Michael J. Totten

Friday, February 07, 2003

The Trial

Lawrence F. Kaplan at the New Republic makes the case against Germany, France, and the UN.

Powell could have parked an Iraqi Scud missile on East 42nd Street and still France, Russia, and Germany would have testified to Saddam's good intentions.


The conceit of Powell's presentation was that it could budge the likes of Germany and France from their official stances opposing war and thereby extricate the Bush team from its inspections trap. But that opposition has nothing to do with the merits of America's case against Saddam. It has to do with the self-interested motives of Paris, which will do anything to frustrate U.S. policy, and of Berlin, which after supplying Saddam with much of his deadly chemical inventory now fears the domestic political costs of supporting a war to rid him of that inventory. The United States is not dealing here with individuals but with governments--and rapacious ones at that.


The United Nations "may emerge as greater than the sum of its parts," then-U.N. Secretary General Boutros-Boutros Ghali announced a decade ago. But whether standing by impassively during the mass slaughters in Bosnia and Rwanda, or now tolerating Saddam's flouting of its own resolutions, the United Nations has emerged as considerably less than the sum of its parts. The Bush team should have never gone down the inspections route in the first place. But if the Security Council continues to turn a blind eye to Saddam's misdeeds, the United States will have every reason to walk away from the process--and the organization behind it.

This was published in a liberal magazine. It is not yet the dominant liberal view. But if Europe and the UN do not shape up, it will be. And if that happens, the UN will not be on trial for its irrelevance. The UN may cease to exist.

The Fruits of Pacifism

In Britain's Independent Johann Hari smacks down the "peace" creeps and makes a terrific left-wing case for intervention against Saddam.

Picture the scene: protesters clog the streets of Washington, London, New York and Sydney, chanting: "Bush is an empty warhead. Stop the war!" US public opinion shifts; Tony Blair, crumbling in the face of domestic opinion and his backbenches, refuses to go along with the war; the US troops are brought home; the American bombs are safely parked back in their bunkers. I know this is virtually impossible, but it is, presumably, what most anti-war campaigners want to see.

Do you think the Iraqi people would be dancing in the streets of Baghdad on such a day? Do you think the 5 million Iraqi exiles scattered across the globe would be jubilant that, once again, their country had been brought within inches of freedom from Saddam Hussein, only to be betrayed by another Western coalition led by a man called George Bush? Do you think the political dissidents – most of them democrats – rotting in Saddam's torture chambers would weep tears of joy? Do you think the Kurds, who have inhaled his poison gas more than once, would be delighted that Saddam was free to gather as many biological and chemical weapons as he likes? Do you think the Marsh Arabs, ethnically cleansed by Saddam from the swamps they had lived on for millennia, would rejoice in their pathetic desert shacks? Would you celebrate the fact that hatred for Dubya had overwhelmed the desire to help the Iraqi people to overthrow one of the worst dictators on earth?

I have yet to see a single anti-war person answer this. If I were anti-war, liberal as I am, this argument would devastate me. There simply is no answer to it, unless you're a right-wing isolationist who couldn't care less about people on the other side of the world.

Interesting Times

There is an old Chinese curse, "May You Live in Interesting Times." Coincidentally, the Bosnians have the same curse.

This time sure is an interesting one. Not a damn thing boring about it.

If the local Al Qaeda cells have capability and brains, they'll kill a whole bunch of us as soon as the shooting starts in Iraq. And if Kim Jong Il is serious about starting a war with the United States, he'll start it then, too.

North Korea's Stalinist leadership yesterday threatened a pre-emptive strike as the nuclear weapons crisis and domestic troubles pushed it towards panic measures.

A day after Pyongyang claimed to have restarted a nuclear reactor capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium, the regime issued its most immediate threats yet of military action.

Foreign Ministry officials told western journalists that the country was not ruling out a pre-emptive strike.

"The United States says that, after Iraq, we are next," Ri Pyong-gap, a spokesman, said. "But we have our own countermeasures. Pre-emptive attacks are not the exclusive right of the US."

Pyongyang is widely regarded as already having nuclear weapons.

Fasten your seat belts. Dark days are right around the corner.

More Liberal Warblogging

Liberal Hawk Mike Silverman runs a terrific blog: Red Letter Day. Go visit him.

A Tyrant's Keep

Here is what Pyongyang, North Korea, looks like. I presume this building in the center is where Kim Il Sung's deranged offspring lords it over the country.

When Korea is unified and the North is opened up, I'm going to have to get on an airplane and take a look at this place. I'll write a travel piece about it. Science-fiction movies are sure to be filmed here.

UPDATE (2/9/2003): James Lileks writes in to tell me that this building is actually the Ryugyong Hotel. It looks to me like a psychopath's headquarters, but maybe that's just me. Anyway, the contruction was never completed because (surprise) the North Korean regime ran out of money. So it just sits there, an empty shell of itself. Perhaps it's just as well. If the project were completed, tourists wouldn't exactly beat down the doors to go visit the place.

Trying Too Hard

The more some places try to be international, the more provincial they become.

North Korea has translated part of its official Web site into Esperanto. (Groan.)

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Muslim Friends, American Unilateralism, and Low-Rent Oppositionist Jockeying

The eve of war with an Islamic nation is a good time to remind ourselves that not all Muslims are our enemies. This may be obvious, but it's sometimes overlooked.

The Muslims of Kosovo appreciate us more than our traditional allies in the West. The AP describes the mood there.

American flags flutter on peasants' homes. A couple grateful for U.S. help in ending Kosovo's war names a daughter in honor of Madeleine Albright.

A six-story-high poster of former President Clinton towers over the capital's main drag, renamed Bill Clinton Boulevard. And the president of Kosovo is building a new compound he calls the White House.

Americans may be reviled in many parts of the world and accused of waging a war on Muslims, but they're adored in this U.N. protectorate, where the Muslim majority sees the United States as a savior.

"When I see scenes on television of people elsewhere burning American flags, I'm deeply hurt," said Dr. Besnik Bardhi, who runs a clinic in the southwestern city of Djakovica, where 1,000 people remain missing after the 1998-99 war.

Bardhi's wife was pregnant with their first child during Slobodan Milosevic's savage crackdown on Muslim ethnic Albanians in the Serbian province. The couple promised each other that if they had a girl they'd name her Madeleine, and Bill if it was a boy.

Speaking of the intervention against Slobo in Kosovo, it can't be restated often enough that the UN did not approve of that war. The Clinton Administration waged it unilaterally. American liberals demanded it while European elites dithered. When Democrats speak ominously of Bush's non-existent "unilateral" "precedent" they ignore the fact that they created a real precedent themselves.

It's also worth recalling that Republicans were foursquare against that war, and did everything they could to jam up the works. It was a shameful spectacle, and I will not let the GOP live it down. In a karmic sense they deserve the petty oppositionism of the Democrats now. But the Democrats should know better, and should rise above their rivals. Especially when the stakes are so much higher.

Breaking Out the Lie Detector

Iraqi Representative Muhammad Abdallah Ahmad Shati Duri addressed the United Nations and quoted Saddam Hussein.

If we had a relationship with Al Qaida and we believe in that relationship, we would not be ashamed to admit it."

Only a person who is an actual ally of Al Queda would deny it this way. Even Yasser Arafat knows better than to put it like that, whether he means it or not.

The conventional wisdom among the anti-war crowd is that Saddam and Osama are bitter enemies with conflicting agendas. (They forget the Hitler-Stalin pact.) Yet Saddam gives himself away to anyone able to parse a sentence for its underlying assumptions.

New Europe Joins Up

Ten more European countries threw in their support for the United States and regime-change in Iraq. Can you tell what these ten countries have in common? Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Macedonia, and Albania.

That's right, they're all ex-communist countries that were conquered by the Soviet Union and recently freed. They take democracy seriously because they know what it's like without it.

They issued a joint statement which said in part:

Our countries understand the dangers posed by tyranny and the special responsibility of democracies to defend our shared values. The trans-Atlantic community must stand together to face the threat posed by the nexus of terrorism and dictators with weapons of mass destruction.

Not only do these ten countries lend moral support to the United States. They want to take part in the action. They want to fight in the desert.

The next person who whines about "blustering unilateralism" will be spanked and sent to bed without supper.

Today's Best Essay

Mary McGrory has written one maddening column after another in the Washington Post. But she does seem to be one of the intellectually honest people I described in my previous post. She changed her mind on the war, and she doesn't mind if she refutes herself in print.

Of course, I can still recognize a person who I think is intellectually honest and who also disagrees with me. I see them on both the left and the right. But there is no test of integrity quite like admitting you changed your mind in front of millions of people.

I don't know how the United Nations felt about Colin Powell's "J'accuse" speech against Saddam Hussein. I can only say that he persuaded me, and I was as tough as France to convince.


I had heard enough to know that Saddam Hussein, with his stockpiles of nerve gas and death-dealing chemicals, is more of a menace than I had thought. I'm not ready for war yet. But Colin Powell has convinced me that it might be the only way to stop a fiend, and that if we do go, there is reason.

Congratulations, Mary. It takes guts to do that. Welcome to the community of liberal hawks, or liberal almost-hawks. Whatever you want to call yourself.

The Powell Presentation

I don't have much to add about the Powell presentation at the UN that hasn't been said already. Naturally I support him 100 percent. No one who actually watched and listened can say that the inspectors are performing any kind of a useful function. No one who is familiar with the requirements the UN unanimously imposed on Saddam can say that Iraq is upholding its end of the deal, which it agreed to do without conditions.

But none of this matters, because the argument is not really about weapons or inspections or UN compliance. The only people who will respond maturely to Powell's presentation are the intellectually honest fence-sitters. Aside from some defense conservatives, we all use the UN and the weapons inspection argument as a proxy for our real agendas.

Germany and especially France want to put the brakes on US influence in the world to strengthen their own position. Russia wants money and oil contracts. Turkey doesn't want its Kurdish population radicalized by a free Iraq. The Saudis don't want another democracy (after Israel) in the neighborhood. The radical left protests intervention because they believe what America touches turns to shit. Liberal hawks and neoconservatives want to eject Saddam from power to renovate the political slum in the Middle East. Paleoconservative isolationists want us to stay out of the Middle East to appease the "Arab street." Pacifist liberals oppose the war because they don't want to bomb innocent children.

The only people I disagree with and still have any respect for are the liberal (not leftist) pacifists. I think they are making a huge mistake, but they mean well and their concerns extend to others beyond themselves. Everyone else is operating with a whats-in-it-for-me attitude, are morally and intellectually bankrupt, or are enemies of the United States. Nothing Hans Blix or Colin Powell can say will change the minds of these people, and there is no point even discussing it with them.

The Right-Wing Fifth Column

Far be it from me to say idiotarians only reside on the left. The right has more than its fair share. And they are far closer to sharing the worldview of Osama bin Laden than are the neo-Marxists and anarchists.

Spend a few minutes at the Web site of the fascistic Westboro Baptist Church, God Hates America.

Here's a nice little sample of what you'll find.

God Almighty has struck this evil nation a great blow yet again, and sends a message to Israel -- separate yourself from this leper colony, and return to God.

As America stirred and woke up on the morning of February 1, 2003, the space shuttle Columbia raced toward it's landing site in Florida. Over Texas, it mysteriously disintegrated as it streaked back to earth. WAKE UP AMERICA!!! THERE WERE NO TERRORISTS FOR YOU TO BLAME THIS ON at 200,000 feet traveling at MACH 18!!!! GOD STRUCK THE SYMBOL OF YOUR MIGHT AND ARROGANCE OUT OF THE SKY!!!

Come on, conservative bloggers. Take on the far-right like I take on the left. It will free you from them.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

The Axis of Evil Knows

First Iran, and now North Korea. It looks like the citizens of the Axis of Evil are pleased with George Bush's description. Those of you who don't like Bush's language ought to realize that the victims of these terror states approve.

From an article by human rights activist Norbert Vollersten in the Wall Street Journal:

President Bush is right to call the regime in Pyongyang "evil." I know, because I have seen the evil with my own eyes. From July 1999 to December 2000, I traveled with the German medical-aid group Cap Anamur and gained access to some of the country's most secretive regions. What I witnessed could best be described as unbelievable deprivation. As I wrote in April 2001: "In the hospitals one sees kids too small for their age, with hollow eyes and skin stretched tight across their faces. They wear blue-and-white striped pajamas, like the children in Hitler's Auschwitz."

While Western critics denounced President Bush's decision to include North Korea in the axis of evil, the long-suffering people of North Korea cheered it. I know; refugees have told me. They know how Ronald Reagan's description of the Soviet Union as an "evil empire" was an early and important step toward its collapse. Moreover, the axis-of-evil remark proved prescient after North Korea's confession that it had a large, covert nuclear-weapons program. More and more high-ranking defectors have told us that Kim Jong Il's government is in a desperate situation, much closer to collapse than the outside world knows. This, they say, is why he needs the fear of nuclear annihilation to win concessions from the West, prop up his regime, and subjugate his own people.

One day, perhaps very soon, the Axis of Evil will fall. In hindsight, the "simplistic" characterization will be judged a bit differently than it is now. If the Iraqis and Iranians and North Koreans think their regimes are evil, who are you to say otherwise?

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Paris Gets Slapped

I'm glad somebody is willing to state the truth in public, even if it has to be Richard Perle. I wish Colin Powell would say this, but he's just too nice and doesn't want to stoop to the level of Paris.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- France is no longer an ally of the United States and the NATO alliance "must develop a strategy to contain our erstwhile ally or we will not be talking about a NATO alliance" the head of the Pentagon's top advisory board said in Washington Tuesday.

Richard Perle, a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration and now chairman of the Pentagon's Policy Advisory Board, condemned French and German policy on Iraq in the strongest terms at a public seminar organized by a New York-based PR firm and attended by Iraqi exiles and American Middle East and security officials.

But while dismissing Germany's refusal to support military action against Iraq as an aberration by "a discredited chancellor," Perle warned that France's attitude was both more dangerous and more serious.

"France is no longer the ally it once was," Perle said. And he went on to accuse French President Jacques Chirac of believing "deep in his soul that Saddam Hussein is preferable to any likely successor."

Donald Rumsfeld's quote about "Old Europe" really sent the French into a tizzy. What thin skins they have. They crank out the invective like nobody else, but they can't take a stingy drop of criticism. Perle's comments are likely to make them rabid.

I wonder if the French have any idea how angry we Americans are. Not twelve months ago I held them in the highest esteem. I thought them among the finest people on Earth. Those of you who have followed my site know what I think of them now.

I probably bang on about them too much. The French were sweethearts to me and my wife when we visited them last April. But I'm very disappointed in them, and I really expected more. A lot more. I thought September 11 woke them up a bit. Instead, they found September 11 to be the perfect time to jack up their animosity to fever pitch.

It is heartbreaking, and it is infuriating.

Job Opening

One-eyed hook-fingered fanatic gets the boot from a radical mosque in London.

Sheikh Abu Hamza, the Muslim cleric, has been removed from his position at the mosque where he preaches.

Hamza was removed under the Charity Commission's powers as the North London Central Mosque, in Finsbury Park, is a registered charity.

Hamza, who has a hook instead of a hand and one eye, had been accused of abusing his position to preach his radical brand of Islam and make inflammatory sermons.

The mosque, it was claimed, became a hot-bed of extremism. Shoebomber Richard Reid and the alleged "20th hijacker" on September 11, Zacarias Moussaoui, were both said to have attended the mosque.

Maybe the authorities can find more suitable work for this person. Shovelling bull shit in the countryside instead of the mosque, perhaps. Better yet, make him write "Thou Shalt Not Kill" 10,000 times on the blackboard in front of class, holding the chalk with his hook.

Michael Jackson is Finished

Michael Jackson committed career-suicide on television. Not content to be a walking human freakshow, he comes out on television as a full-blown child-endangering whack job.

MICHAEL JACKSON'S career lay in ruins last night after he admitted in a television documentary that he coaxed young boys into sleeping in his bed.

The star, who was accused of molesting a boy ten years ago, said that he recently encouraged a 12-year-old cancer sufferer to sleep in his bedroom. He also claimed to have slept in the same bed alongside several other young boys.

“It’s what the whole world should do,” he told the interviewer, Martin Bashir, when questioned about the incident during the Granada television programme, Living With Michael Jackson.

Sure, the whole world should do this. This is what happens to people who live privileged and insulated lives. They have no idea, no idea at all, how normal people think and behave.

The 44-year-old singer and the boy insisted that no sexual contact took place during the sleepovers at Jackson’s Neverland ranch in California.

Hardly anyone is going to believe that. Especially when they read this:

He described the practice as “very charming, very sweet” and recommended that Bashir sleep in the same bed as friends of his own children. He also claimed that children like to be touched and said he would kill himself if he could not be close to them.

Mr. Jackson, you are finished.

So Long, Yugoslavs

It was bound to happen eventually. Yugoslavia, a make-believe country like Belgium and the former Czechoslovakia, has officially ceased to exist. The last remaining republics, Serbia and Montenegro, are still formally linked but are no longer Yugoslav.

BELGRADE, Serbia, Feb. 4 — Lawmakers in Belgrade's federal Parliament consigned the name Yugoslavia to the history books today, endorsing the constitution of a new, less binding union between the republics of Serbia and Montenegro.

The new state, to be called Serbia and Montenegro, is a compromise between the aspiration among many Montenegrins for independence and an edict from international officials that there can be no further redrawing of borders in the Balkans.

As such it is a solution that satisfies few people, as today's heated parliamentary debate illustrated, despite the adoption of the constitutional charter by overwhelming majorities in both chambers.

If anything, this latest incarnation of a troubled country has only increased nostalgia for the peace and relative prosperity that Serbs and Montenegrins shared with their Croatian, Bosnian, Macedonian and Slovenian neighbors before wars ripped apart the socialist Yugoslavia created by Josip Broz Tito in 1945.

Serbs and Montenegrans may be unhappily stuck in a loveless marriage. But it looks like the warmongering days of the Serbs are over. And at least for now, they might be able to become a normal country.

Tin-Foil Hat Award Nominee

The Portland branch of Indymedia says the Pentagon shot down the Columbia space shuttle, making them almost as credulous as the French.

A scalar-burst strike on the US space shuttle Columbia has dealt a debilitating preemptive blow to Anglo-American plans for a Middle-East takeover.

Psychological warfare tactics were to the fore in continuing pre-conflict skirmishing over the planned US-UK invasion of the Middle-East. This time the blow was devastating, as the Columbia ran into an electromagnetic wall, in the sky over Texas.

On Saturday 1st February, 2003 a scalar Tesla Howitzer weapon --aimed at downing the US space shuttle Columbia was phenomenally successful and will leave red faces in the Pentagon.

Despite the media spin of an unfortunate accident, the nature of the crash of Columbia was evident from eyewitness accounts. The telltale sonic boom from the deployment of the weapon was so strong: "It was like a car hitting the house or an explosion. It shook that much," John Ferolito, 60, of Carrolton, north of Dallas, told the Associated Press.

I love how Mr. Ferolito's quote was taken wildly out of context, as if the poor man is actually saying he thinks a weapon struck the space shuttle.

Two years ago when I thought of myself as a hardcore leftist, one of my colleagues tried to get me involved with Indymedia. I took a look at the site and thought it was the rankest garbage I had ever seen on the Internet. It's gotten worse since then.

Monday, February 03, 2003

The Columbia Disaster was YOUR Fault

So far I've heard conservatives blame Bill Clinton for the Columbia space shuttle disaster, and I've heard them blame environmentalists. Leftists have blamed George Bush, and Arabs blame the Jews.

For God's sake, you idiots, it was an accident. A frickin' accident. Stop blaming your favorite punching bag and be a human being.

What the Liberal Western Mind Cannot Imagine

The New Republic, the best liberal magazine in America, has a terrific article by an Iraqi woman named Zainab Al-Suwaij, now living as a refugee in the West. No Westerner can grasp the reality of life in Iraq. You can read this article, and maybe "get" it on an intellectual level. But it's easier to imagine living on Mars than in Karbala.

In February 1991, I was living with my grandparents in Karbala, a city of roughly 350,000 an hour southwest of Baghdad. The Gulf war was raging, and my family and I often listened to Voice of America for news free of Iraqi-government control. We heard President George H.W. Bush repeatedly assure us that if the Iraqi people rose up against Saddam, the United States stood ready to help them. "There's another way for the bloodshed to stop," Bush had said, "and that is for the Iraqi military and the Iraqi people to take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside." I was excited by Bush's words, but, after two decades of living under the brutal rule of Saddam's Baath Party, it was impossible for me to imagine we would ever be liberated. Even though millions of Iraqis dreamed of overthrowing Saddam, we were afraid to speak about it and doubted anyone would ever come to help us. I felt the world had abandoned us.

The fact that Iraqis are desperately awaiting a US invasion is too much for most people. No one in the West wants to be invaded by a foreign army. And the psychology of mirror-imaging, assuming that foreign people think as you do, makes an intuitive leap to grasp this concept impossible. You simply must take Iraqis' word for it. But recalling the cries of jubiliation in Kabul at the fall of the Taliban may help.

She goes on to describe what happened in a mosque after Karbala was briefly liberated by the anti-Saddam resistance inside Iraq before Saddam's army regrouped and took it back.

As night fell and the city grew quiet, a great fear set in--a fear fostered by years of living in Iraq. We wondered who in the mosque was really with us and who was against us. Would someone burst into the mosque and try to kill us? Would someone amongst us turn on the group and inform the Baath Party members and other people allied with Saddam where we were? Most of us were strangers to each other. Some of the people in our group, of course, had worked for the secret police--with so many Iraqis in one room, some would have worked for the security services. I treated one secret policeman, Naji, who was shaking with fright as I touched him. He was convinced we were going to kill him as we tried to wrap his wounds. "Don't be scared," we told him. "We are not like you." Naji had expected us to act just like the Baath police. "May God protect you," he sighed in relief.

The Iraqi dissidents are not like the Ba'ath Party. Indeed, how could they be? They are powerless victims of fascism, and it is not at all likely that these people will reproduce a Ba'athist style of government when Saddam's regime falls and a new one is built with the assistance and protection of the American government.

It may not sound dramatic, but talking together openly was a completely new experience for us. For years we had lived in a society of informers, where nobody could be trusted. Now, we were getting to know each other for the first time.

That first night of the uprising was the first time I ever saw Iraqis reveal themselves to one another and talk openly about who we were and what had happened to us and our families. Our neighbor, Said, a former army general, told us he had been jailed for ten years for refusing to join the Baath Party while he was in the military. I was shocked to find out he'd been in prison; I had always thought of him merely as our strange, aloof neighbor. Two of the injured men, Sami and Hazam, recounted their experiences. Years before, Sami had been jailed for no reason and had spent four years in prison. He described how prison guards had beaten him, tied him to a ceiling fan, and then turned it on. Hazam had also been imprisoned. He later joined the army to get out of prison but deserted when the military invaded Kuwait. Now he was hiding in Karbala.

That night, we also discussed some of our hopes and visions for the future of Iraq. A medical student named Ali, who had come to the mosque and volunteered to treat the wounded, joked, "When we capture Saddam, we'll charge five dollars to everyone who wants to spit on him." We all started laughing because previously nobody had ever dared to make jokes like this. Ali continued, "If someone wants to kick him, ten dollars. That's how we'll raise the money to rebuild Iraq."

We were sure it was only a matter of time before the Americans arrived, and we were already thinking about how to build a democratic society. We talked about all the people who had been thrown out of the country over the last four decades--Jews and Shiites. Many of these people had lived in Iraq for generations, but their property was confiscated when they were forced to leave. Some, of course, never even got the chance to leave--they were executed in Iraq. We spoke quietly so the injured could sleep.

Try to imagine living like this. You can't. Every person you have ever met in your life is a threatening stranger. Your husband or wife, even your children, could be agents of Saddam and you would not know it. Your best friend could rat you out to the regime. The most minor slips of the tongue will get your children lowered into acid baths. Your mothers and daughters are raped by men who carry ID cards with "Violator of Women's Honor" written under "Profession." You can't imagine the fear. And you can't imagine the alienation and lack of personal intimacy this climate creates. Saddam Hussein's regime wages war on humanity itself. Crazed homeless people in Detroit have better lives than people in Iraq. They sleep better and have richer social lives.

As I wandered around the jail, some of the liberated prisoners gave us a tour. I saw huge meat grinders that fed into a septic tank and rooms I believe were used for sexual abuse. Instruction manuals on how to use torture devices were posted on the wall. A terrible smell was everywhere. Here before me was the dark secret of Saddam's Iraq. I felt sick but free. Now, I thought, these rooms will never be used again.

Sadly, the human meat grinders have been used again. They are being used right now. Saddam is not the only one to blame. Bush 41 is also at fault, as is the United Nations and all the "peace" creeps who insist Saddam's regime is sovereign and not to be messed with. "Hands off Iraq!" means Saddam's hand continues to crank up the meat grinders.

As the conflict in Karbala wore on, our fear intensified. By the third day of the uprising, it was only a matter of time, we thought, before Saddam's troops arrived en masse to destroy us. Where were the Americans who had promised to come to our aid? Depression began to set in. We waited and waited--for the Americans, for international help, for food, for water, and for medical supplies. The hours grew longer and longer.

We all know what happened next. Help did not come. Saddam Hussein did.

It is high time to finish this war, to bring that filthy fascist menace down. For America. For the Middle East. For Iraq. And for humanity.

Reality Check

People who hold up France as a moral bulwark against the big bad United States should try really, really hard to refute this sentence by Jonah Goldberg in a Corner Post today.

There's almost no nasty charge you can make about American foreign policy which does not better describe French foreign policy.

Answers that quote French rhetoric, rather than citing French actions, will receive a flunking grade. Read your homework before you take the test.

What's Up with France

Lots of us like to make fun of the French, and one of the best gags around is that they planted trees along the Champs E'lysee so the Germans could march in the shade. Seriously, though, the French are not the "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" Jonah Golberg makes them out to be. Mark Steyn gets it just right in his latest piece in Canada's National Post.

A few weeks ago, there was a spot of bother in Ivory Coast. Don't ask me what's going on: President Wossname represents the southern Wotchamacallit tribe and they're unpopular with natives in the northern province of Hoogivsadam. Something like that. But next thing you know, French troops have locked down the entire joint and forced both parties into a deeply unpopular peace deal that suits the Quai d'Orsay but nobody else. All of this while the UN is hunkered down in a month-long debate on whether to approve Article IV Sub-section 7.3 (d) of Hans Blix's hotel bill. Ivory Coast is nominally a sovereign state. The French have no more right to treat it as a colony than the British have to treat Iraq as a colony. But they do. And they don't care what you think about it.

So they're not appeasing Saddam. On the matter of Islamic terrorists killing American office workers and American forces killing Iraqi psychopaths, they are equally insouciant. Let's say Saddam has long-range WMDs. If he nuked Montpelier (Vermont), M. Chirac would insist that Bush needed to get a strong Security Council resolution before responding. If he nuked Montpellier (France), Iraq would be a crater by lunchtime.


Through it all France is admirably upfront in its unilateralism: It reserves the right to treat French Africa as its colonies, Middle Eastern dictators as its clients, the European Union as a Greater France and the UN as a kind of global condom to prevent the spread of Americanization. All this it does shamelessly and relatively effectively. It's time the rest of the West was so clear-sighted.

The most annoying thing about all this is how certain people hold up France as an icon of moral rectitude. The French themselves know they aren't any such thing. One of their biggest jokes about us is that we take morality way too seriously, that we're a bunch of do-gooders, hopelessly idealistic and lacking the wisdom of old people--or old countries, as they put it. They also think we're a bunch of right-wingers, including the Democrats, but the lost irony is that their criticisms of us often echo the criticisms that conservative realpolickers have against the left. For God's sake, a fascist Vichy nostalgist came in second in the most recent election, and the guy who did win is well-known as a hopelessly corrupt right-wing blowhard.

Another Left Hawk Speaks

Mitchell Cohen makes the case for war in an article originally published in Dissent magazine. Unlike some leftists, he gets his priorities exactly right.

I will not support an antiwar movement, even if it includes many good people. I hope, for the sake of honest public debate, that those good people keep this movement focused on Iraq. Iraqi suffering ought not to be exploited by "activists" with other agendas (such as Israel/Palestine, which has nothing to do with Saddam's tyranny and must be addressed on its own, unhappy grounds). In the meantime, I will support Iraqi democrats, even if they are few in number and their prospects difficult. I am antifascist before I am antiwar. I am antifascist before I am anti-imperialist. And I am antifascist before I am anti-Bush.

I'm feeling a little less lonely lately. Left hawks are coming down from the rafters.

Dissent Magazine Dissents from the Dissenters

The leftist magazine Dissent has been on a roll since September 11, skewering the crackpot jerks and idiotarians they share a label with. A new piece called Anti-Anti-Americanism by Todd Gitlin demolishes what's left of Gore Vidal.

Toward the likes of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who would define their atrocities as retaliations against the United States of America and its incidental citizens, [Gore] Vidal burns with sympathy. Not for him so banal an act as moral condemnation or investigation of what sort of person commits mass murder out of political grievance. Rather, Vidal thinks it is tough-minded to indulge his desire to know "the various preoccupations on our side that drove them to such terrible acts." Note: "drove them." These killers were presumably helpless. All one needs to know about them is "the unremitting violence of the United States against the rest of the world." Curiosity succumbs to the caricaturist's crippled imagination. In a follow-up article published in Britain's Observer (October 27, 2002), Vidal takes up the torch for selective agnosticism with this remark: "We still don't know by whom we were struck that infamous Tuesday, or for what true purpose."


In other words, Vidal has a good word for anyone who likes the sound of "a final all-out war against the 'System,' or "deliberately risks-and gives-his life to alert his fellow citizens to an onerous government." In the end, McVeigh and bin Laden are pikers. "Most of today's actual terrorists can be found within our own governments, federal, state, municipal." "Municipal" is a particularly nice touch: perhaps Vidal means police departments, though for all the care he takes he might just as well be alluding to death squads at work under cover of sanitation departments. If you wonder what might be a better society, Vidal helpfully offers up what he calls "Tim's Bill of Rights," which includes (a) no taxes, (b) metal-based currency, and (c) low legislative salaries. So much for political theory.

Gore Vidal used to be a smart guy. He used to be respectable. I have one of his books (unread) on my nightstand, and I just can't bear to pick it up now that he's flipped his gourd and bleached his nerve endings. Maybe I'll go nuts when I get old, too. If I do, you'll be forgiven for tuning me out.

Sunday, February 02, 2003

Thanks, but No Thanks

Tony Blair believes Jacques Chirac will change his mind at the last second and support a war to oust Saddam. I think so, too, and have thought so for some time. France's opposition is utterly unprincipled. For one thing, Baghdad owes France money. But more importantly, France wants to stick it to United States as much as possible to gain leverage in the world, just as France slaps Britian to buy clout with African dictators.

Today's Guardian reports:

Downing Street is increasingly confident that the French president, Jacques Chirac, will eventually throw his weight behind a second UN security resolution authorising military action against Iraq.

As Tony Blair prepares to attend tomorrow's Anglo-French summit, Downing Street believes Mr Chirac will repeat the tactics of his arch adversary, François Mitterrand, who supported the 1991 Gulf war at the last moment.

I'm sure it's true. France will be on board and will pat itself on the back. They'll pretend they were always with us, and they will get their oil deals in Iraq. At this point their help is unwelcome. I'd like to have France's friendship, but cynical opportunists never have earned any respect from me.

The Dictator and the God Complex

Hardly anyone gets to travel to North Korea. Maybe "gets" isn't the right way to put it, but I must admit it would be interesting. Not in the way that travelling to Costa Rica is interesting, but in the way that visiting Charles Manson's prison cell would be interesting.

Journalist Julian Manyon disguised himself as a businessmen so he could sneak in and file a story, one of the few and the rare to emerge from the Hermit state.

A children’s concert had been arranged in our honour at a local school. While we huddled beside a stove, tiny singers and dancers no more than eight or nine years old performed slick routines. A small squad of boys in red pioneer scarves brandished guitars like weapons and sang, ‘Great Leader, we owe our happiness to you.’ Afterwards, I was allowed to ask some of the children what they hoped for in life. One little girl answered with a radiance that seemed genuine, ‘To become a musician and study in Pyongyang.’ Her friend, who had a small, pinched face under the stage make-up, said, ‘To make the Great Leader happy with my music.’

You gotta give Kim Jong Il credit for one thing. He fills his dad's shoes.

Symbolism of Vengeance or Hope?

None of the astronauts survived the Columbia disaster. My wife was in tears yesterday and I had a lump in my throat all day. People in some parts of the world reacted a bit differently.

The Middle East is having a heyday over the fact that an Israeli astronaut was killed and the shuttle exploded over Palestine, Texas. Some of them think God struck it down in an act of vengeance. If only they could note the following story from the Jerusalem Post and learn a different, more human, lesson.

Dr. Eran Schenkar, Israel's space doctor and director of Israel Aeromedicine, told the Jerusalem Post that a few moments ago a fully intact box was found amognst the debris strewn across Texas.

The box contains three experiments.

Among the experiments was one co-designed by an Israeli student and a Palestinian student.

Schenkar said it is too soon to tell what the outcome of the experiment will be, but that scientists may be able to examine the results after all.

Copyright 2003 Michael J. Totten