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April 26, 2003
A forced tour of Iraq
While flipping through TV channels tonight, I briefly came upon a program on a Dutch channel, where they were interviewing protesters at an Amsterdam "anti-war" march. Asked why he was there, one protester said he was against war. Then the interviewer asked him which other protests he'd been involved in, and the protester fondly recalled his memories of Vietnam, Panama, the first Gulf War. Then a question reporters never think of asking: "So it's all war where America was involved. Did you protest against any wars where other countries were involved like Russia or China?" The protester was clearly taken aback and could not answer. After some prodding he said "Tibet, I'm against Tibet."
At least all those years of protesting haven't dulled the intellectual vigor of the left. They're as sharp as ever. (Others who were interviewed were similarly flummoxed, but I didn't have much time to watch. I should have taped it.) It wasn't a big surprise to see that the protesters' main driving motive was anti-Americanism. They've long been Moscow's useful idiots, and since our victory in the Cold War they've been looking for new tyrants to appease. Now that Saddam is gone, I'm sure they'll find the next one soon.
What to do with such people? It's obvious that they're not amenable to reason, as they're living in a fantasy world of their own making. One interesting suggestion would be to give them a tour of Iraq:
It is those outside Iraq, those who enabled Saddam's killing machine, those who extended his rule through the perversion of diplomacy, those who protested and signed petitions against the "immoral war" to remove him from power but who never once mentioned Saddam's victims, whom Gen. Franks should force to see the meat hooks hanging from ceilings, the electrodes, the human meat grinders and the acid baths.
It is they who should be forced to see the flimsy coffins stacked one upon another, the thousands of corpses - men, women and children - with mutilated bodies and a single gunshot wound to the head. It is they who should be forced to see the pictures and read the record books of Saddam's victims - like the Nazis, Saddam's executioners kept detailed records in order to demonstrate their ideological commitment to the cause.
That's the only way I'd welcome Jacques Chirac and Dominque de Villepin, Gerhard Schröder and Joschka Fischer to Iraq: on a guided tour by Tommy Franks.
April 09, 2003
The next round of criticism
It's not the end yet, but it's certainly the beginning of the end of the Three Week Quagmire. Since I got home from work I've been going through the TV channels here, watching BBC domestic news and German news and Dutch news. Today's events are unspinnable; not even these notoriously anti-American outlets have been able to undo the potency of the images coming out of Baghdad. They tried, with a reporter for the German ZDF station remarking that the cheer that went up when the Marines helped take down the Saddam statue was muted. Well, he tried. He failed. Dutch TV reported that Iraqis living in exile here are ecstatic. One of the German channels showed baffled and depserate reactions on the streets of Cairo.
It's glorious to see Iraqis finally liberated and celebrating. It wasn't the main reason for this war, but it's a fantastic sight nonetheless. With relatively quick collapse of Saddam's regime under Allied assault is a blessing, and a testament to the professionalism of the British and American forces. Once again the doubters have been proved wrong. The ghost of Vietnam had been laid to rest some time ago for most Americans. The ghosts that remain from that era are the Hippies Who Never Grew Up, who dress in rhetorical Halloween ghost costumes. But they're the only ones who believe that their ghost costumes are the same as real ghosts, cause they sure ain't fooling anyone else.
Now that we do appear to have a quick victory in sight (there's still a lot of ground to cover, especially Tikrit), we'll soon get the next round of criticism. Having failed with the Quagmire Opening and the Arab Street Maneuver, the next round of critcism from America-haters will be to belittle the achievement. "With the enormous superiority of American technology and Corporate Dollar$, no wonder that the poor, brave Iraqi defenders were routed. They never had any chance. It's just further proof of the Great Danger that America poses, and just how evil America really is. It's not much of an achievement by the world's hyperpower to defeat a third-world country." I also predict that this criticism will be voiced by those who just two weeks ago were proclaiming Quagmire. Once you make intellectual dishonesty a habit, the need for consistency dimishes dramatically. From predicting horrible defeat for the US to claiming that a US victory was a foregone conclusion: it's going to happen.
But that is an issue for later. Tonight, let us rejoice with the Iraqi people.
March 10, 2003
Not their finest hour
There are reports out of Kuwait that a bunch of Iraqi soldiers tried to surrender to British troops conducting exercises. Apparently they tried to surrender to the 16 Air Assault Brigade, who described the Iraqis as follows:
"The Paras are a tough, battle-hardened lot but were moved by the plight of the Iraqis. There was nothing they could do other than send them back.
"They were a motley bunch and you could barely describe them as soldiers - they were poorly equipped and didn't even have proper boots. Their physical condition was dreadful and they had obviously not had a square meal for ages. No one has ever known a group of so-called soldiers surrender before a shot has been fired in anger."
If this is indeed true (and the British Ministry of Defense denies it), then it's absolutely outrageous. With the publicity that this story has received, those Iraqi soldiers are very likely dead by now, murdered by Saddam's henchmen if they made it back alive in the first place. And their families will have been targeted too. I don't care whether the war has officially started or not, sending these men back was just plain wrong. In fact, it's so wrong that I'm having trouble believing the story in the first place.
Of course, it could also be a propaganda exercise designed to undermine morale further within the Iraqi armed forces.
February 24, 2003
Real life imitates Monty Python
Speaking of last chances, the entire UN circus reminds of a Monty Python sketch. There is of course the famous Spanish Inquisition sketch with a numerically confused Cardinal Ximenez trying to explain the Inquisition's mean weapons. And then there's Photos of Uncle Ted. It looks like the UN took the Pythonesque rendition of the Inquisition as its role model for dealing with Iraq. The number of last chances keeps increasing, and the proposed method of torture is about as effective poking the old lady with cushions, even with all the stuffing up one end. I think we're now at the phase where France and Germany will propose the use of the Comfy Chair in order to make Saddam comply.
Ximinez: Right! If that's the way you want it -- Cardinal! Poke her with the soft cushions!
(Biggles carries out this rather pathetic torture)
Ximinez: Confess! Confess! Confess!
Biggles: It doesn't seem to be hurting her, lord.
Ximinez: Have you got all the stuffing up one end?
Biggles: Yes, lord.
Ximinez: (angrily hurling away the cushions) Hm! She is made of harder stuff! Cardinal Fang! Fetch...THE COMFY CHAIR!
(JARRING CHORD - Zoom into Fang's horrified face)
Fang: (terrified) The...Comfy Chair?
(Biggles pushes in a comfy chair -- a really plush one)
Ximinez: So you think you are strong because you can survive the soft cushions. Well, we shall see. Biggles! Put her in the Comfy Chair!
(They roughly push her into the Comfy Chair)
Ximinez: (with a cruel leer) Now -- you will stay in the Comfy Chair until lunch time, with only a cup of coffee at eleven. (aside, to Biggles) Is that really all it is?
Biggles: Yes, lord.
Ximinez: I see. I suppose we make it worse by shouting a lot, do we? Confess, woman. Confess! Confess! Confess! Confess!
Biggles: I confess!
Ximinez: Not you!
It should be pointed out that in this sketch, Biggles in played by France. We'll soon see their confession, no doubt.
February 18, 2003
Has the infiltration reached Baghdad?
Since I unfortunately do not speak or understand Arabic (it's on my to-do list), I have to rely on second-hand and third-hand sources. American Soldiers in Baghdad? is a story from a the Hungarian daily Magyar Hírlap, which in turn is quoting the London-based Arab paper As-Sharq El-Ausat. According to this story, American commandos have been detonating explosives near industrial and government installations. The damage was said to be insubstantial.
Needless to say, I'm skeptical. Why would American commandos run the risk of being in Baghdad right now, and increase that risk by setting off firecrackers? It could part of a psychological campaign to destabilize the regime, but I wonder whether the benefit of any such action weighs up against the risk. They would be more effective as a striking force once the war starts if they are indeed in Baghdad. On the other hand, if they're setting off firecrackers in Saddam's back yard, it might just have the desired psychological effect. It may just make him sleep a tad less soundly.
December 08, 2002
Nothing to worry about
Ha'aretz reports on Saddam's steady march to the bomb. Nothing to worry about here at all.
Iraq's declaration of its activities in pursuit of nuclear arms sphere did not provide any details about the states and private companies that supplied its procurement program. For reasons that remain unclear, the United Nations Security Council failed to demand that Baghdad divulge such details.
Perhaps because it's too embarrassing to too many members of the UN?
American researchers and experts in nuclear affairs who have been monitoring Iraq's nuclear efforts have concluded that 15 companies from various countries, including Germany, Switzerland and also the U.S., were involved in the transfer of know-how and equipment to Baghdad's nuclear program before the Persian Gulf War.
Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, told Ha'aretz that a course sponsored by the U.S. defense and energy departments in the 1980s provides an example of indirect support for Iraq's nuclear efforts that went undetected by the relevant host government. The course focused on detonators, and special explosive compounds. Three experts from Iraq took part in the course - it was subsequently established that the three were involved in Iraq's efforts to develop nuclear arms.
Why are the Defense and Energy departments giving courses on detonators and explosive compounds in the first place? Isn't that something that should be kept in-house? Perhaps you could share it with America's most trusted allies, but Iraqis? Granted, it was in the 1980 when realpolitik
blinded the West to Saddam's true nature, but even this should not have happened.
Companies involved in the transfer of know-how and materials, including small amounts of enriched uranium, to Iraq include - from Germany, Leybold Heraeus, Metalform H, Degussa, Arthur Pfieffer Vakuun Technik, Dr. Reutlingersohne, Neue Magdeburg, Balzer, Scmiedemeccanica; from Belgium, Sebatra; from Poland, Chemadex; from Nigeria Oranam; from Sweden-Switzerland Asea Brown Boveri; from the U.S., Finigan-Mat and also the Department of Energy.
Jeeez. I should point out that many of the companies' names seem to be misspelled here (sloppy, sloppy; although the many typos on my blog should caution me to be circumspect with pointing this out). The misspelled companies are Arthur Pfeiffer Vakuum Technik, Dr. Reutlinger & Sohne and Schmiedemeccanica. I can't find any reference to Sebatra anywhere.
Also read this report on Saddam's bomb from 1992. The proper response if of course more negotiation. We should tell him that he's been very very naughty, and that we are going to send a strong Note of Protest. We should also aim for another treaty with Iraq, in which Saddam will promise not to be naughty anymore. Since it's a complex matter, let's make it 10,000 pages of treaty. Ship it to Saddam and hope he bleeds to death from paper cuts?
(Nah, military action would be so so unsophisticated.)