise about one thing, losing. Sorry, but its truth.

Seriously, The Red Sox already beat the Yankees (and won the first series 3-1) and Alex Rodriguez continues to disappoint – he went 1-17 in the series, is now batting .160, and still has 1 Home Run and 3 RBI’s through 13 games. The only good part of the Canucks is after they get tossed from the playoffs and the city turns on them, ideally calling them “bums.” The worst part about sports in this city is that, the Canucks aren’t worth the effort in my opinion, and the Grizzlies left town years ago. (And even though they are now down 2-0 to the Spurs in the NBA Playoffs is it not true that even the Grizzlies improved when they left? I digress)

Instead I’m watching CNN, The Restaurant, and then Chris Mathews’s “Hardball”; drinking a nice glass of Shriraz and I just lit a H. Upmann Habana cigar from the Dominican Republic. The question is, who the hell needs hockey?

Here’s two final questions. 1. Why doesn’t NBC bring in trump to help Rocco beat back the devilish part owner? And 2. This isn’t so much a question as it is a theory. If the Red Sox look likely to win (knock on wood) the World Series is it even conceivable that Sen. John Kerry could win the White House. The last time a Presidential candidate came from Massachusetts was 1988. The Red Sox won their division before going down 4-0 in the postseason.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

SEARCHING FOR HISTORY

The new issue of Enter State Right is up and its jammed pack with goodness! My new article “Searching for history” is about the connection between the lessons of history and current events – why, like it or not, everything seems to relate to Vietnam and why that doesn’t necessarily have to be long-term bad thing.

The article came about as I go through Robert Kaplan’s excellent new book Mediterranean Winter. Kaplan’s travelogue and history lesson is about unraveling the layer upon layer of history and culture and why it matters today.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

QUOTE OF THE YEAR

It’s probably way too early to anoint such an honor, but I think Jonah Goldberg’s reaction to the French (and European) refusal to strike a truce with Osama bin Laden is an early frontrunner:

“Some may be shocked that they've declined Osama Bin Laden's offer to surrender. But my sources say their holding out for a better offer. Maybe something involving actual kowtowing.’ (National Review Online’s The Corner)

More on the rejection here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

CANADIAN MILITARY BULLETIN 1.4: “THE 3-D APPROACH”

Where to start with all the Canadian Defense news? I guess with the Prime Ministers speech today at CFB Gagetown, New Brunswick.

“This ‘3-D’ approach – the integration of diplomacy, defence and development – will serve as the model for Canada’s involvement in international crises in the future – crises that will take many forms. For instance, multilateralism is clearly our preferred approach to resolving international crises. But the absence of international consensus must never condemn us to inaction. This ‘3-D’ approach – the integration of diplomacy, defence and development – will serve as the model for Canada’s involvement in international crises in the future – crises that will take many forms. For instance, multilateralism is clearly our preferred approach to resolving international crises. But the absence of international consensus must never condemn us to inaction.”

*Press Release
*Fact Sheet
*CTV News report More CTV coverage

The big news today was that Martin announced that Canada will maintain an armoured reconnaissance force of 600 in Kabul, Afghanistan along with 200 Air Force Support forces. (This will be through 2005) The PM followed this up with approving $2.1 billion for three new support naval ships, and extending the tax relief for forces in danger zones to be extended to Bosnia and Haiti. There was also convenient re-announcement of procurements they already announced. Paul Wells has the October 2003 speech announcing much of the same things! Huzzah! And really can we take anything seriously when this could just be election goodies that might never see the light of day. Wells adds wryly, “There is no truth to the rumour that Martin will follow his Defence ‘announcement’ with a string of other vision speeches, including the news that he has pushed the railway to the Pacific, repatriated the Constitution and struck a free-trade deal with the Yankees.” (More on this riff by the Globe and Mail)

He also outlined six principles defining roughly a 21st Century Defense policy. This is somewhat strange since we are still waiting for a full review of the defense and foreign policy of this country. The PM also didn’t seem to address the cover story of the National Post today (I’d link to it, but really what’s the point linking to anything over there – well they do have a blog which is free so they got that going for them) now which sounded like our mission to the arctic was a nearly a quagmire of its own. The small sovereignty mission made it successfully to the end of their 808 mile trek through the arctic – although two men were injured, and numerous snowmobiles. (Associated Press)

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

PAX BUSH: RAISE THE ANTE, ALL THE CHIPS ARE IN NOW

cover

Bush’s press conference tonight served his purpose admirably. And I think the important thing is that as he ratchets up the rhetoric, resolve, and actions – basically putting his entire personal reputation, his Presidency, the American Foreign Policy, it’s national security, and as much treasure and blood as is necessary to transform Iraq into the kind of place where it will be inconceivable that anything like it’s past 25 years could be imagined.

*Transcript of Bush’s remarks.
*New York Times cover story “Bush Asserts ‘We Must Not Waver’ on Terror or Iraq”
*NYT’s “Q-Head” [News Analysis] by David Sanger “Making the Case for a Mission”
*Washington Post: Mike Allen/Dana Milbank; “Bush Acknowledges ‘Tough’ Weeks, Signals intent to Bolster Iraq Force.”
*Related:
*Tony Blair – “Why we must never abandon this historic struggle in Iraq.”
*Christopher Hitchens: “Vietnam? Why the analogy doesn’t hold water”

I think the timing is better than the press would have us believe. If he had given this speech last week, or even two weeks ago the Vietnam analogy would have taken even great root. But as the reaction to Bush’s performance proliferates it coincides with perhaps a glimmer of good news in Iraq. While the situation is only marginally better in the short run, John F. Burns has the report on what could be excellent news in the long run.

Burns: “Mr. Adnan said that if the Americans agreed not to send forces into Najaf, and not to seek the immediate arrest of Mr. Sadr on the pending warrant, which charges him with complicity in the April 2003 murder of a rival cleric, Mr. Sadr would agree to dismantle his militia. The clerics at the meeting included the sons of three of Iraq's most venerated grand ayatollahs, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who is regarded as the country's most powerful religious figure.”

According to Burns not only is Sadr surrounded in Najaf, but he seems like as we called out his overplayed bluff and he seems willing to except anything the Shiite clerics demand of him so that he can save face – the reality is that he has no where to go, he can do this the easy way or the hard way, and the 2,500 Marines surrounding Najaf can do it the hard way if he wants. Again, either way it’s a win-win for the coalition and ultimately the people of Iraq.

Monday, April 12, 2004

THE IRAQ BRIEFING

The news today is the continuing holding of the cease-fire in Fallujah. Andrew Sullivan has word on what he calls the Iraq opening: “The cease-fire and apparent retreat of al Sadr's little army are both pieces of good news from Iraq. We are trying to hand over power to a new government; but the effective components of that government have long been hard to identify. Such leaders need to be competent and respected, as many in the Governing Council are.”

In National Review Online W. Thomas Smith Jr., a former U.S. Marine infantry leader and paratrooper, gives a way different and interesting perspective on the situation in Fallujah including some insight from the Marines on the ground. I think the best part about Smith’s article is the idea of “the three-block war.” This is what one Marine describes as “On one block you can be doing humanitarian aid. In another block you could be providing security. In the third block you could be engaged in full combat. In this environment, the transition between those three blocks happens instantaneously.”

And Mark Steyn expands on one his previous pieces on his time last year in Fallujah. The fact that he didn’t dress like a regular correspondent, instead wearing a “Western Imperialist Aggressor Brooks Brothers Suit” was priceless. Aside from that typical “Steyning” (I think we may have made a new verb: To Steyn (v) : Walking into a bar in the middle of a war zone in a bling bling suit replete with cufflinks. Or simply dressing the part of a shameless imperialist aggressor.) And I hate suits.

But Steyn reserves his best stuff for making sure we understand that the single most important trait in the Arab world is both passivity and indifference. The vast majority of Iraqis are really just waiting to see what happens – and more importantly, who ends up being their “strong horse.”

Ralph Peters, in the New York Post, concentrates on reports and information that there is Iranian involvements in the recent uprisings in Iraq. If that is the case, the problem gets a whole lot more complicated. But the solution for Peters remains clear: “If we do not pursue our enemies unto their deaths while we have the chance, Fallujah will prove to be Bush's Mogadishu. And the forces of global terror will have won again.”

UPDATE: God bless the folks at Urbandictionary.com who amiably set up the word “steyn” in their hip dictionary of urban words.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

NEW ISSUE OF ESR ONLINE NOW

Go Check out this week’s issue of Enter Stage Right where there is a whole lot-o shaking going on! (That vague and lame Elvis reference is due to the fact that I saw – thanks to my friend Luke - Bubba Ho-Tep this weekend and we gotta do some “TCB: Takin’ Care Bidness” – so don’t forget to stop by the donation page at ESR and help us with the spring pledge drive.)

In addition to Bruce Walker's “Kerry the Slow”, W. James Antle III on tax time “Ways to make April 15 just another day”, and Steve Martinovich on some “Bush League Diplomacy” my latest piece is up and atom (as Rainier Wolfcastle might have said)

Anyway, on to the shameless self promotion now: “Mission impossible: The crisis of Canada’s military” is all about the state of Canada’s armed forces.

“The problem is that Canada's military has been so run down, for so long, that managing even the most basic contributions to worthy international missions is becoming increasingly a "Mission Impossible". On the one hand it should be commended that Mr. Martin won't write checks that our military cannot cash. On the other hand the situation and state of affairs in our armed forces has become one so embarrassing that it cannot simply be ignored. This is not to say that our troops aren't professional and able soldiers. Far from it, but it is true that our political leadership has spent the better part of the last quarter century sending them on missions without properly equipping them-continually asking them to do more with less.” [Read the whole thing]

WHEN IN DOUBT GO WITH RUMSFELD

Megan McArdle (Via Instapundit) breaks down the reality of 9/11: “Clinton didn't know. Bush didn't know. We didn't know. And the uncomfortable possibility remains that there are more events that we not only don't know about--but can't know about. Deluding ourselves otherwise isn't helping. And if it causes us to take costly, fruitless measures to reassure ourselves, it could actively hurt us.”

And all this prompts Hugh Hewitt to borrow from the reliable P.J. O’Rourke: “Giving Democrats control of the national defense is like handing whiskey and car-keys to a teen-age boy.”

My final answer on the 9/11 Commission and whether or not there was some way of stopping the events of that day goes back to some classic Donald Rumsfeld.

“Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.”

*The Rice poll numbers: 50% favorable, 24% Unfavorable. Enough said.

KERRY’S FOREIGN POLICY ADIVSOR

Well that settles it then. John Kerry’s National Security Advisor,Rand Beers, was on CNN’s “Inside Politics Sunday” this morning saying that the August 6th Memo means more could have been done – more shaking of the “trees”. What trees, what shaking, and what else the administration could have done realistically in a pre-9/11 world goes unvoiced.

What was it about the position of Counter Terrorism that forced two long-time bureaucrats to go so far off the farm? First, of course, there was Richard Clarke who cashed in his chips for fame as an author. Beers left the Bush Administration to in his words, “protest the Administrations rush to war.” The two of them are teaching a course together at Harvard now.

From the transcript:

BEERS: “I certainly think that the president could have done more. I think that the brief itself, the title, "Osama bin Laden Determined to attack the U.S.," and then the elements within it, there was clearly an attack to attack, there were cells in the U.S., there was a planning process which was very deliberate, and there was information suggesting that activities in the U.S. were occurring, that, together with all the information of last summer -- of that summer, excuse me -- certainly suggested that someone should have been out shaking the trees to find out what more we knew and what we could do about it.”

Of course this is standard Kerry campaign stuff - we could have done better, they didn't do enough. But we don't have any specifics to tell you.

MORE:
*Ron Brownstein: “Kerry foreign policy team hawkish”
*Reuters: “U.S. terrorism policy spawns steady staff exodus”
*Frontpage Magazine:”Richard Clarke, Fraud”


REPORTER BABE LIZ MARLANTES

I’ve seen her couple of times on television lately – notably today on “CNN’s Reliable Sources” - and The Christian Science Monitor’s staff political reporter Liz Marlantes is a total babe. And her story on the Rice testimony titled “On Stand, Rice strikes back” was must read earlier this week. More of Liz Marlantes please.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

SATURDAY NIGHT BASEBALL NOTES

“Sox Nation” Finally it looks like the real Red Sox rotation and pitching staff has stood up. David Pinto describes tonight’s Sox victory over the Blue Jays. “Martinez and Foulke prove to be a deadly combination for the Blue Jays. They beat the Jays with 117 pitches, 78 for strikes. Foulke use only 11 pitches to get a four-out save as the Red Sox win 4-1. Once again, the Blue Jays are outslugged, 3 HR to 1, as all the runs in the game score on long balls.” (Red Sox 4, Jays 1) And while you check out Pinto’s Baseball Musings he has a pretty cool analysis on why it is economically viable to see a Red Sox game in Tampa rather than at home. Amazing world we live in. (More on the Sox at Bostondirtdogs.com) And note that last year’s A.L. Cy Young winner Roy Halladay is already 0-2 with a 5.93 ERA.

“No Mojo” And how bad are the Seattle Mariners thus far? 0-5! Part of that might be Ichiro’s slow start, batting .278 thus far. Are the Mariners about to go Tigers in 2004? Well, no, but the 1 homer in 5 games isn’t a good sign. But really this fifth loss has more to do with Oakland’s Tim Hudson throwing the first complete game in the majors this season.

“Schadyankeefreude” While the Red Sox try to right themselves, the Yankees are a strange post-Japan tour free fall. The Yankees have scored just 16 runs in the 5 games since returning stateside and are hitting a delicious .206 so far – and jewel in the crown Alex Rodriguez is batting a hefty .160. (Laughing)

“Call 1950, The Reds are Winning” No seriously the Cincy Reds are off to a quick start (4-1) and Ken Griffey – even after I’ve mocked him and his glass body – are on fire. Griffey has twice as many homers as the whole Mariners – maybe they should think about picking him up?

THE DECLASSIFIED PDB MEMO FROM AUGUST 6, 2001

So the White House has declassified most of the PDB that was the talk of the town during and after NSA Rice testified before the 9/11 Commission the week. The memo, entitled “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in U.S” is a sprawling page an half. If this document was all that was between us and the terrorists on 9/11 it is really no wonder we were unable to stop the attacks of 9/11.

I think the key passages are these:

“We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting such as that from a [classified – a name of a foreign government’s intelligence service] service in 1998 saying that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack a US aircraft to gain the release of “Blind Shaykh” Umar Abd al-Rahman and other US-held extremists.

Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparation for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York”

So there was no evidence to corroborate every crazy Bin Ladin, or extremist crackpot, threat even those dating back to 1998. But yes, the FBI was on the case noting 70 full field investigations throughout the country related to Bin Ladin and yet as of this memo there is no mention of where, what, who, or when.

It was the President who asked the questions to get the facts that are in this memo. My question is what was in the PDB’s after this one? Am I the only one can imagine Bush asking the CIA briefer/author – whoever it was – do you have any facts yet?

I ask this because in the accompanied White House Fact Sheet those “suspicious activities” are described as the following (and I’ve bolded some of what I think are the highlights):

“The CIA author of the PDB item judged, after consulting an FBI colleague, that there were suspicious patterns of activity that were worrisome, even though nothing pointed to a specific operation in a specific location. o In that vein, the author was concerned that one of the East African bombing defendants had told FBI officers earlier in 2001 that Bin Laden would retaliate if the defendants in the trial were convicted -- four were convicted in New York on May 29 -- with a major attack, something the FBI interpreted to mean possibly in the United States. o In addition, the CIA author understood that there had been possible recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York. Except for the information relating to the possible surveillance of federal buildings in New York, which was later determined by the FBI to be consistent with tourist-related activity, the PDB item contained no information from FBI investigations that indicated activities related to the preparation or planning for hijackings or other attacks within the United States. None of the information relating to the "patterns of suspicious activity" was later deemed to be related to the 9-11 attacks. From June through September, the FAA and FBI issued a number of warnings about the possibility of terrorist attacks. FAA warnings included specific warnings about the possibility of a hijacking to free imprisoned al-Qaida members inside the United States and the possibility of attacks in response to law enforcement actions against al-Qaida members. “

The bottom line is that there isn’t anything in this memo that could have made a hell of beans difference, nor could it possibly have stopped 9/11.

*White House Fact Sheet
*NY Times Story - Non-PDF version of the memo
*Human Events reprints an article from May 27, 2002 that says the House and Senate had the same intelligence as the President.
*Woodward you magnificent bastard. On the case in May 2002 with the title of the memo. (Washington Post)

TWO COLUMNS, TWO CONCLUSIONS

Today I’ve read two differing yet both equally interesting columns on the current situation in Iraq and the War on Terror. One by Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post and the other by David Brooks in the New York Times. Both are probably must reads, but it is interesting that the two of them

While Zakaria keeps his focus on the broader War on Terror and doesn’t really wade into the current Iraq situation his conclusion is down right grim suggesting in fact that, “the only way to combat this new global terror is to fight the ideology that fires it everywhere. So the war on terror is really a war of ideas. And I'm not sure we are winning it.”

Which was why I found it puzzling that he didn’t really get into Iraq – obviously he could point to the fact that things aren’t going as well as expected there. On the other hand is Brooks, who Josh Marshall mistakenly labels today as “Baghdad Brooks.” But Brooks offers an excellent and sober analysis of the situation. “Maybe we should calm down a bit,” writes Brooks. ”I've spent the last few days talking with people who've spent much of their careers studying and working in this region. We're at a perilous moment in Iraqi history, but the situation is not collapsing. We're in the middle of a battle. It's a battle against people who vehemently oppose a democratic Iraq. The task is to crush those enemies without making life impossible for those who fundamentally want what we want.”

MORE BOB KERRY SHAMELESS SELF PROMO SHOUTOUTS, 9/11 COMMISSION NOW TOTAL FARCE

I guess the consolation prize for a John Kerry nomination is that we can all say; at least it wasn’t Bob Kerry. It is shocking and sad to see how quickly someone can completely meltdown in public life every once and a while.

He’s still more interested in himself than coming to any conclusions in the 9/11 Commission. In fact it is worse than that since Kerry has already made his conclusion and he thinks that we could have stopped 9/11 – which isn’t even the point of it anyway. He has an Op-ed in the New York Times tomorrow morning where he says, “9/11 could have been prevented, and the second is that our current strategy against terrorism is deeply flawed. In particular, our military and political tactics in Iraq are creating the conditions for civil war there and giving Al Qaeda a powerful rationale to recruit young people to declare jihad on the United States.”

Jeff Jarvis is unimpressed and notes that, “saying again that 9/11 could have been prevented but without saying, again, how. It's bad enough that he's throwing out such a terrible charge, it's worse that on TV and in papers he is coming to and announcing his conclusions before the commission is even finished gathering its evidence, let along writing its report. He's making a mockery of a process that has become a mockery.”

PYONGYANG LOVES JOHNNY K

The Wonkette - which gets funnier by the day - points out that anyone can give mad shout outs to John Kerry on his donation page, and it seems Kim Jong Il Supports John Kerry! Absolutely priceless!

APRIL FOOL’S WAS NEARLY TWO WEEKS AGO

Nevertheless the National Geographic Society thought it would be funny to throw Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell on its list of history’s 50 “most important political leaders.” Seriously this is a joke right?

Friday, April 09, 2004

BAD CHOICES OR WORSE CHOICES

If you read just one article this week – and I know some of you might take me up on this – read Victor Davis Hanson’s latest article at NRO. I won’t bother quoting it, since it should be read in its entirety, but Hanson takes the situation in Fallujah, the testimony of Condi Rice, and the lessons and misinterpreted lessons of Vietnam to create a simple defense of the liberation of Iraq, the War on Terror, and follies of appeasement. And for the skeptical, Hanson outlines many of the mistakes that have been done along the way.

BAND OF BROTHERS

cover

U.S. Marines pray over a fallen comrade at a first aid point after he died from wounds suffered in fighting in Fallujah, Iraq, Thursday, April 8, 2004. Hundreds of U.S. Marines have been fighting insurgents in several neighborhoods in the western Iraqi city of Fallujah in order to regain control of the city. (AP Photo/Murad Sezer)

NATIONAL WWII MEMORIAL

Powerline points to the new World War II Memorial set to open up on The Mall in Washington D.C. (Check out this Washington Post article about the completion of the memorial)

AND WHAT OF MS. RICE AND THE 9/11 COMMISSION: “THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY”

With the real story on the battle fields and streets of Iraq the focus temporarily shifted to the testimony of the National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, before the 9/11 Commission. The Commision was clearly, and sadly, exposed as the useless organization it is. This development was both good and bad. Watching the evening news shows and watching various members of this commission get their face time in on television pleading their case for declassifying memos and offering their opinions about testimony was ridiculous. Isn’t this like letting a jury talk to the press as a trial is going on?

Worse than that, I wonder who is writing the planning memos for the dead ending terrorists watching this live. I wonder if Osama’s terror advisory board was busy taking notes in the cave on what they can do in 2005. And I ask because whether this is classified or not, is it only me who thinks airing this on national television – specifically the talk of what structural state the intelligence and homeland security was and quite possibly is – is a huge mistake?

As Clifford May suggests today at National Review Online, “Its mission is to learn lessons — not to lay blame. Its mission is to come up with recommendations for a more effective antiterrorism strategy.

Its mission is not to stage a reality-TV show, not to hold an inquisition, not to promote books (and, no doubt, movie deals), not to scold Rice as though she were a student who claimed her dog had eaten her homework.”

THE GOOD:

I thought that Ms. Rice did an excellent job today. I think we should thank President Bush for having Rice on the job and not somebody like Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former NSA. And don’t get me wrong I like Mr. Brzezinski – I think he is quite brilliant and capable. But his reaction on Aaron Brown’s ”Newsnight” on CNN tonight was almost unbelievable. “It seems to me,” says Brzezinski. “That everyone was missing the point, to some extent. It was a plot that really shouldn't have succeeded.” He’s right about one thing, it should never have happened. But that is rich considering that this war on terror can arguably said to have began on his watch.

THE BAD:

Let’s just say some of the members of the commission –are completely uninterested trying to fix the problems that allowed 9/11 to happen, and are instead relished their short time fantastically bathing in the limelight that participating in a commission with television time allows.

1. Here’s one exchange with Richard Ben-Veniste trying to capitalize on the title of a declassified memo to make him look clever:

BEN-VENISTE: Isn't it a fact, Dr. Rice, that the August 6 PDB warned against possible attacks in this country? And I ask you whether you recall the title of that PDB?
RICE: I believe the title was, "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States."
Now, the...
BEN-VENISTE: Thank you.
RICE: No, Mr. Ben-Veniste...
BEN-VENISTE: I will get into the...
RICE: I would like to finish my point here.
BEN-VENISTE: I didn't know there was a point.
RICE: Given that -- you asked me whether or not it warned of attacks.
BEN-VENISTE: I asked you what the title was.

And let me just say that when Peter Beinart says this about you serious concerns should be raised (Via Hugh Hewitt): "I thought ben Veniste was terrible. I thought ben Veniste really made a fool of himself....Ben Veniste is the most partisan Democrat on the Commission, and I frankly wish he wasn't on the Commission."

2. And what about Bob Kerry who cleverly used his time on the 9/11 commision to talk about the events in Iraq:

KERRY: You needn't comment on it, but as I said, I'm not going to have an opportunity to talk to you this closely.

And I wanted to tell you that I think the military operations are dangerously off track. And it's largely a U.S. Army -- 125,000 out of 145,000 -- largely a Christian army in a Muslim nation. So I take that on board for what it's worth.


AND THE UGLY:

The reaction by some was one predictable if not completely outrageous. Josh Marshall clearly went off some small cliff during the day. I like Mr. Marshall but I can’t figure out what would possess him to say this about Condi Rice: “I go into it with a dim view of her and b) I knew many of her statements to be falsehoods or thorough distortions of what happened.”

That is a pretty bold assessment, one in which he calculatingly doesn’t not qualify. Which statements? What distortions?
.
James Lileks wryly concludes after watching the testimony today: “I now believe that if Al Gore had been president, he would have invaded Afghanistan right away, fortified the cockpit doors, issued an executive order that made the CIA and FBI share intel, grounded all planes the moment “chatter” started mentioning “a winged victory, like the bird of righteousness,” and subjected all young Arab males to full-body searches in airports. Pakistan would have come around to our point of view right away.”

Yeah, sure.


Thursday, April 08, 2004

CANADA & IRAQ

Canada will not be sending troops to Iraq anytime soon. This isn’t really surprising, since – and I can’t believe I am agreeing with Prime Minister Paul Martin here – our troops are simply stretched too thin. With just 3,551 forces deployed around the world ESR Editor Steve Martinovich adds, “It's a sad day when less than four thousand soldiers deployed equals a military unable to take on any more missions.”

Perhaps the news that now a Canadian humanitarian worker was taken hostage in Iraq, might shock this country into realizing we have left ourselves completely unprepared to do anything short of watching on the world stage. Even if we wanted to suddenly lend a hand in Iraq, or even send in some transportation – which would require, obviously, major force protection – we could not. What happens if we ever have a – and I don’t mean to trivialize the taking of even one Canadian hostage – serious or real crisis on our hands? Knowing that there isn’t a damned thing we could do right now – say if there were major problems in Haiti and Afghanistan simultaneously and something completely off the radar boiled over too. It’s disconcerting to say the least.


IRAQ BREIFING: THURSDAY EDITION – “THE BATTLE OF FALLUJAH DAY 4”

Let’s start tonight’s briefing off with an inspiring email Andrew Sullivan got from a busy Marine on the front lines:

“There will be no shock and awe. There will be plenty of bloodshed at the lowest levels. This battle is the Marine Corps' Belleau Wood for this war. 2/1 and 1/5 will be leading the way. We have to find a way to kill the bad guys only. The Fallujahans are fired up and ready for a fight (or so they think). A lot of terrorists and foreign fighters are holed up in Fallujah. It has been a sanctuary for them. If they have not left town they are going to die. I'm hoping they stay and fight.

The fighting continued for the forth day in various parts of Iraq as reports of fierce fighting in Fallujah, two southern cities are apparently in the control of Shiite militiamen, and three Japanese citizens have been taken hostage – they are two aid workers and a journalist. Their Iraqi captors threatened to burn the hostages alive. The two cities, Kut and partially Najaf, were in the hands of rebel forces, although Lt. Gen Ricardo S. Sanchez vowed to retake them.

THE HEADLINES:

*Militiamen Control Two Iraqi Ciities (Associated Press)
*Fierce Fighting Rages in Iraq, Foreigners Kidnapped (Reuters)
*John F. Burns NY Times article
*Iraq’s interim interior minister resigns (Financial Times)

THE BIGGER PICTURE:

Spencer Ackerman who writes the “Iraq’d” blog at The New Republic dives deep into the current situation in Iraq and finds, perhaps, its root causes in a power struggle between Moqtada Sadr and Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani. As Ackerman outlines the details, Sadr has spent the better part of a year trying to “muscle” in on Sistani’s territory and it hasn’t been very successful.

“Sistani is said to be singularly focused on ensuring that the Shia don't repeat the mistakes of 1920, when a violent and futile revolt against the British occupation paved the way to Sunni domination and Shia subjugation. Sadr appears to be leading the Shia down precisely this path.”

The good news is that all of this may backfire on Sadr, and embolden and empower Sistani.

And more big picture from the indispensable Lt. Smash who pulls everything together. “Political disagreements about the reasons for going to war aside, Iraq IS the critical battlefield in the War on Terror. We are now seeing indications that these three groups, which in the past have been at odds with one another, may be coordinating their actions against the Coalition. Indeed, it now appears that al Qaeda may be attempting to pull their own forces away from Afghanistan and elsewhere in order to engage Coalition forces directly in Iraq.”

But wait there’s more. Blackfive, a veteran, sent a letter to Sen’s. Kerry, Kennedy, and Byrd today about their personal conduct in on the issue of the War on Terror. “If you truly love this country and if you truly support our troops, please cease this bickering about Vietnam. Vietnam has nothing to do with Iraq.”

I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of the situation in Iraq this week, but it seems to me that those quick to characterize the situation as being all one thing, or the other are probably wrong. While things are not going perfectly, they could hardly be said to be going so bad that we should throw in the towel. In fact, as Sullivan adds in another thoughtful post, “Did we expect the place to become Toledo overnight? The closer we get to transferring power, the more the extremist factions need to prevent a peaceful transition and establish their own power bases for the next phase. The closer we get to a self-governing Arab state, the more terrified Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and the rest will be that their alternatives - theocratic fascism and medieval economics - will look pathetic in comparison..”

Anyone who says they know what is going on right now, probably doesn’t. That might be as close to any fact that we have. One hopeful sign might be that after a year of occupation things there seems to be complete desperation by the various factions of terror – a willingness to try virtually anything – and this is the perfect chance to keep draining the swamp.

ENTER STAGE RIGHT RETURNS

coverEnter Stage Right, the excellent website I contribute articles to regularly, is back online after a very brief outage in the past week. It’s a great site with a wonderful stable of writers from all over the place along with an excellent editor and accomplished writer himself, Steve Martinovich, who continue to offer a variety of lively right of center opinions. Over 80,000 people a month visit the site and enjoy the weekly articles, commentary, and vivacious blog so go check it out today.

ESR is also holding a Spring Fundraiser and you can donate online to this excellent online property through PayPal at the donation page.Thanks very much for reading, and please check out the next exciting issue this Monday!

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

IRAQ UPDATE:

Now that we know what Sen. Kerry’s talking points are, and what is ultimately at stake on the outside, what’s happening on the inside? The big story of the day has to be that U.S. Marines continued to battle in Fallujah today and at one point launched a Hellfire misile and a 500-pound bomb on the Abdel-Aziz al-Samarrai mosque. The U.S. says that the mosque was being used as an operational base for the insurgents, and witnesses estimated that 40 people were killed.

*Headline - New York Times: “U.S. Increases Efforts to Put down Sunni and Shiite Fighters”
*Times Editorial: “Friends Missing in Action”
*Times Instant Analysis: “Battles in Iraq Bring Troubles for Bush and Kerry as Well”
*More: Some Troops May be delayed in coming home

The Op-ed reaction this morning? Just trying to stomach Maureen Dowd’s latest column was difficult especially when she deliberately uses language like this. “But in the wake of the Falluja horror and Shiite uprising, civility must take a back seat to stomping.” See also: “chaos”, and “dominoes are falling in a scarier direction”, as Dowd lays a giant egg, but doesn’t say anything about the situation you couldn’t hear on Air America and drooling out of Janeane Garofalo’s mouth. .

At least Thomas Friedman doesn’t get sucked into the Dowd Clever-Opinion-Robot and tries instead to offer some actual opinion on the actual situation without sounding like Dowd who sounds increasingly like a Political Science 100 student on her way to the rally. “What's clear is that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and there are no Viet Cong in Iraq. The key unanswered question is: Are there any Iraqis in Iraq?” Regrettably the answer Friedman spells out is getting the U.N. and NATO involved and staying the course. Sounds Kerry-esque, but coming from Friedman it sounds like something doesn’t it.

Andrew Sullivan breaks out the Thomas Hobbes (Sweet!) and suggests, “What I do know is what I learned from Hobbes. The entire enterprise of attempting to bring some kind of normalcy to Iraq can only be accomplished if the coalition forces have a monopoly of violence. Right now, we don't. At this point, establishing that monopoly is far more important than in any way showing reluctance to take the battle to the enemy. The Sadrists must be confronted and as effectively as possible. If that means more troops, send them. If that means more firepower, get it. In some ways, it seems clear to me that the Sunni hold-outs and the Sadrists were always going to be trouble. Better that they play their card now than after the handover of sovereignty.”

The one balk I see from Sullivan tonight is this line: “We need a real speech and a thorough explanation of what is going on. We need an honest, candid, clear war-president. Where is he?” Sure. Of course, I agree, a speech would be an excellent idea, but I think, and maybe I’m foolish here, that a speech will come when the time is right.

Thankfully James Lileks is a step or ten ahead of my pea brain this evening (It could also be the time difference – Ed). “If I may coin a new term: diplobabble. We have a stark choice: Bush’s blunt and frequently inarticulate remarks, versus Kerry’s prolix, labrynthic diplobabble. Which legitimate international entity?” writes Lileks. “Beneath all the diplobabble is a clear tenet of the Kerry Doctrine: Actions are legitimized solely by the quantity of allies.

For Further Reading:

*Jay Currie’s piece in today’s Tech Central Station
*Austin Bay’s piece in Strategy Page
*Dan Murphy in tomorrow’s Christian Science Monitor
*Rumsfeld’s reaction from American Forces Press Service.
*Healing Iraq on the ground in Iraq.

IRREGULAR AROUND THE MARGINS

Before we try to dissect what happened in Iraq today, I wanted to start from the outside before looking in, and that outside is all about what Sen. John Kerry thinks about the issue. Hugh Hewitt was excellent today and he was all over Kerry like Tony was with Adrianna in this past week’s Sopranos episode.

Hewitt writes the inevitable headline and lead graph for the terrorist media relations department: “"United States Senator John Kerry, a candidate for president of the United States, announced today that the criminal Bush's plan to hand power in Iraq over to a hand-picked group of his oil-thieving cronies is a ruse, and a thinly disguised one at that. Calling Imam Sadr "legitimate," Kerry denounced the closing of Imam Sadr's newspaper, and predicted it necessarily would drive the Imam into closer coordination with our brothers in Hamas and Hezbollah. Kerry demanded that the criminal Bremer, for whom no Iraqi patriot wishes to work, cease his manipulations and seek the intervention of the Arab League or some other legitimate international authority to oversee the exit of the invaders from Iraqi soil and the transition to Sharia law."

Digest, for a few moments, how a candidate for the Presidency could feed these thugs such a soft, right-down-the-middle-of-the-plate, lazy pitch. This is bases loaded stuff, and we need a strike about, and Kerry seems like he wants to walk in the tying runner. Hewitt goes on to unload, like a thousand cannons; the stark choices for America come Election Day. It goes something like this: With Kerry comes an eventual turnover of Iraq to the United Nations, whose corrupt dealings with Iraq since Gulf War I will resume, much to the delight of the Brie smelling French treasury. Worse this will paper over the problem for the short term, but it won’t be nearly enough and it certainly won’t make America any safer in the long run.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

IRAQ UPDATE: “THE TED OFFENSIVE”

Today there was more attacks at multiple locations across Iraq while the Marines tried to exert force in and on Fallajuh. 12 Marines and 66 Iraqis were killed in battle today in what was clearly the fiercest fighting since major operations ended last May. As Tuesday ends and Wednesday begins in Iraq, it sounds like the Marines are “gaining grip” in parts of Fallujah.

*New York Times: Cover story - Slideshow - Map/Graphic - William Safire’s reax
*Today’s must read John F. Burns Times article
*Washington Post: Cover Story One - Cover story Two
*Armed Forces Press Service: “U.S. Forces Conducting Raids in Fallujah”

Yesterday the major meme spinning wildly like a brush fire in media circles was that this series of uprisings was going to be the Iraqi equivalent of the “Tet Offensive.” But the reality is, as The Left Coast Conservative suggests, that this is really “The Ted Offensive.” Clearly the goals of Sadr and his thugs is to not beat the U.S. Armed Forces, but to attack the hearts and minds of Americans heading to the polls in November. Andrew Sullivan has a quote from a relative of Sadr’s: “We may be unable to drive the Americans out of Iraq. But we can drive George W. Bush out of the White House."

Mark Steyn gives us some well needed big-picture analysis on Sadr (“junior-league blowhard whom the media have decided is the new Khomeini”), quagmires (“Passchendaele was a quagmire. Iraq is standard colonial policing.”), listening to the major media (“When the media say something large and terrible is happening, it means something small and bad is happening.”), and Fallujah (“it’s a fetid dump and I had a lousy lunch there last year, as the only westerner in a restaurant full of surly Arab men who no doubt would have liked to kill me but didn’t quite dare.”) As they say, you have to read the whole thing.

Kennedy, and we have to assume Kerry, has bought this hook line and sinker. And you know this is serious when Secretary of State Colin Powell takes to the airwaves to rebuke the Kennedy talking points. (Powell’s response can be heard over at Tony Snow’s website)

It’s still pretty early and definitely hard know exactly how all this will play out. One thing that is most interesting is that if the Coalition can successfully take down Sadr and his reported 3,000 – 10,000 ‘troops’ they will have potentially eliminated a huge amount of head aches down the road. The U.S. has played it very neutral with the factions within Iraq, and this situation if handled correctly, and completely, could simply rid Iraq of elements that may prevent it from transitioning to democracy. It’s optimistically forward thinking to believe this is so, but if it is, it is a big win-win.

Monday, April 05, 2004

WHAT IS HAPPENING IN IRAQ
The situation in Iraq is as they say fluid. And in the last few days it has been more fluid than usual. So the latest story surrounds a radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr (More on Sadr from ABC News and The BBC) and the “sprawling” Baghdad suburb/slum Sadr City named for his father. The situation in Najaf isn’t looking any better either. Coalition forces have also now moved to seal off Fallujah following last weeks violence.

Now, the only thing more complicated than figuring out what is happening on the ground, is trying to read the Tea Leaves of what it means. Yesterday, and even into today, there were plenty of people, both inside and out of Iraq, willing to suggest that there was a full blown revolt – some used the word Coup d’etat others still suggested “anarchy”. Meanwhile Josh Marshall quoting entirely from The Nelson Report obviously is convinced that all hell is breaking loose. And the word “quagmire” rears its ugly head yet again. And to raise the degree of difficulty to new heights, the high priestess of anti-globalization Naomi Klein is in Baghdad and blames the U.S. for sabotaging stability. Here’s just one of her answers to the situation: “Washington has given up on its plans to hand over power to an interim Iraqi government on June 30, and is now creating the chaos it needs to declare the handover impossible.” Why didn’t anyone else thing about this? Go back to 1999 where you came from Naomi, please. Seriously when the AP is finding the glass half full on this situation you know you are barking up the wrong tree.

But the reality is that it sounds like these initial reports, as they are often apt to, were off the mark. (Washington Post) Technically, says Jonah Goldberg, this isn’t a coup or even a civil war and might be a good thing in the long run (more on that in a second)

That said, the situation is not exactly peaceful the US Forces are suggesting that it is “calm” but one reader over at Glenn Reynolds’ “Instapundit” is suggesting that this could be the equivalent to the Tet Offensive:” a scary uprising that ends in total defeat for the US's enemies and drastically advances US interests at minimal cost to us and great cost to our enemies, but which is spun so negatively by the domestic press that American voters perceive it as a crushing defeat.”

The Belmont Club offers a different and more optimistic take. Not only does it appear that Sadr’s forces will be unable to sustain this offensive, but now that they’ve come out into the open, taking them down should be relatively easy, and possibly better that it is happening now rather than later. And even better news, it sounds like Sadr has greatly overplayed his hand.

Steven Den Beste certainly agrees with this point and thinks even better it may be a silver lining. “Now, however, we now have been given the opportunity to take the worst of them out without damaging broader Iraqi confidence in our commitment to freedom. We have proved that we will tolerate peaceful dissent, but we never promised we'd tolerate armed rebellion.” Beste helps to highlight that the tactics of these insurgents don’t seem to make any sense. Rather than fighting a true guerilla war and fighting on their time, and at their convenience they are holding ground provoking a firefight on the Coalition’s time and convenience. “And that means we no longer have to put up with them. It means more hard fighting, and more casualties. The next couple of months will see the worst fighting in Iraq since the invasion. Once it's over, the situation overall will be immeasurably better.”

According to John F. Burns in his new piece for the Tuesday edition of the Times: “American troops appeared to be moving into the area around Kufa, where Mr. Sadr's followers have seized control and the cleric has taken refuge in a heavily guarded mosque. Mr. Sadr shot back a defiant message, saying he would ‘welcome’ a showdown with the American forces he has pledged to drive out of Iraq.” And I’m sure the Americans would love to facilitate that welcome.

What is clear is that Sadr is a prime target, and the situation in Iraq is of prime importance for the whole world. Andrew Sullivan paints the broad picture: “It is what this election is and should be all about. No, this is not a quagmire. It's the brightest opportunity for real change in the world since the end of the Cold War. We have to seize it.”

And taking Sullivan’s pass and running with it, you have to see that Kerry’s team still doesn’t get it. Teddy Kennedy proclaimed that Iraq is George Bush’s Vietnam. This is of course Sullivan’s real point – that the election, and worse a Kerry victory, would mean taking all the wrong lessons from Vietnam (and battles like Tet).

More: The Command Post tries to pull everything together too.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Sunday Evening at Dispatches HQ I’m not entirely sure that you’ll care in the least, but here are some things I was watching and reading and drinking this evening.
*Drinking:
Diet Coke with Lime. This is tasty stuff. Not really enough lime flavor, but damned if the caffeine doesn’t work wonders.
*Watching:
The Sopranos obviously. Tonight’s episode, “Irregular Around the Margins” was excellent proving just how quickly the Soprano world can turn on a dime. And I think Christopher, in addition to being kind of psycho is probably a neocon judging by his thumbs up to the whole empire business.
*Watching 2:
Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles. (Final: 7-2 O’s.)Well, it was a tad chilly at Camden Yards this evening and it didn’t look like the Red Sox were ready for their opening day. And Johnny Damon whose look last year was Cro-Magnon chic, takes it to a whole new level this year. What up JD? David Pinto of Baseball Musings blogged the whole game. Thank you baseball.
*Watching 3:
Two words: Arrested Development.
*Reading:
-John F. Burns’ New York Times piece from this morning edition on Fallujah. And his new piece on today’s violence. (There is a very nice analysis of Burns stories and Washington Post coverage over at the OxBlog.)
-A nice interview with Bill James on Bronx Banter and Matt Welch’s latest in the OC Register – in fact, Welch is all over the culture clash or is it a Cold War between baseballs old school and new school.

Friday, April 02, 2004

cover This Just In - - Spike TV’s “This Just In” is a pretty funny new show that utilizes flash animation so that it can be made week-by-week. Tonight’s episode had Newport pretending to be a Liberal to go out with the ultra-liberal weather girl. Other good bits were comparing Spain to France and the phrase, “catching France” as a disease.

And for cool factor the lead character even has a blog.

The Force is strong with this one - - First the Democrats tried the anti-war campaign tactic. Saddam was captured and suddenly that looked unsustainable. The next Democratic big idea was jobs and the economy. But that looks like an issue that might be swinging heavily in favor of Bush this week. Polipundit.com has the details. Hint in involves the 300,000 plus jobs created in March. At this rate the only job Kerry will be concerned about will be his own.

And I still think this "Taking Care of Business" ad-blogging is pretty powerful stuff. If they haven?t thought of it, Bush-Cheney should get this song into the stump speech rotation for the summer.

cover
”What would Bono do?” The infamous Nardwuar asked our Prime Minister about the artic dispute with Denmark this week. Hilarious results ensue. (Audio link here)

Thanks to my friend Mighty Mighty Fred Thorsen who gave me the heads up on Nardwuar’s hook up with the PM and was even more kind to ask for my humble opinion. The question Nardwuar asked was pure comic gold, baby, ending with the now famous line, “What would Bono do?”