Sean's Blog

A Guide To Online
Opinion And Current Events

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Ok. I've seen this story 3 times today so I guess I have to mention it:

"A swath of North Korea's military and scientific elite, among them key nuclear specialists, has defected to the US and its allies through a highly secret smuggling operation involving the tiny Pacific island of Nauru.

The defections have taken place since last October and have been made possible through the help of 11 countries that agreed to provide consular protection to smuggle the targets from neighbouring China, according to sources close to the operation, which has now been wound up."

It was just yesterday that the North Koreans were getting all puffed up about how they were reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. They were implying that they were going to make nuclear weapons.

Now, today, the North Koreans are asking for talks with South Korea.

Hassan Fatah in The New Republic:

"For some in the Middle East, the war in Iraq was the last stand for Arab nationalism. For others it was only the latest tragedy to beset the region. But no matter their take, most Arabs expected the invasion to be a long, bloody fight. If nothing else, the thinking went, the Iraqi regime would teach the United States a lesson, even as it collapsed.

So when Baghdad fell in a matter of days, it left the Arab world stunned. Every assumption, every calculation, and every article of faith had suddenly been undercut."

I hope that the Arabs take the right lessons away from this war. None of what they saw can be created in a autocratic or theocratic society. If they don't want something like this to happen again then they need to think outside the Arab box. If they don't want dictators then I hope they will study the reason why Saddam was able to rise up and then do something to keep it from happening again. If they want to avoid the humiliation of war, defeat, and occupation then they should study the events that lead up to this war and do what they can to keep those events from repeating.

National Review (On Dead Tree) features an article on Arab shame and honor that is the basis for their society. Here's an excerpt from that piece (not online):

"Like all Arabs, Iraqis live in what anthropologists call a shame society, and this generates common values that all can share, to that extent acting as a social glue. The key to motivation in such a society is the acquisition of honor that brings high status to the individual, and conversely the avoidance of shame that is a guarantee of low status."

I hope this is war serves as an epiphany for the Arabs. If they want don't want to be humiliated, if they want to have real things to be proud of instead of pretending that the 1973 war against Israel was a victory, and if they want to be respected around the world for their contributions to humanity then they have to make some big changes. I am cautiously optimistic that they have learned. We'll see though.

Gregg Easterbrook discusses what happened and didn't happen in Iraq:

"Think of all the things that were supposed to happen and did, in fact, happen:

· Highly accurate smart-bomb strikes with very few aircraft losses and few accidental hits of civilian targets. Expected, happened. We dropped almost 25,000 munitions from the air with only 2 aircraft losses to enemy fire; only 4 or 5 hit the wrong target.

· Complete dominance of Iraqi armor by U.S. armor. Expected, happened. Fewer than a dozen tanks were lost on the coalition side while sweeping through an entire country. The Iraqi side lost hundreds of tanks.

· Large-scale surrenders of Iraqi units. Expected, happened. The United States is now holding thousands of surrendered Iraqis, many glad to be with us. Huge caches of arms were found abandoned; tanks were found abandoned with their engines running. A large proportion of the Iraqi military declined to fight, which is in effect a surrender and the ideal outcome for both sides.

· U.S. soldiers cheered by Iraqi civilians. Expected, happened. Not as rapidly as hoped, and not vast crowds. But in all the annals of warfare, how often have attacking forces been cheered by the towns they enter? Only a few times, and mostly this happens to the United States.

· Exemplary honor displayed by U.S. and British forces. Expected, happened. Attacking units stood on their heads to avoid needless (and in some cases needed) harm--lawyers accompanied field units to advise them what not to shoot! Coalition soldiers put themselves at risk to aid wounded Iraqis.

· Avoidance of destruction of infrastructure needed by the average Iraqi, such as power plants and bridges. Expected, happened.

Everyone is reporting that the Iraqis held demonstrations yesterday after prayers.

At first I was upset. I mean, why are these people protesting our presence already? We brought them out of hell and this is the thanks we get? After I calmed down I turned on The O'Reilly Factor and O'Reilly was saying the same things. He had a Iraqi citizen on his show and he was asking him why the people were protesting and why were they so unappreciative for what we had done. I can't remember the man's name, but he told O'Reilly that he didn't think the people were unappreciative. He said that the Iraqi people were going through a rough time right now.

I suppose that makes some sense to me. The Iraqis have no electricity, little water, the Americans are manning checkpoints where everyone is searched, looting was out of control, lawlessness was becoming pervasive, and no one is sure what will happen in the weeks to come. In short, they're stressed and the demonstration was a vent for those frustrations.

We'll just have to see if O'Reilly's guest was right.

Damn.

"Police on Friday arrested the husband of pregnant California housewife Laci Peterson, who has been missing for months, after a female body and fetus found washed up from San Francisco Bay were identified as hers and that of her unborn child."

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Wow. Hugh Hewitt has a lot of questions for CNN. Here are some of the best, not to mention devastating, questions:

"Once (Eason) Jordan was aware of the threats to employees of CNN, who were Iraqi nationals, did he inform prospective employees of those threats before hiring them? Was the policy of exposing Iraqi nationals to risk of torture and death discussed with senior CNN management and Time-Warner management?"

"Has Jordan failed to reveal other non-disclosures that reasonable people would consider material?"

"Are there any similar non-disclosure deals at work in Cuba, Syria, the Palestinian territories, Burma, or any other country in which CNN maintains a presence?"

I have heard nothing about this, but apparently there is a controversy over a backdrop that Colin Powell used outside a Security Council meeting.

The charge is that Colin Powell used a backdrop to hide an anti-war painting by Picasso. The painting is title, "Guernica" and Powell stands accused of hiding behind a backdrop because the painting's message was so powerful. Hahaha. That's funny. No wait, they're serious. My bad.

The OpinionJournal reported five days ago on the recriminations being felt in France and Belgium over their Iraq positions:

"But indignant reactions are now being heard. An editorial on Radio France Internationale noticed that the phrase "the Anglo-American forces," constantly used instead of "coalition forces," is borrowed straight from Vichy propaganda. In her own j'accuse for Le Figaro, Ms. Lepage said that to the errors of the media and the leaders, "one can add the pacifist demonstrations, which have nothing peaceful about them." She could "bear witness to the fact that these demonstrations are far from gatherings of real defenders of the rights of man or of peace. These are hordes orchestrated by the security services of Islamicist groups which . . . shout extremely violent slogans in which racial and anti-Semitic hatred is expressed without the least taboo."

This is particularly interesting because last night Bill O'Reilly featured a segment about the boycott of French products with some preliminary numbers that showed the boycott was having an effect. We'll know in a few months whether those were real numbers or not, but I think they will prove true. How long a boycott of French goods will last is a better question.

It sounds like the French are getting nervous.

CNN is reporting the emergence of an Irish pub in downtown Kabul, Afghanistan.

I don't know exactly what to make of this, but it's an indication that things certainly are different than they were before September 11, 2001. I think that perhaps more change is on the way for Afghanistan and that's a good thing.

Andrew Sullivan has been all over the British Broadcasting Corporation's blatant political bias which is taxpayer funded.

Regular visitors to Sullivan's site know that he's done an outstanding job of exposing the outrageous "reporting" being done by the B.B.C.

Ann Coulter's latest is a warning that the coalition should not let the Europeans (or the U.N.) into Iraq. This is what the Europeans mean when they say they want to practice diplomacy:

"This is the second time the United States has caught Abbas. But the last time, the Europeans let him go."

"In 1985, Muslim terrorists hijacked the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro and threatened to kill the passengers and crew unless 50 imprisoned Palestinians were released by Israel. The terrorists doused American and British women with gasoline and taunted them with matches. They forced passengers to hold live grenades. When their demands were not met, the terrorists shot a wheelchair-bound American, Leon Klinghoffer, and forced other passengers at gunpoint to throw him overboard in his wheelchair.

Even as the Americans were preparing a rescue mission, the Italian and Egyptian governments made a deal with the terrorists, offering the release of the Palestinians and safe passage to Egypt to end the ordeal. The Europeans were delighted with this masterful act of diplomacy. The Americans were not so pleased."

This is what Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder mean when they talk about the moral superiority of the European way. We all saw how they would have dealt with Saddam. Worthless inspections to be followed by an end to sanctions so that European companies could take advantage of the oil and weapons contracts they had already signed. European diplomacy means nothing. Actually, it does mean something. It means appeasement, greed and betrayal of friends.

In the middle of Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus column he has a link to a piece by a University of North Carolina-Wilmington professor who is explaining how affirmative action has afffected him and the resulting grading plan for his class. Here's how he'll be grading from now on:

"After I compute final averages, I will then implement the new aspect of the grading process which is modeled after existing affirmative action policies at the university. Specifically, I will be computing a class average which I will then compare to the individual performance of all white males enrolled in my classes. All white males who exceed the class average will have points deducted and added to the final averages of women and minorities. A student need not have ever engaged in discrimination in order to have points deducted. Nor must a student have ever been a victim of discrimination in order to receive additional points."

Notice how the professor explains that his new grading policy is in line with university policies.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

The Democrats are wrong so much of the time that it's almost painful to watch. They were wrong about Afghanistan, they were wrong about Iraq, and they are currently being proven wrong on North Korea.

If I were a Democrat I would be worried.

I meant to link to this piece (Via Kathryn Jean Lopez) a couple of days ago.

With the Syrians acting up, it might be helpful or instructive for people to know who Bashar al-Assad is and to learn more about Syria.

Bottom line: Bashar al-Assad is Fredo. Hell, he even looks like a Fredo.

Most of the time the lessons we remember best are the most bitter lessons. I think the Iraqis are learning some hard lessons about democracy.

As the U.S. and Britain rolled into the major cities of Iraq, the one thing that we seemed slow to do was to establish civil order. Looting went on for two or three days until the Iraqi people and media started demanding that the coalition stop the anarchy.

I don't think the looting was necessarily a bad thing. I also don't think that the coalition didn't foresee it. In fact, I think the coalition used the looting to force the Iraqis to take their first baby steps toward a democratic society. They waited for us to stop the looting and then they saw that we didn't have the will to stop the looting. It's not our nation. The people who have to muster the will to stop the looting and anarchy are the Iraqi people. It's their nation and they must govern it.

The Iraqi people have no experience with democracy. They probably had an idea what it is, but until the looting started I don't think they knew that the actual functioning of a democratic society is dependent on a people taking charge of their nation. Some parts of the country assumed responsibility, but other parts, including much of Baghdad, are so used to being told what to do and how to do it that they hesitated. They wanted someone to protect them. They didn't know that the first and hardest lesson of democracy is that the people must take responsibility and not wait for someone to give it to them. Many of the Iraqis were waiting and as a result the cities were looted.

The looting was a lesson learned. No doubt the Iraqi people will be faced with many more problems, but this lesson was the most important. They now understand that they are running Iraq. We will defend it and try to provide direction to the civil authority for a short time, but the bottom line is that it's their nation. I think they understand now exactly what that means.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

I'm ambivalent about Jonah Goldberg's latest G-File column. He's making an argument that President Bush should apologize to the Iraqi people for letting them down in the first Gulf war. I like this argument:

"Obviously, we aren't in Iraq merely to atone for a past wrong, but there's nothing wrong with telling this to the Iraqi people, since it is in effect one reason why we are there. Moreover, a properly phrased apology could make this war less of a blow to the pride of the Iraqis. The stunning humiliation of the Iraqi army is already a major — if not the major — issue for Arabs outside of Iraq. There's every reason to think it will be a major sore point for the Iraqis themselves in the weeks to come, when things calm down under an apparent occupation by U.S. forces and various groups jostle for influence and vent imported Arab rhetoric at U.S. forces.

We've proven our strength; we now need to prove our humility, as we brilliantly did when our troops took a knee outside the tomb of Ali in Najaf last week. An apology from Bush would demonstrate far better that we are not conquerors. And, it would contribute to a much needed, and not necessarily inaccurate, national myth or narrative for Iraq."

While one side of me likes Goldberg's suggestion another side of me is not so sure that would be a good idea. I know how the left thinks and a public apology to the people of Iraq would only create a demand for more apologies. How long before every victim group in the world would be demanding an apology? To those people we are responsible for all of life's horrors so we would have a lot to apologize for. Everything, in fact.

For that one reason, I don't think we should apologize to the Iraqi people. All that really matters now is that we try to atone for that sin without offering a public apology.

The fallout continues from CNN's confession that they knew about Saddam's crimes, remained silent, and continued to report from Baghdad. The New Republic is asking: ""Well, then why the hell did you stay in Baghdad, pretending to actually report the news?" (Eason and his team were apparently so cowed that they didn't even report a foiled attempt by Iraqi intelligence agents to assassinate CNN employees in Northern Iraq.)"

"We think that's an excellent question. But the thought that occurs to us as we read Eason's op-ed is: Well, then why the hell did CNN's Baghdad bureau chief, Jane Arraf, write us a scathing letter accusing TNR's Franklin Foer of "cross[ing] over into fiction" when his piece, "Air War," chronicled the extent to which CNN's (and other networks') desire to appease the Iraqi regime was distorting its news coverage."

CNN has taken a pounding from these latest revelations. That's not even considering how CNN's Richard Roth was hugged and treated so warmly by the former Iraqi ambassador to the U.N.

CNN was in bed with the Iraqi leadership. They sold their souls for access. They should be ashamed for what they did and the lengths they went to stay in Baghdad. There should have been a line and that line should have been the point where interpreter and employee lives were less important than CNN's ratings.

As soon as CNN realized what they would have to do to maintain access they should have decided that their integrity and decency were more important than access to Baghdad.

Evidence is growing that France sold Iraq weapons as late as last year and perhaps since:

"U.S. forces discovered 51 Roland-2 missiles, made by a partnership of French and German arms manufacturers, in two military compounds at Baghdad International Airport. One of the missiles he examined was labeled 05-11 KND 2002, which he took to mean that the missile was manufactured last year. The charred remains of a more modern Roland-3 launcher was found just down the road from the arms cache. According to a mortar specialist with the same unit, radios used by many Iraqi military trucks brandished MADE IN FRANCE labels and looked brand new. RPG night sights stamped with the number 2002 and French labels also turned up. And a new Nissan pickup truck driven by a surrendering Iraqi officer was manufactured in France as well."

Official France is saying that these purchases were made on the black market, but I'm not convinced. I believe that France is our enemy and this just reinforces that idea.

Time has a glimpse into Uday Hussein's daily life with information gathered from his palace.

"Uday's expensive tastes weren't confined to cars and booze. A 1980 certificate from a Swiss dealer indicates that Uday owned a solid-gold watch with "54 full-cut fine diamonds." Money apparently wasn't a problem: the charred corners of $100 and $50 bills litter the house. "He used to light cigars with them," says a neighbor. That wealth and power made Uday quite a catch, judging from the love letters he kept from multiple girlfriends, one replete with a lipstick kiss. "Remember me when you listen to Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, which I heard for the first time with you," reads one."

He even had a Yahoo mailing address: udaysaddamhussein@yahoo.com.

The seven American POW's have been found alive. Thank God.