Michael J. Totten

Friday, January 31, 2003

This Keeps Happening

More terrorists were busted and thrown in the slammer in Europe today. This keeps happening. And it tells us a couple of things.

Europe thinks it can appease its way out of danger. And it's not gonna happen. Most of the terrorists nabbed in Europe lately were planning to strike against European targets. Appeasement doesn't work fellas. They are trying to kill you, too. You are infidels. That's the root cause.

What worries me is this. I haven't seen many stories about captured terrorists in America recently. And the odds of terrorists targetting Europe and not America on the eve of a war in Iraq are nonexistent. They're here. Somewhere. And we haven't caught them.

If they are smart (and many of them are) they are holding their fire until the shooting starts in Iraq. Think about it. What better way to undermine support for a post-Iraq war somewhere else (Syria?) if it demonstrably triggers terrorist attacks at home. The "peace" crowd will scream against fighting back and they'll tell us that we'll only get terrorized more if we do. They will be wrong. We will be terrorized regardless. A war may only affect the timing. But this is what the "peace" crowd will say. And it will convince a lot of people. They'll even say (I guarantee it) that Bush is responsible for terrorist attacks in the United States because he chose to fight and stir them up.

The upshot (if you can forgive me for putting it this way) is that some people on the fence today will get off the fence tomorrow if we are hit again. Some think 9/11 was an anamoly. It wasn't. When this is proven out in blood and fire, some will discover a steely resolve they didn't know they had in them.

Letter from the British Left

Dear Mr. Totten,

I have fallen out with a number of people here in London over the issue of Iraq. What galls me is the arrogant assumption of the anti-war protesters that only their position can be a moral one. And how fearful those Leftists have become. I consider myself a Leftist and feel disappointed that others on the Left have become so pessimistic, so cynical. Of course we can't predict what shape a future Iraqi administration will assume, but cannot we hope for the best? Cannot we do our best to give it a good start on the road to democracy? You are quite right to identify the strong current of anti-Bush sentiment underpinning the stance of the peacenicks. One has the feeling that the antis would rather preserve their moral purity than actually be engaged in the world. Of course there is much to condemn in both American and European foreign policy in the past but, can they not accept that it might be possible for American and British policy - despite the mix of other geo-political considerations - to be congruent with a moral aim i.e. the liberation of the Iraqi people from a hateful regime?

I was heartened by your article.


Tony Mulholland

The Mind of Kim Jong Il

Sean LaFreniere posts the latest North Korean war propaganda. It isn't pretty.

A Bad Movie Re-run

The more things change...well, you know the cliche.

In World War II Britain, a bad movie played in the backdrop of war. Most British people wanted a left-wing government. But Winston Churchill, an Edwardian-era reactionary, was swept into power regardless. Why? Simple. The left-wing intelligentsia was broken and bleating. It could not think for itself, could not side with its own country during war, and could not be trusted by the mainstream British, despite the fact that Brits themselves were Left. (This also partly explains why Churchill was voted out of power immediately after the war.)

George Orwell, himself a leftist, was driven to distraction. He spent more time taking a whack at his own comrades than he spent on rhetorical blasts at his opponents. At that time in history, the American left hardly suffered this dysfunction at all. It was the American right that was sent to sulk on the sidelines.

But here we are, sixty years later, and the American left has caught the old British left's cold. Here is George Orwell in the Partisan Review in 1944. (No link.)

Simultaneously with the desire to finish this war quickly there is quite frank rejoicing when something goes wrong, e.g. the stalemate in Italy, and a readiness to believe any rumor without examination so long as it is a rumor of disaster. Almost simultaneously, again, people approve of the Russian proposals to partition Germany and exact enormous reparations, and tell you what a lot Hitler has done for Europe and how much preferable he is to the British Tories. Again--I notice this every day in the short stories and poems sent to the Tribune--numbers of left-wingers have a definitely schizophrenic attitude towards war and militarism. What one might call the official left-wing view is that war is a meaningless massacre brought about by capitalists, no war can ever lead to any good result, in battle no one has any thought except to run away, and the soldier is a downtrodden slave who hates his officer like poison and looks on the enemy as a comrade. But as soon as the Red army is involved the whole of this conception is turned upside down. Not only does war become glorious and purposeful, but the soldier becomes a happy warrior who positively enjoys military discipline, loves his officer like a dog, hates the enemy like the Devil and utters edifying slogans while in the act of slinging a hand-grenade.

Hardly anyone actually thinks this way. But the hard-left does, and its boilerplate bombast ripples into the mainstream and weakens conventional thinking. Substitute Afghanistan for Italy (above), Saddam for Hitler, and the Palestinians for the Red army, and you have a fairly workable critique of the radical American left in 2003, written by and about the British left in 1944.

Palestine for Dummies

David D. Perlmutter tells it like it is in Jewish World Review.

I recall during the Gulf war a Kurdish spokesperson was asked why the world didn't concern itself with the national hopes of his people. His answer was brutally cynical and absolutely correct: "We don't commit terrorism against Europeans." The Palestinians have ignited outrage after outrage, and each time the response of the jelly-kneed world politicians is to pay more attention to them and work harder to help them with cash and diplomatic initiatives. The bloodthirsty wheel gets the grease.

Indeed. And since when are the Palestinians the only people without their own homeland, as they claim. Heck, there are millions of French-speaking people in Canada that would like their own homeland. Not to mention the Kurds (in several nations), the Tibetans, the Basques (in both Spain and France), the Catalonians (also in Spain and France), the Chechens, and the Sudanese Christians. Don't forget Albanians in Macedonia, Muslims in Kashmir, the Balinese Hindus of Indonesia, and the Berbers of Arab North Africa. Some of these groups deploy violence for their cause, and some of them don't. None are as vicious as the Palestinians.

Mr. Perlmutter continues.

So this journalism professor and historian sits and waits for a brave journalist to ask an obvious, fact-driven question. And I fantasize that perhaps some foolhardy but honest --apparently none exist -- U.N. administrator will announce that "Frankly, there are hundreds of peoples more deserving of a homeland and we should be helping them and ignoring the Palestinians…"

I think I have a long wait ahead of me.

Cross-posted at Israpundit.

Goodbye, United Nations

Charles Krauthammer says the UN is once again irrelevant and this time won't recover. Electing Libya to chair the Human Rights Commission, assigning Iraq and Iran to chair the U.N. Disarmament Conference, putting fascist Syria on the Security Council, refusing so far to enforce any of its Iraq resolutions; for all these reasons and for so many more, the UN is a dysfunctional anachronism and a caricature of itself.

It is staffed by bureaucrats from democracies and lackeys from dictatorships. Not a single UN official is elected by the country they represent. UN resolutions have the legitimacy of a motion agreed upon by Jimmy Carter, Mussolini, and Pol Pot, and enforced by the military might of Costa Rica.

The only reason the UN hasn't followed the Soviet Union into the trashcan of history is because not enough people have laughed at it yet.

Kerry Disappoints

Senator John Kerry blasts George Bush for "blustering unilateralism."

Whatever, Senator. We've got most of Europe and most of the Arab states on our side. What, exactly, are you talking about? There is no unilateralism. You want totalateralism? Tell it to the French and the Germans. It's not Bush's fault that the French behave as they do.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Literary Blogging

Here is a terrific literary blog by Karrie Higgins. You have never seen a blog like this one.

Friends of America

France and Germany are not our friends. It is time to acknowledge this in public and admit it, heartbreaking though it is. They are not friends. They are not allies. And they are not neutrals.

The Times of London published an astonishing editorial today signed by the heads of state of eight European countries. Bless their hearts. These people and these nations are our friends. I want to publicly thank them for writing this today.

We in Europe have a relationship with the United States which has stood the test of time. Thanks in large part to American bravery, generosity and far-sightedness, Europe was set free from the two forms of tyranny that devastated our continent in the 20th century: Nazism and Communism. Thanks, too, to the continued cooperation between Europe and the United States we have managed to guarantee peace and freedom on our continent. The transatlantic relationship must not become a casualty of the current Iraqi regime’s persistent attempts to threaten world security.

In today’s world, more than ever before, it is vital that we preserve that unity and cohesion. We know that success in the day-to-day battle against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction demands unwavering determination and firm international cohesion on the part of all countries for whom freedom is precious.

This piece was signed by the following friends of America. Remember them.

José María Aznar, Spain
José Manuel Durão Barroso, Portugal
Silvio Berlusconi, Italy
Tony Blair, United Kingdom
Václav Havel, Czech Republic
Peter Medgyessy, Hungary
Leszek Miller, Poland
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Denmark

Occupy Us, Please

The liberal response to Bush's State of the Union address was predictably negative. I tried my best to like it. I really did. I gave Bush the widest lattitude a political opponent can give him. After I first heard it, I thought I'd give it a '5' on a 1-10 scale. But something really bothered me about it, and it took me a while to figure out what it was.

The speech was not broadcast in Baghdad. It was, however, broadcast in Northern Iraq where Saddam's rule has no writ. And the citizens of Iraq could hardly care less about my nuanced and admittedly partisan criticism and sideswipes.

The US media largely fails to explain what really goes on in that country, mostly because journalists are lazy and ignorant and myopic. Here's an excerpt from a story the Washington Post buried on Page 21 when it should have been front-page news.

SULAYMANIYAH, Iraq -- As American troops move into the Persian Gulf and George W. Bush wags an angry finger at Saddam Hussein, a nervous euphoria is descending on Iraqi Kurdistan, the enclave in northern Iraq protected by the "no-fly" zone and governed by Iraq's rebel Kurdistan Regional Government. The feeling is very different from that in Europe, where the American president is constantly being admonished for his "cowboy" tendencies.

"Occupy us -- please!" a Kurdish man on the street demands of an American visitor. Indeed, the main fear of Iraqi Kurds I spoke to is that Washington will not attack.

"Iraqi officials warn us that Bush is all talk, that America will not invade," says Ismet Aguid, a former Iraqi foreign service officer. "But we remain optimistic."

This is a war of liberation, as well as a war for disarmament. The Bush Administration downplays this fact for some maddeningly inexplicable reason. And the media buries it for reasons they should be ashamed of. But there it is, at the back of the newspaper. The truth, for once, the blessed uncensored truth.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

State of the Union Flop

As you might expect, Bush's State of the Union speech didn't impress me the way it impressed conservatives. I didn't hate it, but it was dull and uninspired and I liked last year's better.

It was a mistake to open with a laundry list of domestic programs on the eve of war. Through most of it I was bored and annoyed and impatient.

Some of his ideas are good ones; my wife and I were impressed by his apparently sincere desire to help African AIDS victims. This is liberal do-goodism, not conservatism, and I’m pleased to see a Republican promoting it. It’s the sort of thing that elicits anti-liberal jeers from conservatives, so the praise Bush is getting from conservatives is annoying. But I’ll take inconsistent compassion over consistent stinginess any day.

The call to arms was disappointing. He still insists on making only one side of the argument. Perhaps the jerks at the UN require it. Maybe the snot-nosed French can’t take anything more substantive than a legalistic case for disarmament. I don’t know.

But, dammit, disarming Saddam Hussein is only one of the reasons for war. It’s an important part, yes. But it’s only one part. It isn’t even the larger part.

Abraham Lincoln stirred few hearts when he rallied the northern troops to preserve the Union. The more compelling case for war was the abolition of slavery. Putting down a rebellion is one thing. Smashing the chains of tyranny is epic. It echoes in eternity, and that noble cause has shaped the American character. Bush could tap into that, but he won’t. Or he does, but barely. Only a drop of it, which makes it seem false.

Saddam Hussein’s weapons are only one facet of the problem. We have far worse weapons than he has. Saddam’s regime is a menace because he’s a Stalinist and a fascist. He builds the weapons of genocide in order to use them. Not to deter aggression, as we do.

Saddam Hussein is a threat because he is evil. Not because he is armed. That’s the reason to take the regime down. A weakened evil menace is still an evil menace, and can always grow stronger later. If we disarm Saddam without reforming the system, we’ll blow our only shot at democratic reform. The Middle East will continue to fester in tyranny and squalor. And the vicious propaganda that churns out terrorists will continue to spread.

I have tried to convince my anti-war liberal friends and colleagues that one of the objectives of regime-change to foster democracy there. Unless they already know this, hardly anyone believes me. They think I am imagining it, or engaging in wishful thinking.

Anyone who reads neoconservative magazines, or who reads the mainstream media as thoroughly as I do, knows that democratization is the objective. But hardly any liberals read conservative magazines. I read everything, left right and center. I know how liberals think and operate, and I know what the neoconservatives are up to. Not many people understand both sides as I do because most people, if they read political magazines at all, read only those on their own side. Who on the left reads National Review? I do, but I’m an exception.

There are so many liberals and Democrats who would like to support regime-change, but don’t because they don’t trust Bush will do it right. They think he’s going to install another Saddam. There is a mountain of reasons to believe this, based on past foreign policy by conservatives. That’s usually what conservatives do, after all.

This time it’s different. I know it, hopefully you know it, but the general public doesn’t know it. It’s practically a secret, and liberals and the left think it’s bogus. Who can blame them, really? Bush and company barely breathe a word of it in public.

Mainstream anti-war folks don’t want to destroy the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians. Bravo to them. I don’t want to, either. But a new government in Baghdad will help the people of that country tremendously. A proto-democracy will be created there, nurtured and protected by American power. Liberals like this sort of thing. Love it. But Bush won’t talk about it, so I and a few others on the left are stuck with getting the word out to an audience that doesn’t believe it.

Bush had the opportunity to fix this problem, and he wasted it. He talked for minutes and minutes about weapons, and only spent one sentence on the evils of the regime. A flunking grade, Mr. President. A gentleman’s C if I’m feeling generous.

If any Bush speechwriters are reading this, please note a few things. He is the President of the United States. He is not just the president of Republicans. He leads Democrats too, whether he or they like it or not. It is his job to address their fears, their concerns, and their hopes. Liberals worry about a lot more than weapons. Social justice matters, and it matters a lot. Make the case in public that appeals to the broad swath of America. It’s an easy thing to do. We’re taking on the fascist regime of a tyrant. We are going to free the people of that country, and teach them to build a government that threatens no one. That’s the solution to the problem of Iraq, the only long-term solution that can work. And that’s what appeals to your political opponents.

No one is a mind-reader, and hardly anyone knows what goes through the minds of the neocons. Tell it to the people. Tell them what we are doing. They’ll support it in hindsight when they see what the plan is, but it behooves you to get their support before it happens.

If you can’t figure this out, you deserve the opposition you get. If you don’t tell the whole story, your opponents will fill in the blanks. And you don’t like what they fill it with. So correct it. I don’t oppose this war. I support it more strongly than most people. But that’s because I know and understand what they do not. I’m a fanatic, and I read everything. Most people watch sit-coms and sports, and they only tune in for the highlights. The most recent of which you have squandered.

Bush needs the support of liberals in this war. He will not get it this way.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Think Big, George

I stick up for Bush on the war, but otherwise disagree with him about absolutely everything. So I expect my reaction to tonight's State of the Union address will be a mixed bag.

Ken Layne has some great advice for Bush about how he can deliver a knockout speech. Heck, I'd actually start to like the guy if he'd listen to Ken and go for it:

And if my truck can run on nothing, this whole oil thing can be forgotten. How about that, George? How about demanding we break those Middle East oil chains by 2010? Be bold. No more oil. No more coddling 80-year-old Saudi dictators.

Also, a lot of us would like to get on a rocket and go to Mars. Sure, the first cities will look a lot like Las Vegas in the 1950s (if we're lucky), but we've got to go. Be brave. Be like JFK (but don't get shot). Give our kids something better than PlayStation.

Conservatives don't spend much time thinking about this sort of thing. But what if Bush decided to do it? Ween ourselves from oil and go to Mars. Would conservatives find that appealing? I'll bet some of them would. And this liberal writer would very, very impressed.

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Beginning in May of this year Iraq will chair the UN Conference on Disarmament. This is for real. This is not from The Onion. (Via Plum Crazy.)

I thought is was a real hoot when Libya was chosen to chair the UN Human Rights Commission. But this is truly breathtaking.

Does anyone actually like the UN? Or do they just like the idea of the UN without knowing how it actually operates?

Material Breach

Britain joined Australia today and declared that Iraq is in "material breach" of its UN requirements.

It is a fact that Iraq is in material breach. The point is not debatable. You could argue that Iraq should be given some slack for it. But no one can truthfully say Iraq hasn't violated every UN resolution, including the latest.

In UN terminology "material breach" is a casus belli, a war-trigger. And so France and Germany may decide not to use these words. It will be interesting to see if they actually deny Iraq is in material breach.

We're getting down to the wire here, and lines will be drawn. We are going to learn who our friends are. We are going to learn who the neutrals are. And we are going to find out if Saddam Hussein has anyone willing to go down with him.

We already know who our best friends are. They speak English. "Children of a common mother" as the monument says at the US-Canadian border south of Vancouver.

Tell Us Who Your Friends Are, Alex

Alexander Cockburn now publishes blatant pro-Saddam war propaganda at his venomous Web site Counterpunch.

I'll never understand why The Nation hired this creep in the first place. But his lingering presence at that magazine, which simply aches for lacking Christopher Hitchens, will only drag it down like so much anchor chain.

Monday, January 27, 2003

From the People's Republic of Eugene

Michael Rooke-Ley, an idiotarian professor from my alma mater, went to Baghdad on a mission of "peace." He wrote about his trip for the Eugene (Oregon) Register-Guard. (Thanks to Miriam Reinhart for the tip.)

As we drove onto the University of Baghdad campus, as well as the Babylon University campus days later, we were welcomed warmly by clapping, sign-carrying students - "Peace," "No Blood for Oil," "Down with Bush" - just like home.

Orchestrated? No doubt, but countless conversations with individual students confirmed their sincerity and their good nature. For better or for worse, they believe; no one had dragged them there kicking and screaming.

The symposium included numerous presentations from university professors and a few government officials, a healthy dose of pomp and a modest opportunity for dialogue - again, not much different from academic conferences back home.

Look here, jackass. I went to the University of Oregon, where you teach. At least by the time I graduated, there were no academic conferences organized by totalitarian regimes with the goal of attracting useful idiots as war propaganda. I'm glad as hell I never signed up for one of your classes.

I promise you that after Saddam's regime falls, the vast majority of Iraqis will not say "Damn you for bombing my country." Rather, they will ask "What took you guys so frickin' long?" For the sake of your own reputation, you might want to understand this now so you won't be shocked and humiliated when you see it on CNN.

Thought for the Day

In 1936 Rebecca West traveled to Serbia and unlocked the mind of the suicide bomber, decades before suicide bombing became a fact of life in another part of the world. From Black Lamb and Grey Falcon:

Only part of us is sane: only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die in peace, in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations.

Iraqwatch Dot Org

Are you tired of the great soggy wail that cries out for evidence that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction? Still looking for that firearm in the smoking section? Click here, read, and learn.

Hans Blix, Vertebrate

Hans Blix discovered a backbone between his shoulder blades today. And he issued a devastating report condemning Saddam Hussein's noncompliance with the United Nations resolutions.

Who knows, maybe the UN will pull through and do the right thing in the end. I doubt it, but we'll see. The UN chapter of this unfolding drama is becoming a little bit interesting for a change.

The UN is Worse Than Irrelevant

I hope to a God I don't even believe in that I never need to be saved by the United Nations. The AP reports on the latest UN outrage. (Via LGF.)

A man appearing to be in his 20s ran in front of inspectors' vehicles as they left the site to begin their daily field missions to unannounced sites, witnesses said.

As he waved his arms frantically, the first two vehicles swerved around him, but the third stopped, journalists said. "Save me!" he shouted in Arabic and English, after which he was allowed to enter the vehicle. He was carrying a copybook, witnesses said.

Appearing agitated and frightened, the young man, with a closely trimmed beard and mustache, sat inside the white U.N.-marked utility vehicle for 10 minutes. At first, an inspection team leader sought help from nearby Iraqi soldiers, but the man refused to leave the vehicle as the uniformed men pulled on his sleeve and collar.

"I am unjustly treated!" he shouted.

Then U.N. security men arrived, and they and Iraqi police carried the man by his feet and arms into the fenced compound, the journalists said.

This is the same crap the UN pulled during the Bosnia war. Handing over victims to their tormentors. It has been a very long time since I had any respect whatsoever for the UN. The films Welcome to Sarajevo and No Man's Land make a great case against the UN from a liberal perspective.

Forget the black helicopters and the rest of the right-wing conspiracy theories. There are plenty of real-world reasons to despise the UN, and today's news adds one more to the growing pile.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

A Timely Reminder

The UN continues to behave as though America is a bully and Saddam is a victim, that America has obligations, and that Saddam Hussein does not. Robert L. Bartley feeds their own words back to them. Bush will present his State of the Union address tomorrow, and it behooves us to remember who is expected to do what.

United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix will report today on his adventures in Iraq, and is expected to ask for "more time." For what? He and nearly everyone else seem to have forgotten what the Security Council voted for in sending him to Baghdad.

"A final opportunity to comply," was the key phrase in Resolution 1441, adopted by the Security Council last November. Saddam Hussein would have one last chance to disarm, to account for the weapons of mass destruction the U.N. previously estimated he had, to stop his rule of terror and otherwise to abide by 16 previous U.N. resolutions. Mr. Blix would be available to receive the necessary documents, chemicals, viruses and nuclear materials.

The Security Council spelled out a solemn list of 14 salient points. Nowhere did this list mention "find smoking gun."

Got that? Remember it the next time France complains and threatens to shirk its duty again.

The Only Hope

The liberal New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman makes the best case for war against Saddam.

What really threatens open, Western, liberal societies today is not Saddam and his weapons per se. He is a twisted dictator who is deterrable through conventional means. Because Saddam loves life more than he hates us. What threatens Western societies today are not the deterrables, like Saddam, but the undeterrables — the boys who did 9/11, who hate us more than they love life. It's these human missiles of mass destruction that could really destroy our open society.

So then the question is: What is the cement mixer that is churning out these undeterrables — these angry, humiliated and often unemployed Muslim youth? That cement mixer is a collection of faltering Arab states, which, as the U.N.'s Arab Human Development Report noted, have fallen so far behind the world their combined G.D.P. does not equal that of Spain. And the reason they have fallen behind can be traced to their lack of three things: freedom, modern education and women's empowerment.

If we don't help transform these Arab states — which are also experiencing population explosions — to create better governance, to build more open and productive economies, to empower their women and to develop responsible media that won't blame all their ills on others, we will never begin to see the political, educational and religious reformations they need to shrink their output of undeterrables.

I don't agree that Saddam is deterrable. He might be and he might not be. There is evidence that he is and evidence that he isn't. Conservatives are more likely to err on the pessimist side, and liberals on the optimist side. I don't really know and neither does anyone else.

What should be undeniable is that the fascistic status quo in the Middle East needs to be ventilated. It is by far the least democratic part of the world, and its warmongering terroristic dictators and propaganda machines threaten people on six continents. The Middle East won't look like Norway any time soon, but it could at least resemble Russia; chaotic and corrupt, but relatively free and on the path to becoming normal.

The status quo is intolerable, both for us and those who live there, and we will be at war as long as it remains so.

Copyright 2003 Michael J. Totten