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{Thursday, April 01, 2004}

Back in the Saddle
OK! Enough lollygagging. Multiple posts per week comin' at ya, starting now.

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{Monday, January 26, 2004}

David Kay-ohed
David Kay, head of the US inspection team looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, has resigned.

Did his resignation have anything to do with the fact that there are no WMD to be found in Iraq? Not at all, says Kay in an interview with Reuters.
Q: Is it true that one of the reasons you wanted to step down was because you don't believe that anything will be found, is that true?

A: "No. No, that wasn't the reason."
According to Kay, two things drove him to leave. The first is that the resources of his Iraq Survey Group were being diverted from the hunt for weapons and used to fight the Iraqi insurgency. The second is Kay's belief that the handoff of power to an Iraqi government in June would make the ISG's work nearly impossible.
Q: Why did you decide to step down?

A: "It related in part to a reduction in the resource and a change in focus of ISG (Iraq Survey Group). When I had started out, I had made it a condition that ISG be exclusively focused on WMD. That's no longer so. The reduction of resources. And the reason those were important is, and at least to me they were important, is I didn't feel that we could complete the task as quickly as I thought it important to complete the task, unless we exclusively focused ISG.

Q: You're talking about that they were asking some of the analysts to do the insurgency work, right?

A: Yes.


In fact, the reason I thought it important to complete everything is that ... by the time we get to June ... we're not going to find much after June. Once the Iraqis take complete control of the government it is just almost impossible to operate in the way that we operate. In fact it was already becoming tough. We had an important ministry that would not allow its people to be interviewed unless they had someone present. It was like the old regime.
In surprisingly Scott Ritteresque sentiment, Kay appears to be saying that he is leaving because his job, the important task of finding and securing Iraq's WMDs, is being obstructed.

Taken at face value, the implications of Kay's claims are stunning.

We are fighting Iraqi insurgents at all only as a secondary consequence of our effort to neutralize the threat of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. If those weapons are still out there--as Kay's statement suggests--then it is ludicrous for our government to effectively abandon the search before they are discovered.

Similarly, if the Iraqi regime that takes over in June will so obstruct the hunt for WMD as to make finding them "almost impossible," then we are left with an untenable situation. Can we afford to trust a government that won't let our inspectors do their job? Wasn't it exactly this kind of delay, denial, and deception that led President Bush to courageously yet reluctantly invade Iraq in the first place?

Let me be the first to say it: If the current rulers of Iraq are not with us, they are against us.

Luckily, one thing mitigates against a rash response to Kay's surprising claims: despite his sound-bite answer to Reuters, David Kay does not believe there are any large stockpiles of weapons in Iraq.

"I don't think they existed."
- David Kay, on Iraqi stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons
"I'm personally convinced that there were not large stockpiles of newly produced weapons of mass destruction."
- David Kay, making himself absolutely clear

And neither does his successor, former UN weapons inspector Charles Duelfer.

"I think that Mr. Kay and his team have looked very hard. I think the reason that they haven't found them is they're probably not there."
- Charles Duelfer, David Kay's replacement as head of the Iraq Survey Group

It doesn't matter if we divert ISG resources to counter-insurgency, and it doesn't matter if the inspection process ends when an Iraqi government takes power this summer, because there is no WMD threat.

Nor was there a threat during the reign of Saddam Hussein. In another interview, this one with the New York Times, Kay describes what happened in Iraq:
  • The stockpiles from the 1990s were eliminated due to fear of UN inspections
  • New projects desired by Hussein were never pursued thanks to corruption among the ranks of Iraq's scientists
American intelligence agencies failed to detect that Iraq's unconventional weapons programs were in a state of disarray in recent years under the increasingly erratic leadership of Saddam Hussein, the C.I.A.`s former chief weapons inspector said in an interview late Saturday.

The inspector, David A. Kay, who led the government's efforts to find evidence of Iraq's illicit weapons programs until he resigned on Friday, said the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies did not realize that Iraqi scientists had presented ambitious but fanciful weapons programs to Mr. Hussein and had then used the money for other purposes.


[H]is team learned that sometime around 1997 and 1998, Iraq plunged into what he called a "vortex of corruption," when government activities began to spin out of control because an increasingly isolated and fantasy-riven Saddam Hussein had insisted on personally authorizing major projects without input from others.

After the onset of this "dark ages," Dr. Kay said, Iraqi scientists realized they could go directly to Mr. Hussein and present fanciful plans for weapons programs, and receive approval and large amounts of money. Whatever was left of an effective weapons capability, he said, was largely subsumed into corrupt money-raising schemes by scientists skilled in the arts of lying and surviving in a fevered police state.

"The whole thing shifted from directed programs to a corrupted process," Dr. Kay said. "The regime was no longer in control; it was like a death spiral. Saddam was self-directing projects that were not vetted by anyone else. The scientists were able to fake programs."


Dr. Kay said that based on his team's interviews with Iraqi scientists, reviews of Iraqi documents and examinations of facilities and other materials, the administration was also almost certainly wrong in its prewar belief that Iraq had any significant stockpiles of illicit weapons.

"I'm personally convinced that there were not large stockpiles of newly produced weapons of mass destruction," Dr. Kay said. "We don't find the people, the documents or the physical plants that you would expect to find if the production was going on.

"I think they gradually reduced stockpiles throughout the 1990's. Somewhere in the mid-1990's, the large chemical overhang of existing stockpiles was eliminated."


He said it now appeared that Iraq had abandoned the production of illicit weapons and largely eliminated its stockpiles in the 1990's in large part because of Baghdad's concerns about the United Nations weapons inspection process. He said Iraqi scientists and documents show that Baghdad was far more concerned about United Nations inspections than Washington had ever realized.

To be clear, the U.S. official formerly in charge of our weapons inspection efforts in Iraq is stating that there is no arsenal of WMD to be found and that the UN inspection process worked.

When asked for a sound bite, Kay was careful to give a politically palatable answer; but his elaborations make it clear that Kay is leaving for exactly the reason that he said he wasn't: he no longer has a meaningful job to do.

The one thing Kay says that's at odds with this conclusion has to do with nuclear weapons, and it turns out to be another example of sound bites contradicting (or at least spinning) more detailed comments.

Here is Kay talking about nuclear weapons to Reuters:
Q: What about the nuclear program?

A: "The nuclear program was as we said in the interim report, I think that will be a final conclusion. There had been some restart of activities, but they were rudimentary.

"It really wasn't dormant because there were a few little things going on, but it had not resumed in anything meaningful."
Kay says essentially the same thing to the Times. Kay's wording is interesting. He says that his final conclusion will be the same as the conclusion of the interim report, then flatly states that there had been some restart of activities, as if this was the conclusion reached earlier as well. But the official interim report that Kay himself submitted in October found no evidence of resumed nuclear activity in Iraq:
"Despite evidence of Saddam's continued ambition to acquire nuclear weapons, to date we have not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material." [emphasis mine]
David Kay would probably argue that the key word in the above statement is "significant" and that, therefore, his current line does not contradict the interim report. Fair enough. What kinds of insignificant activities were discovered that Kay now classifies as a "rudimentary" "restart" of activities?

The full text of the ISG's interim report includes several paragraphs on the issue of a nuclear weapons program, all of them boiling down to the statement quoted above. The details support the ultimate conclusion. When specifics are mentioned, they turn out to be empty, as this example--the strongest in the report--demonstrates:
Starting around 2000, the senior Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) and high-level Ba'ath Party official Dr. Khalid Ibrahim Sa'id began several small and relatively unsophisticated research initiatives that could be applied to nuclear weapons development. These initiatives did not in-and-of themselves constitute a resumption of the nuclear weapons program, but could have been useful in developing a weapons-relevant science base for the long-term. We do not yet have information indicating whether a higher government authority directed Sa'id to initiate this research and, regretfully, Dr. Said was killed on April 8th during the fall of Baghdad. [emphasis mine]
It's clear that Kay's interim report showed no signs of any restart of nuclear activities, significant or otherwise. Kay can't claim that nuclear activities were resumed without reversing his earlier conclusion, and he seems to know this, so he hedges by saying that the work was just "a few little things going on." But "it had not resumed in anything meaningful." He wants to have it both ways, so we end up with doubletalk.

Kay is two and oh on doubletalk now, but this is probably inevitable where public figures are involved. Nonetheless, ignoring Kay's spin in favor of the meat of his comments gets you to a pretty striking conclusion.

Even while Saddam Hussein was in power, when he arguably desired to possess weapons of mass destruction, his government had not resumed large-scale production of banned arms. Iraq didn't have an arsenal of weapons, nor was it in the process of producing one. If there was a threat, it was not clear and present.

This is why we can shift ISG's resources to other efforts, and why the entire project might be abandoned when the new Iraqi government takes power.

Kay's resignation has nothing to do with his efforts being obstructed and everything to do with there being no further point to his efforts at all.

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{Wednesday, January 21, 2004}

Words Not Heard in the President's State of the Union Address
- Osama Bin Laden.

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

{Tuesday, December 30, 2003}

Please feel free to leave plans for New Year's Eve in the comments (which are broken, but you can still do it). Mine fell through, unless I want to drive four hours to Boston.

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

I can now casually write of one of my friends (?) acquaintances: "Elizabeth is in the New York times again." (I mean, who isn't?)

So, yeah, who the hell does she think she is anyway?

PS: Do you know that I can type target="resource window" in my sleep?

PPS: No, I am not back.

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"This is the best country in the world."
- Noam Chomsky, on the United States of America

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A viewing
Your (whatever the antonym of prolific is) author will be available for public viewing in about three weeks.

More information will be forthcoming.

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{Wednesday, October 15, 2003}

"War is God's way of teaching Americans geography."
- Ambrose Bierce

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For What?
Three Americans have been murdered in Gaza, killed by a remote-controlled roadside bomb. The Americans were traveling in a convoy escorted by Palestinian police.

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad denied responsibility for the attacks. The groups have policies of limiting their attacks to Israeli targets, which is not to say there is any concern for who might be caught in the cross-fire. About forty Americans (most with dual US-Israeli citizenship) have died in attacks targeting Israelis over the past three years. But there is clearly a qualitative difference between those deaths and the deliberate targeting of a convoy of Americans.

Neither Hamas nor Islamic Jihad is shy about claiming responsibility for death, and this attack is the first on American targets in many many years, so it is plausible that the denials are honest.

But why are three more people dead?

Update: Even here on this blog it takes news of American deaths to prompt a report on the continuing oppression of the Palestinians. It is so routine it isn't news, but Israel has killed at least 8 Palestinians in Gaza, in the Rafah refugee camp, over the past week. One was eight years old and one fifteen. Over 100 houses have been demolished, leaving perhaps ten times that many people without a place to live.

Update 2: This is from a report in Arabic on al-Jazeera TV, so I can't provide a link, but they interviewed a member of the PLO who claimed that after the Rafah incursions, Condoleezza Rice invited Palestinians and Israelis to discuss the presence of a 300-person American observer force in the occupied territory. The theory of this PLO member (possibly it was Nabil Shaath, I can't remember), is that the attack was committed by Israel to discourage the arrival of such a force. Israel has long opposed, and the Palestinians have long requested, a force of international observers.

Obviously, this is a self-serving theory for Shaath to propose, but similar acts are not unheard of in the long and troubled history of this conflict. The same broadcast had a list of four Palestinian terror groups that have all denied responsibility for the bombing.

Update 3: The original article now mentions that the three murdered Americans worked for the infamous defense contractor DynCorp. Maybe the company's crimes shouldn't reach into the grave to tarnish three men who may have had nothing whatever to do with what happened in Bosnia, but whenever I see the name, ominous bells ring.

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{Monday, October 13, 2003}

The Mind-Machine Reunion is Only a Motion Away
Scientists at Duke have succeeded in implanting electrodes in Monkeys' brains that allow them to control a robotic arm remotely. Read about it at the Washington Post, the New York Times, or Duke University itself.

Then, boggle.
"The future is here. It's just not widely distributed yet."
- William Gibson

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

It is as if someone cut off my hands
In Dhuluaya, a small town 50 miles north of Baghdad, soldiers of the United States of America razed the olive and citrus groves of 32 Iraqi farmers.

According to the farmers, 25,000 square meters of trees, which had been feeding 500 people, were demolished. The Iraqis were not offered any recourse to due process. When they appealed to the army, they were told that the destruction was a response to a series of ambushes against U.S. forces in the previous weeks. "They say resistance fighters could hide in the fields," a farmer named Khudeir Khalil told Agence France Presse.
Master Sergeant Robert Cargie, of the 4th Infantry Division controlling the area, said "we cannot get specific on these operations.

"But if an area is determined to be useful as an ambush point, we will seek to eliminate that as a threat."


Mubarak Saleh, another farmer from the area, explained that a delegation of farmers and municipality officials held meetings with the top U.S. officer in town in a bid to settle the spiraling dispute.

"We tried to make them stop destroying our fields or at least ask for compensation," he said.

"But all they said was: 'When the resistance will stop, we will stop destroying the fields,'" said Saleh.

A separate report on the same incident suggests that the fields were not destroyed solely for their possible tactical value as ambush points for guerrillas, but also as retribution on the town for not informing against the militants.
Iraq Today ... quotes Lt Col Springman, a US commander in the region, as saying: "We asked the farmers several times to stop the attacks, or to tell us who was responsible, but the farmers didn't tell us."


Sheikh Hussein Ali Saleh al-Jabouri, a member of a delegation that went to the nearby US base to ask for compensation for the loss of the fruit trees, said American officers described what had happened as "a punishment of local people because 'you know who is in the resistance and do not tell us'."
Dhuluaya is just an hour's drive North of Baghdad, in the Sunni Triangle where the most die-hard of Saddam's loyalists are located. There have been many attacks in the region. It is at least plausible that some of the attackers took cover amidst the plantations and their trees. Armed, they would not need the permission of the farmers to do so. The strategy is textbook. Use of civilian infrastructure is almost inevitable in a guerrilla war, and when retribution for guerrilla attacks is dealt collectively to the population, it plays into the hands of the militants -- the people's willingness to accommodate the occupier is strangled.

The logic of occupation is difficult to break out of. An army must pursue its own security first, and that pursuit almost always results in the abuse of the occupied people's liberty. Sometimes the occupying forces themselves realize this and regret it. One account mentions an American soldier who "broke down and cried during the operation." But other soldiers dealt with the situation differently;
When a reporter from the newspaper Iraq Today attempted to take a photograph of the bulldozers at work a soldier grabbed his camera and tried to smash it.
Though the army's legitimate concern for the security of its soldiers makes operations like Dhuluaya seem necessary, the conduct of the US army in this case was inexcusable. Something is clearly wrong when our soldiers are behaving in such a way that they are ashamed to be photographed.

If the real issue was that the trees provided potential cover for militants, the army should have consulted with the town in advance and negotiated a compensation in return for the removal of the trees. The army's legitimate security concerns would have been met, and a city in the Sunni Triangle would have been given an example of the US government's fair dealing.

Instead, farmers lost their livelihoods and learned that to the US, there is no difference between guilt and innocence if you are Iraqi. We have done little to win them over and much to alienate them.
Asked how much his lost orchard was worth, Nusayef Jassim said in a distraught voice: "It is as if someone cut off my hands and you asked me how much my hands were worth."


A tall man standing behind the crowd suddenly raises a warning finger and says: "Some people who lost their fields are begging, others are stealing cars, but now that we have nothing to do, maybe we will join the resistance.

"Is this what the Americans want?"

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{Friday, October 10, 2003}

Little Tony was sitting on a park bench munching on one candy bar after another. After the 6th candy bar, a man on the bench across from him said, "Son, you know eating all that candy isn't good for you. It will give you acne, rot your teeth, and make you fat."

Little Tony replied, "My grandfather lived to be 107 years old."

The man asked, "Did your grandfather eat 6 candy bars at a time?"

Little Tony answered, "No, he minded his own fucking business."

In other words, science fiction author Robert Anton Wilson ran for Governor of California and, sadly, lost (via lindsey at Reenhead).

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"I, for one, welcome our new corporate overlords."
- B.A. in the comments to this Reenhead post

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Antoine was no fool. You can’t be an idiot and raise a tiger. He would have known that he was in too deep, that something had to give, and he surely considered moving the tiger somewhere where it could run free. But how do you take a tiger out of a high rise apartment complex?

No, the tiger could not be moved, so Antoine did what people always do when faced with irrational love–he braced himself and held on. He would stand just inside the door and throw raw chickens into the apartment and watch as the big cat tore them to shreds before returning to its place next to the stove. Eventually they settled into a routine. He would pick up the meat in the morning and feed the beast twice every day. The situation was untenable, but it happened so gradually–one bad choice after another, one raw chicken at a time, each obstacle made bearable by love. Did the tiger know how fearsome it had become? Did Antoine still see the kitten that he had nursed on the couch?
Brokentype, via The Kicker.

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{Thursday, October 09, 2003}

To the people who don't reply to my e-mails:

If I didn't want you to like me so much, I'd hate you.

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{Wednesday, October 01, 2003}

What Megan McArdle Has Been Waiting For
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Lies and the lying liars...
No, I don't mean my promise to return before the end of summer (I posted once, dammit). I mean this:
[I]n testimony before Congress, L. Paul Bremer III, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz both cited a recent Gallup Poll that found that almost two-thirds of those polled in Baghdad said it was worth the hardships suffered since the U.S.-led invasion ousted Saddam Hussein. Bremer also told Congress that 67 percent thought that in five years they would be better off, and only 11 percent thought they would be worse off.

That same poll, however, found that, countrywide, only 33 percent thought they were better off than they were before the invasion and 47 percent said they were worse off. And 94 percent said that Baghdad was a more dangerous place for them to live, a finding the administration officials did not discuss.

OK. Politicians engaging in spin is not news. Don't blame me, blame Eve Tushnet.

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{Sunday, August 17, 2003}

electric sheep has released part 3.5 of The Spiders. At last.

It continues to be one of the best comics I have ever read anywhere.

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{Sunday, July 06, 2003}

Dear Reader(s)
As foretold in prophecy, Objectionable Content will indeed return (before the end of summer).

PS: Holy crap, I've been gone so long that they've changed Blogger. I didn't even recognize it when I fired up the app to write this.

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{Saturday, May 03, 2003}

"It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong."
- Voltaire

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The Watchtower
Mike Van Winkle has started up a new blog "to monitor the status of individual rights and civil liberties following the passage of the USA Patriot Act of 2001."

The blog, called The Watchtower, is a group effort, and has already attracted Arthur Silber (of the Objectivist-themed blog, Light of Reason) and Sean Paul Kelley (of The Agonist).

Here's hoping that Mike and company find they have nothing to write about.

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{Friday, May 02, 2003}

Sleight of blog
Instapundit commits an act of deliberate misdirection or shocking ignorance in this post about the recent protests in Iraq. He accuses people who make a fuss about the Iraqi protests of not understanding the Middle East.

WHEN IRAQIS RIOT, it's supposed to be a sign that the United States is blowing it, and doesn't know how to operate in that part of the world.

The alternative explanation, of course, is that it's the critics who don't understand how things tend to work out in that part of the world...

Reynolds goes on to link to, and quote, a New York times article about an earthquake in Turkey, where Turkish citizens clashed with security forces. According to the section of the article that Reynolds saw fit to quote, the government's inadequate response to the quake prompted the survivors to protest, and the protests turned violent, leading to a response from the security forces.

The clear implication is that such clashes are normal in the Middle East and are therefore nothing to worry about. People there riot over earthquakes, they riot over the presence of US troops, they riot over anything. Americans who draw conclusions from a riot just don't get it, Reynolds informs his readers. The relationship of US forces to protesting Iraqis is no different than the relationship of Turkish security forces to their own protesting citizens.

As it happens, there is something deeply flawed in Reynolds' use of this analogy, but one would never know it from the information that he presents. Here is everything Instapundit felt was worth quoting about the riot in Turkey:

BINGOL, Turkey, May 2 — Security forces clashed with earthquake victims protesting the government's relief response today, but an uneasy quiet hung over a flattened boarding school on the outskirts of this regional capital as rescuers continued poring through the rubble for surviving students.

Gunfire filled the air outside the governor's office as heavily armed troops tried to disperse rampaging protesters, upset at what they said was inadequate assistance for quake-affected residents.

The only problem is what Reynolds chooses not to quote from the original article:

There have long been tensions between eastern Turkey's predominantly Kurdish population and the government security forces. Kurdish rebels have waged war in the mountainous area for 15 years, prompting fierce government crackdowns.

Authorities accused Kurdish rebels today of trying to take advantage of the natural disaster to press their cause. But some of the protesters said security forces had overreacted as displaced people had called on the area's governor, Huseyin Avni Cos, to help them find shelter or resign.

"We just came here to get tents," one protester, Ramazan Yararli, told The Associated Press. "But they started firing on us."
The protesters were not ordinary ethnic Turks but Turkish Kurds. The clash in Turkey was not an isolated incident centering around a natural disaster, but one more flare-up of a decades-long conflict between Turkish Kurds and the government that rules them.

This incredibly salient point is not mentioned by Instapundit, despite the fact that the government of Turkey's war with its own Kurdish population has led to over 19,000 deaths, to the internal displacement of over 2 million, and to the destruction of over 2,000 villages.

Protests by Kurds in Turkey, and the violent response to those protests, are not par for the course in the Middle East -- they are one product of a long and bloody rebellion that threatened (and sometimes still threatens) to tear Turkey apart.

If anything, a comparison between Iraq and Turkey in this respect is troubling, not heartening. The one glaring failure in Turkey's Islamic democracy is its opression of the Kurds. Do we want to normalize this; to emulate it in Iraq?

Glenn Reynold should certainly be aware of Turkey's history with its Kurdish population. All the talk about Turkey's opposition to a Kurdish state during the build-up to this war could not have been lost on him. And what of the New York Times article? Did the sections that he failed to quote just not register as he read them?

I find that hard to believe. It looks a lot more likely that Instapundit picked the quotes that supported his thesis and ignored the ones that blatantly refuted it. From someone both talented and popular, that's a shame.

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

Life imitates Onion
On March 26, the Onion ran a piece called Dead Iraqi Would Have Loved Democracy.

On April 30, the AP ran a piece called U.S. Troops Fire on Iraq Protesters Again (again!). [link via Reenhead]

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

Text and subtext
In the story above, the killing of Iraqi protesters (15 so far) is the attention-getter. Discussion revolves around the events and the explanation.

The Army claims that it was fired upon by gunmen within the crowds, and that it only returned fire. This could be true. It is possible that gunmen among the protesters are just Iraqi soldiers who faded out of the army and are now causing trouble as "civilians."

In the words of one American soldier, "These are deliberate actions by the enemy to use the population as cover."

But here's the thing, if we weren't shooting at them, the big story would not be that the U.S. has killed fifteen people, the big story would be the protests themselves.

There were 1,000 people in Fallujah the day 13 were killed. They were chanting, "Yes, yes for Islam; no to America, no to Saddam."

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Snipe Hunt
Jim Henley alerts the world to a post by the Cogent Provocateur that he calls "magisterial." What's it about? It's "the best writing about missing WMDs yet. Period." The post is called Operation Desert Snipe, and it goes something like this:

The joke is on us, but does it matter any more? We won, didn't we?

Yes, we won ... and yes, it still matters, else high officialdom wouldn't be clinging gamely to the original premise. And the PR labs wouldn't be working overtime testing damage control solutions.

From August's "what's all this frenzy about a war?", to September's "you don't introduce new products in August", through November's election victory over an opposition "soft" on Saddam, through the winter games of spinning Blix on ice, through Powell's PowerPoint prestidigitation in February, to a no-time-to-vote forced March, we plied the crowd with predictable fare. We loosened them up with liberation cocktails. We circulated tray after tray of Saddam-as-Hitler appetizers. We dutifully jotted down orders for commercial or strategic side-dishes. But the main course was always a grand sterling-covered platter of sizzling Snipe a la Bush.

No WMD, no War Powers Resolution. No WMD, no UN Res. 1441. No WMD, no Coalition of the Willing. No WMD, no Azores ultimatum. Everything hinged on Iraq's possession of WMD, and her intransigent refusal to give them up. (more)

There is more, not all of which I agree with. But the post is full of gems and the narrative reads like fiction. Of course, reality is sounding more and more like fiction all the time.

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Snipe hunt update
Condoleeza Rice calls Colin Powell a liar. Sacre bleu! After Powell and the President made frightening claims about Iraq's WMD program, our National Security Advisor floats the idea that there may be much less there there.

Addressing the UN Security Council on February 5, Mr Powell said recent intelligence showed a missile brigade outside Baghdad was "dispersing rocket launchers and warheads containing biological warfare agent to various locations". Mr Bush was equally alarmist, describing satellite evidence showing that Saddam Hussein was reconstituting Iraq's nuclear weapons programs with his top nuclear scientists, his "nuclear mujahideen."

When Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector, suggested Iraq's WMD program could be more fragmented and degraded, he was pilloried as naive or incompetent. When his inspectors talked of a more complex search for WMD, where components or precursors could be in the form of legal, dual-use chemical or biological agents that had to be monitored, they were dismissed as flatfooted and overcautious.

Yet Dr Rice's descriptions of Iraq's weapons program is far closer to Dr Blix's analysis than she would want to concede.


Condoleezza Rice is now acknowledging that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program is less clear-cut, and probably more difficult to establish, than the White House portrayed before the war... for the first time, Dr Rice is saying publicly that it is less likely many actual weapons will be found. [emphasis mine] Rather, she described the programs as being hidden in so-called "dual use" infrastructure. In other words, chemicals and biological agents could be in plants, factories and laboratories capable of being used for legal and prohibited purposes.

Almost three weeks since the fall of Baghdad, with senior Iraqi scientists and officials in US custody, no chemical or biological weapons stockpiles have been found. Neither has any evidence been uncovered that Iraq had restarted a nuclear program.

The article goes on to make what was always the true hawkish case for war, and to note why this case was not pressed publicly.

Many international weapons experts believed that the threat from Iraq did not come from chemical-filled Scud missiles or aircraft, as sometimes cited in Washington. The threat was less direct. It was about whether Saddam was trying to maintain the core of a WMD program, both raw ingredients and scientific expertise, which he could reconstitute when the world got tired of containing him.

For arms control experts around the world that threat was a very real one. But it was far less dramatic and threatening than that presented by the US to justify a pre-emptive war.

In other words, the hawkish case for war, the real one, was the one Cheney made in the beginning (and then quickly shut up about): this was about regime change. Whether or not Iraq had WMDs today was not the issue. But when Cheney tried to sell this to the public, they weren't buying. That's when a supposedly existing stockpile of WMDs became important, when UN inspections took a brief role in the spotlight, and Colin Powell's "evidence" of an imminent Iraqi threat was trotted out before the Security Council. The pace of loud, alarmist announcements was matched only by the frequency of their refutation.

The imminence was never there and most people in government knew it.

This doesn't detract from the hawk's real argument -- but it alters the picture of what happened. At best, the Iraq hawks deliberately misled the public about the imminence of the Iraqi threat (and its relevance to the "war on terror") in order to head off what they felt was a genuine, but longer-term danger.

Maybe that's the role of leaders, to get the public to approve of what is necessary, using whatever means they must. I saw A Few Good Men.

But I didn't sign up to be led, or to have some public servant tell me what's best for me while lying through his teeth because I can't handle the truth.

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{Monday, April 14, 2003}

Weeks, not months
Tikrit has apparently been seized.

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Scary Rumsfeld Quote of the Day
South Knox Bubba reports that during a press briefing, the SecDef criticized some media outlets for reporting the looting in Baghdad instead of the jubilation of Iraqis at being liberated. After citing one such example, Rumsfeld apparently turned to General Myers and said, "we ought to go after that newspaper, too." [emphasis mine]

Nothing to see here, people. Move along.

[via The Gamer's Nook]

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{Sunday, April 13, 2003}

Blogger Pro's built-in spell checker doesn't recognize blog or any of its variants as words.

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That strange post about Gawker
If Gawker were a woman, you'd want to have sex with it.* The gossipy blog spends a good deal of time making fun of Paris and Nicky Hilton, but in your mind it's become conflated with them -- and boy do you want to give those two the business. You know it would be meaningless and shallow, but you'd get to feel superior and it would give you something to talk about later.

*Admittedly, you want to have sex with everything.

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when the chickens come home to roost, one can always slaughter the chickens and move elsewhere.
- The Bellona Times, on the behavior of power

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{Saturday, April 05, 2003}

Radar Love
In which we explain what is great about blogging by examining the origins of an artwork

What's so great about the internet? Everyone knows about the information, the universal database of all human knowledge, the porn. I love those things too. But the great thing about the internet is obviously blogging, and the heart of blogging is radar love.

The concept is embodied in a single picture, one that must be worth more than a thousand words (as you'll see from how many I have to use to explain it).

It all started when Hugh moved to New York.

Almost six years later there are more than three hundred cartoons. Epigrams with art. Like:

"I'm going to eat this city alive.

Or vice versa."

That one is mine, but it gives you a feel for them. New York is a tough town and Hugh has it pegged.

Exhibit 1: A Hugh Macleod cartoon

Elizabeth moved to New York too. Three years later her blog, Gawker, gets 8,000 visits per day. Everyone likes a gossip.

Exhibit 2: An item from the Gawker FAQ:
1. Are you as shallow as you appear?
Gawker is dedicated exclusively to frivolity and excess. I do, on occasion, stare into the existential abyss, ponder the nuances and shudders, and produce what some might refer to as "serious thoughts." You will never see these on Gawker.

In truth, I aim to be much more shallow, and am very demanding of myself in this respect. Every morning I look in the mirror and ask myself, "Am I vapid enough?" "How can I learn to make people care less about others, and more about me?" ... Sometimes I find myself not really caring which book Nicky Hilton's reading or whether she's remembering to color inside the lines, and I feel momentarily guilty. Happily, a Xanax, a martini, and a couple of lines of moderate-quality coke seem an effective remedy.

2. Admit it: you're just a bunch of social climbers.
We're just a bunch of social climbers.

Hugh and Elizabeth have never met. In December, Hugh made this:

Exhibit 3: The Artwork in Question
Hugh Macleod Cartoon about Gawker

That cartoon up there wouldn't exist without blogs. This is the chain of its existence:
  1. In October of 2002, Ray Davis buries a link to Hugh Macleod's web site at the beginning of a cryptic post on the Bellona Times
  2. Miranda Gaw sees it and in November she links to Hugh on Geegaw
  3. Graham Leushke sees Miranda's post and links to Hugh too
  4. R. Allan Baruz reads Leushke regularly, but he doesn't link to the post about Hugh
That's where it might have ended. Except:
  1. Back in time, in June of 2002, Megan McArdle of Asymmetrical Information hosted a bloggers' get-together in New York
  2. I went
  3. There, I met R. Allan, the guy who didn't link to Leushke's post about Hugh. Allan's blog is Rough Days for a Gentil Knight and I hadn't read it before the party
  4. Afterwards, I started reading Allan's blog semi-regularly
  5. In November of 2002, I was reading Rough Days again, and I found this pointer to Leushke
  6. From that post on Leushke, I read randomly and happened to find the post that links to Hugh's web site
  7. On Tuesday, November 19, 2002, I posted about Hugh's cartoons
The secret greatness of blogging is that on November 27, the following note was left in the comment section to my post about Hugh:


I came across your website. Thanks for the kind words. Glad you liked the work.

I live in New York, though I've been staying a lot more in my cottage in the boonies since 9-11.



That's where it might have ended too. Except:
  1. At Megan McArdle's party, I also met Elizabeth Spiers, whose blog, Capital Influx, I'd already been reading
  2. After the party, Elizabeth started reading Objectionable Content semi-regularly
  3. On Wendesday the 20th, after seeing my post about Hugh's cartoons, Elizabeth posts her own link to Hugh on Capital Influx
Hugh Macleod to Elizabeth Spiers in 14 steps. From Elizabeth back to Hugh in one step: the referrer log.

Once he found Capital Influx, Hugh could read the announcement of Gawker's creation on December 6th. And on the 26th Elizabeth could post the Hugh Macleod cartoon about Gawker onto Gawker.

If it wasn't for blog posts, for "via so and so" lines, referrer logs, and a get-together organized entirely on-line, that cartoon wouldn't exist. Radar love ladies and gentlemen.

Come on, you know the words:

We've got a thing, that's called radar love
We've got a wave in the air

After he found the post, Hugh and I traded some e-mails. Because I am hopelessly bourgeois, one of the first things I asked him was whether prints of his cartoons were for sale.

Well, now they are.

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"Culling my readers to a select few since June 2002."
- Tagline to Aaron Haspel's blog, God of the Machine

Aaron explains Glickness and then (daringly or shamelessly?) ranks the bloggers according to their possession of it.

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Misleading for Columbine
Tim Hulsey of My Stupid Dog has been reviewing movies. Can you guess, dear readers, what film he's referring to here:
"The film itself is great propaganda, on a par, I think, with Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will and Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin."
Of course you read the title to this post and guessed correctly.

Tim goes on to link to some articles that debunk much of the key arguments in Michael Moore's film (or his "alleged documentary" in Tim's words).

The best of the bunch is Joshua Galun's An Examination of "Bowling for Columbine." To get to the article you'll have to scroll down just a tiny bit past the dated updates at the top of the page.

The second-best of the bunch is this Spinsanity piece.

All of the critics admit that Bowling for Columbine is bitingly funny. Even Tim confesses: "In awe and admiration, I've seen the film twice," making him an accomplice in Bowling for Columbine's achievement of highest-grossing documentary film of all time.

Which makes me wonder: Which is the better choice, achieving fame while being revealed as a liar, or having your lies believed but at the cost of remaining relatively obscure?

(Yes, you're a liar in both cases. Just admit it.)

Update: Is Bowling for Columbine the highest-grossing documentary of all time as its makers claim, or is that also a lie? MacGillivray Freeman's Everest appears far, far ahead of it. Everest is an IMAX film, and so may all under a different category, but it has grossed over $120 million worldwide, versus a paltry $30 million for Bowling for Columbine.

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Coalition of the willi--
Oops, we just lost two members of the coalition of the willing. Turns out they were never part of it in the first place. How embarassing.

Item #1 comes from Bryant Durrell's Population: One.

In news that will no doubt have a profound effect on the war — almost as profound as the initial announcement — the Solomon Islands have pulled out of the coalition. In fact, the Solomon Islands Prime Minister says he was completely unaware that they were even in the coalition.

I mean, no, of course it doesn’t matter. But how do you add a nation to the list without checking first? Did they just hope the little guys would be too embarassed to contradict them?

Via the Spokesman Review.

Item #2 comes from doublethink.

The only thing I know about Slovakia is what I learned first-hand from your foreign minister, who came to Texas.

-- George W. Bush to a Slovak journalist,
after meeting with Janez Drnovsek, Prime Minister of Slovenia.
Knight-Ridder News Service, June 22, 1999

This just in from Ljubljana! Hundreds of Slovenians hit the streets Wednesday to protest their country's inclusion in President Bush's $75 billion Iraq war budget as a partner in the war against Iraq. The White House asked for $4.5 million for Slovenia as part of the grants to members of the vast "coalition of the willing."

Small problem: The lovely Alpine nation isn't a member. "When we asked for an explanation, the State Department told us we were named in the document by mistake," Prime Minister Anton Rop said at what Reuters called "a hastily arranged news conference."

This of course would not be the first time someone confused Slovenia and Slovakia...
They Got the 'Slov' Part Right
Washington Post, March 28, 2003

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{Friday, March 28, 2003}

Leading by example
"The United States says that after Iraq, we are next, but we have our own countermeasures. Pre-emptive attacks are not the exclusive right of the US."
- Ri Pyong-gap, North Korean Foreign Ministry

Oh, now it's cool to emulate the United States.

All those decades we spent building an open, prosperous society? No interest. Liberty? They'll pass.

One measly year insisting on the right to preventive war and it's "We want to be just like you!"

(Link and quote via Ryan McDonough's anti-war flash movie)

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The inherently moral weapon
In a truly fascinating post, Leonard Dickens describes the JDAM and what might be the end of collateral damage.

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The *ahem* blow-by-blow1
The Supreme Court hears a case on the legality of a Texas anti-sodomy law. Absurdity ensues.

The lawyer arguing against the Texas law starts with what he thinks is a safe point:

"It's conceded by the state of Texas that married couples can't be regulated in their private sexual decisions," says Smith.

To which Scalia rejoins, "They may have conceded it, but I haven't."

That's right ladies and gentlemen, if the state of Texas isn't man enough to regulate the sex lives of its citizens, then Justice Taliban will do it for them. And don't think that marriage will be any protection, perverts!

Things go from frightening to ridiculous, and from ridiculous to confusing:

Smith says these laws say "you can't have sexual activity at all" if you are gay and Scalia objects: "They just say you can't have sexual intimacy with a person of the same sex." See? No problem. Homosexuals remain perfectly at liberty to have heterosexual sex in Texas.


In response to a question from Justice Anthony Kennedy as to whether Bowers is still good law, Rosenthal [attorney for the State of Texas] replies that mores have changed and that "physical homosexual intimacy is now more acceptable." Since he suddenly seems to be arguing the wrong side of the case, an astonished Scalia steps in to say, "You think there is public approval of homosexuality?"

Rosenthal catches his pass, then runs the wrong way down the field: "There is approval of homosexuality. But not of homosexual activity." Scalia wonders how there can be such widespread "approval" if Congress still refuses to add homosexuals to classes of citizens protected by the civil rights laws. "You're saying there's no disapproval of homosexual acts. But you can't ... say that," he sputters.


Rosenthal closes by telling the court that Texas is not really homophobic. In fact, they recently passed hate crime legislation making it illegal to commit crimes based on sexual orientation. How sweet. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asks why any homosexual would run for public office in Texas, knowing he'll be charged by his opponents with being a lawbreaker. Rosenthal assures her that he could only be called a lawbreaker if he "commits that act."

So—to sum up—any homosexuals out there who have renounced the actual having-of-sex, and are just gay for the privilege of being stigmatized: Know that you are not only loved in Texas, you may well be its next governor.

The entire article is definitely worth a read, if only for a view into the strange goings on in the looking-glass world of our legal system.

1 Some definitions of sodomy include both oral and anal sex, so don't nitpick my clever pun, dammit.

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Henley calls Rumsfeld a lying coward
Well, not in so many words.

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Copyright notice (attributed to Woodie Guthrie)

This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do.

(via PLA)

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Subtext of seduction
In case you were wondering, here's what the ladies are thinking:

So I saw you standing over here, and I checked out the quality of your clothes, your haircut, who you were with, and what you were drinking. You could potentially be dating material. My name is VERY important. If you forget it, you will rue the day. What is your name, and most importantly, what is your last name. I will use this information to see whether your last name is compatible with my first name.

Now that I've introduced myself, you should buy me a mind bending beverage so that I can see that you aren't cheap and that you find me attractive. I will need this mind bending beverage to flirt with you outrageously, thereby procuring your number or vice versa, and to keep you interested for the rest of the night so that you actually want to call it. I'd love to have sex with you as well, but since you are relationship material, I have to make you work for it and buy me a few dinners first.** I might allow you to hug me or do something equally chaste such as kissing my cheek at the end of the night, but don't count on anything overtly sexual for the next 2 dates. If this is not enough encouragement for you, you are simply a pig, a pervert, an asshole, or a man. My friends tell me I can do better.

**If you were not relationship material, and were simply hot, I might take you up on your offer of having sex in the bar.

Advantage: Jim, because I have no last name. Though you might want to try Mrs. Content on for size (I think it has a nice ring).

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{Wednesday, March 26, 2003}

You know there are times
When this blog bores the stuffing out of me.

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Basra 'uprising' evaporates
If you've been following war news, you might've heard reports about an anti-Saddam uprising in the city of Basra. According to London's FT, the reports of its birth were greatly exaggerated.

Hawks have argued that Iraqi forces would be quick to surrender, and that civilians would welcome our troops. So far the surrenders have not materialized, and while it may be too early to say what civilian reactions will be, Basra is to be watched as an indicator.

Right now it's hard to say what is happening there -- breaking news from a battlefield is certainly subject to updating, revision, and even contradiction, but here is the FT's take (subscription required):

US and British hopes of a big popular uprising against President Saddam Hussein in Basra, Iraq's second city, were fading on Wednesday as coalition aircraft bombed local offices of the ruling Ba'ath party and skirmishes continued in southern Iraq.

The British 7th armoured brigade, known as the Desert Rats, is deployed on the outskirts of Basra but remains reluctant to commit troops to a dangerous round of house-to-house fighting.

The apparent lack of rebellion in Basra is a disappointment for the coalition, which had hoped to take the predominantly Shia Muslim city without a fight and - with the help of humanitarian aid - make it an example of the benefits of occupation.

Tony Blair, UK prime minister, spoke only of "some limited form of uprising" when he addressed the British parliament on Wednesday. Geoff Hoon, UK defence secretary, mentioned "disturbances", saying that "regime militia" had tried to attack rebels with mortars and machine guns.

Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, spokesman for the US Central Command, said: "What we saw in Basra last night [Tuesday] was a very confusing situation, to say the least."

Coalition commanders believe ordinary soldiers in Basra are keen to surrender, but are being prevented from doing so by at least 1,000 irregular troops loyal to the regime, including the so-called Fedayeen Saddam.

The main exiled Iraqi Shia organisation on Wednesday said the Shia community had been instructed to remain neutral in the US-led invasion. The Tehran-based Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri) said there did appear to have been trouble in the city, but played down the scale of the unrest.

"Some people are saying there were demonstrations that were put down, but others say parts of Basra are now controlled by the people," said Hamed al-Bayati, Sciri's London representative. "We're not sure who is behind it."

Pan-Arab television stations on Wednesday showed footage from a quiet city. But Shia opposition officials said journalists were not free to roam the streets of Basra and might have been shown areas that had indeed remained calm. (more)

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Rest in Peace
Former New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who warned us all not to define deviancy down, died today. He was seventy-six.

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Ooh, baby baby it's a wild world
Bitter rivals India and Pakistan both test fire nuclear-capable missiles.

Russia decides to delay approval of a Russo-American nuclear disarmament pact.

North Korea threatens to end 50 years of armistice with the South.

[ Thanks to the Agonist for links two and three. ]

Song of the day: "Wild World," by Cat Stevens.

It's hard to get by, just upon a smile

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Arab Standard Time Repealed!
Despite my self-satisfied assertions below, Al-Jazeera has indeed launched their English language web site on schedule before the end of the month.

Unfortunately, the site remains down after a denial of service hack.

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{Tuesday, March 25, 2003}

Wacky Iraqi
This satire site comes via Salam Pax. The piece that got me hooked?

United States Changes its Name to "Coalition"
BAGHDAD, IRAQ (WI) — In a move to convince the world that they are not going it alone, the United States Congress has quickly amended the U.S. Constitution and changed the superpower's name to "Coalition". Almost immediately after the emergency congressional name-changing session, "Coalition" forces began bombing targets in Southern Iraq and outside Baghdad.

Additionally, two stars have been added to the new United States of Coalition flag, representing Britain and Spain. The two new stars are smaller and less prominent than the other 50, as these new states have no autonomy and must rely completely on the President for decision making.

Following the bombing, one of the Saddam Husseins spoke before the Iraqi people denouncing the Coalition attack. CIA video analysts believe that the speech was probably given by Saddam #4, though one source told reporters that it could have been Saddam #12 with a cold.

At a late morning press conference, Donald Rumsfeld pretended to answer questions about the attack and the impending invasion in his usual, warm manner.

"I'm not telling you fucking reporters a thing--just who do you think you are?" the Defense Secretary barked. "You'll get the news when I damn well feel like it, and not a minute before. If you don't like it you can move back to Old Europe or whatever pussy country your parents came from. Thank you and good morning."

But there's more. Your One-Stop Shop for Sandnigger Information showcases the literate erudtion found in Wacky Iraqi's own referrer logs, while their Just Another Day on the Internet section collects a random sample of anti-Arab hate available here on the web. Of course Wacky Iraqi does it with style:

Just Another Day on the Internet
Ah, the beauty of anonymity. When you don't have the pesky PC police breathing down your neck, you can let down your hair and say what's really on your mind.

For me, it's racial jokes. I love racial humor as much as (or probably quite a bit more than) anyone around. Black people love watermelon, Chinese folks can't drive, the Irish like their booze, Jews are stingy, Mexicans eat beans. It never gets old...hell, I'm chuckling right now just typing this.

Still, there's ultimately nothing funnier to me than a good Arab joke. Being of Arab decent myself, I find great humor in playful mocking of my own race's idiosyncrasies.

For example, here's a great side-splitter I found today:
Ha! Now that's rich.

Anyhoo, enjoy this fine collection of lighthearted ribbing I've collected around the web. I hope you find it as lively and whimsical as I do. (more)

Ah, those crazy foreigners.

Do yourself a favor and check out the Wacky Iraqi (make sure you read Just Another Day on the Internet to the very end. Trust me).

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How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth
In the vein of the post below, here is a story broken by Arab press that U.S.-based outlets have so far refused to touch: Is Vice President Cheney's Daughter a Human Shield in Baghdad?

The London based Arabic daily Al Quds Al Arabi reported on Tuesday, March 25 that the American vice president, Dick Cheney, would soon head to the Jordanian capital, Amman.

The newspaper claimed that the visit would be an attempt by Cheney to convince his daughter, who was in the Jordanian capital, to back down her decision to go to Baghdad within a group of volunteers who want to form human shields against the US led attacks on Iraq.

Al Quds Al Arabi cited news reports it claimed circulating in Amman as saying that Cheney would arrive in the Jordanian capital soon on a special visit it described as having a "social mission." “News agencies cited sources as saying that Cheney will arrive in Amman next Friday. He will try to convince his daughter who is currently staying at a hotel in Amman not to go to Baghdad along with a group of volunteers who want to go to Iraq and form human shields against the Anglo American attacks,” said the report. (more)

Whether the report turns out to be true or false, it was sourced by an Arab paper in London and is so far only being mentioned on an Arab web site, Al Bawaba. Thanks to globalization, we here in the U.S. don't have to be out of the loop.

Update: UPI reports that the U.S. embassy in Jordan and a member of Vice President Cheney's staff both deny the Al Quds Al Arabi story.

Update 2: WorldNet Daily also publishes a categorical denial, by Cheney spokesperson Jennifer Millerwise.

[ This post mirrored at Stand Down ]

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News from the Front
The first few days of this war have made it clear that journalism is alive and well in the Arab world. Middle Eastern media outlets, particularly Qatar's Al-Jazeera, are breaking some of the biggest stories, and the Western press is publishing news it might otherwise suppress because the Arab media has let the cat out of the bag.

Unfortunately, the best of the best, Al-Jazeera, isn't available in English either on television or on-line. The station has promised an English-language web site by the end of this month. As of March 25th, it isn't available. Converting from Arab Standard Time to our own dating system, the web site should be up sometime in late April or early May. Until then, here are some alternative ways to get an Arab perspective on the war:
  • Al Bawaba ("The Gateway") — A web site rivaling the BBC's in looks, but definitely not in speed, Al Bawaba is produced out of Jordan and the UK. Yesterday's front page had some interesting items:

    1. US missile hits Syrian passenger bus near Iraqi border, five people killed

    2. Al Bawaba sources: U.S. ensures personal safety of Iraqi FM en route to Cairo

    3. Two British soldiers missing; Pentagon downplays reports of Iraqi ''chemical'' weapons factory discovery
      Elsewhere, coalition forces have found a "huge chemical" weapons factory at An Najaf, some 360 kilometers south of Baghdad, Fox News Channel and ABC News reported Sunday, citing a senior defense official.

      Coalition troops are said to be holding the general in charge of the facility, the networks said. But a Pentagon spokesman called the reports "premature," saying: "We are looking into sites of interest."

      Pentagon officials so far have said that no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq since the US-led war was launched on Baghdad early Thursday.
    4. Iraqi FM: Israel participates in U.S.-led attack on Iraq
      Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said Sunday an Israeli missile had been found in Baghdad and accused Israel of taking part in the U.S.-led attack on Iraq.

      "You know that Israel is taking part in this aggression against Iraq. It's sending missiles. We found a missile, an Israeli missile, in Baghdad," he told reporters in Cairo, where he was to attend a meeting of Arab foreign ministers scheduled for Monday.

    5. British embargo grounds Israel's nuclear capability
      The unofficial but rapidly growing British and European embargo on supply of military equipment to Israel is causing grave concern to Israeli military planners. Following the refusal of Germany to provide critical parts for the local production of the Israeli Army's Merkava battle tanks, a British embargo on ejector seat parts is threatening to seriously damage Israel's much feared nuclear capability.


      Rachel Niedak-Ashkenazi, a spokeswoman for the Israeli Ministry of Defense, told Israel's Haaretz daily that she didn't know how soon the planes would have to be grounded, but indicated it was a matter of weeks or months. "We are desperately searching for other sources but haven't located any yet," she said.

      The ejection seat parts are now at the center of a major diplomatic row between Israel and Britain. The British Daily Times has recently reported that Victor Harel, a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official, called the embargo “a major cloud in our bilateral relations with Britain”.

    Al Bawaba's social coverage is also worth a read if you want the scoop on T.A.T.U.'s arrival in the Middle East and the rise of feminism in Iran.

  • Arab News — A Saudi outlet, which printed this revealing tidbit about the embed program that I hadn't seen elsewhere: "In an effort to placate disgruntled journalists — seven left the embed program here yesterday claiming lack of access... the Marine Air Command has started up regular evening media briefings." [emphasis mine]

    Arab News also has a daily political cartoon, with archives going back one month. The one below is from March 15th.

  • Middle East Online — The incredibly slow site out of London was not the first to report that Iraq claimed to have downed a U.S. Apache helicopter, but they did break the story about Iraq's decision to air footage of two men it claimed to be the pilots of the vehicle.
Other sites worth a look are Arabic News, the Lebanese Daily Star, and the Jordan Times. If you've got other suggestions that ought to be on the list, drop a note in the comments.

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{Monday, March 24, 2003}

Ha'aretz reports that the founder of LAW, a Palestinian NGO focused on monitoring human rights abuses, has defrauded the organization and its donors out of $4 million over the past five years.

An interim report from auditors Earnst & Young suggests that LAW's founder, Khader Shkirat, diverted aid money and used it "for purposes unrelated to the organization's declared mission." It looks like much of the money went into Shkirat's pockets, but E&Y claims that there was widespread knowledge within LAW of these activities.

As a result, LAW's Europoean donors have frozen funding, and an organization that has done vital work in Palestine for 13 years may have to cease operations in a few weeks.

No more legal defense of Palestinian rights, no more reports against the Palestinian Authority's use of the death penalty, no more weekly tracking of Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers, no report on Israel's attacks on journalists, no report on home demolitions or torture or Israel's apartheid wall, no critical studies on the Israeli media and the intifada. Nothing.

Instead we have the disgusting spectacle of a Palestinian abusing his own people, literally stealing the money needed to help them.

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War on Iraq: Questions and Answers from the Muslim American Society


Our views are the same as those of the United Nations Security Council, the vast majority of religious leaders in the United States, and numerous experts in international law: namely, that a pre-emptive strike on a country that has not directly threatened the United States is a violation of international law.

We also fear that this war is not in the interest of US national security or world peace and stability. Whatever benefits might be achieved will be outweighed by the rise in anti-Americanism and an increase in terrorist recruitment.

We believe that our government should have attempted to resolve its differences with Iraq using competent, sound diplomacy in the forum of the United Nations. We believe that it is never too late for diplomacy to work, and we hold out the hope that this opinion—shared by many in our government and around the world—might prevail.

Nor are Muslims unique in opposing this war. As we mentioned, most of the religious denominations in America oppose this war, including the Catholic Church (the Pope has said that participation in this war is a sin), the Methodists (President Bush’s own denomination), and the National Council of Churches, America’s largest umbrella organization of Protestant denominations.


Our opposition to the war neither implies any sympathy for Saddam Hussein, nor does it diminish our love for this country and our commitment to its security and prosperity. We will continue to serve the best interests of our country by standing firmly for justice at home and abroad.

We believe that Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator, completely lacking in legitimacy and hated by his people. We would not be sorry to see him go, but we maintain that “regime change” should be carried out in a manner consistent with the rule of law. (more)

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Live From Baghdad
Salam Pax, over at Where is Raed? must be getting a lot of traffic from the war-curious. Mine has quadrupled today, all of it from his site. For those few Objectionable Content readers who are not coming here by way of Salam, please let me introduce you to the world's first Iraqi blogger.

Salam (his pseudonym translates literally into "Peace Peace") is not a strictly political writer, and I doubt he's a typical Arab. But I'm not typical, and neither are you if you're any good. What Salam shares with most Iraqis is a helplessness with regards to his own fate -- whether at the hands of Saddam Hussein or the United States. In this, he is a stand-in for nearly everyone in Iraq, which I'm sure is why so many people have discovered his site recently.

His thoughts in expectation of war are emotional and, to my ears, true:

No one inside Iraq is for war (note I said war not a change of regime), no human being in his right mind will ask you to give him the beating of his life, unless you are a member of fight club that is, and if you do hear Iraqi (in Iraq, not expat) saying “come on bomb us” it is the exasperation and 10 years of sanctions and hardship talking. There is no person inside Iraq (and this is a bold, blinking and underlined inside) who will be jumping up and down asking for the bombs to drop. We are not suicidal you know, not all of us in any case.

I think that the coming war is not justified (and it is very near now, we hear the war drums loud and clear if you don’t then take those earplugs off!). The excuses for it have been stretched to their limits they will almost snap. A decision has been made sometime ago that “regime change” in Baghdad is needed and excuses for the forceful change have to be made. I do think war could have been avoided, not by running back and forth the last two months, that’s silly. But the whole issue of Iraq should have been dealt with differently since the first day after GW I.

The entities that call themselves “the international community” should have assumed their responsibilities a long time ago, should have thought about what the sanctions they have imposed really meant, should have looked at reports about weapons and human rights abuses a long time before having them thrown in their faces as excuses for war five minutes before midnight. (more)

This is him too, talking about the Ba'athist revolution(s) that put Saddam Hussein in power:

17th July 1968
the second Ba'athist led coup, Arif is ousted, General Ahmad Hassan Al-bakir becomes president, Saddam Hussein is vice president.

16th July 1979
Al-Bakir "resigns", Saddam Hussein becomes president of the Republic of Iraq.

We get a public holiday to contemplate how could there have ever been people who were fooled by Ba'athist ideology.

One Arab nation with an eternal message.
Unity (wahda)
Freedom (huria)
Socialism (ishtirakia)

Sometimes when talking to someone who was there during all this, the generation which had a chance to go out in the streets and affect change, it just slips out:
- Salam Pax: "you were tricked and used, you realize this."
- Parental-Unit: "yes, now what? do you want an official apology?"
- Salam Pax: "no just wanted to make sure you acknowledge it"
only my commie uncle starts shouting abuse at me :-) (more)

Salam's last post was made today. Here's hoping that he'll still be lobbing in a post or two five years from now to tell us how the reconstruction of Iraq is going, when he has a minute to spare from the hectic life of an internationally famous documentary filmmaker.

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment