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Thursday April 22, 2004

Questions, questions, questions...Here are a few that I've been pondering

Yesterday, Tommy Franks blamed the media in the middle east for inciting terrorism by their false reporting. We've been in Iraq for over a year. Why don't we have broadcast TV and radio in Iraq to counterbalance this propaganda? Why?

For over a year, the major media have been telling us that it's a U.S. invasion of Iraq, not a legitimate coalition. They have constantly denied that it is a true coalition. Now, all of a sudden, when the Spanish are pulling out troops all we can hear from the media is that it is damaging the coalition. Why was it not a true coalition when the Spanish were in, but is now a damaged coalition when the Spanish pull out?

For years we've been hearing outrage from the "International Community" that the U.S. is killing children in Iraq because of the sanctions imposed by the U.N. which the U.S. would not allow to be lifted. Now, it has been shown that Oil-For-Food program (aka "UNSCAM")administered by the U.N. was a complete fraud and that both Saddam and his supporters siphoned billions that should have gone to the children of Iraq. Where is the outrage against the U.N.? Against France? Against Russia?

Speaking of UN corruption, there are a couple of blogs dedicated to the whole UNSCAM here and here. Meanwhile, Austin Bay is worried that the scandal will harm some otherwise good things that the UN does:

Fall 2002: Refugees, fleeing the disastrous tribal war in the Democratic Republic of Congo's northeastern region, swept into Uganda. UNHCR, along with several non-governmental aid organizations, provided food and medicine to desperate, suffering people. The work is vital. If UNHCR didn't exist, the various sub-Saharan conflicts of the last three decades would have killed many hundreds of thousands more than they have.

UNCHR is a "piece of the United Nations" that meets on-the-ground humanitarian needs. Be glad it exists. However, humanitarian aid operations require more than finances, coordination capabilities and expert personnel. They require moral credibility.

Let cynics snicker — snickers do nothing for the suffering. Moral credibility — for example, the assurance to donors that relief funds actually go to help the suffering — is absolutely critical to sustaining effective humanitarian programs. That's a rubber-meets-the-road reason to investigate the oil for food cancer and punish the corrupt.

Here's an excellent comparison between the wars in Iraq and Serbia:

Which situation posed a greater threat to international peace? What started the involvement in Iraq was Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. It attacked, claimed to incorporate Kuwait and, during the Persian Gulf War, fired missiles into the territory of two U.S. allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel. After the cease-fire, Iraq expelled U.N. weapons inspectors whose presence it had agreed to as a condition of ending the Persian Gulf War.

By contrast, Serbia was never a threat to other countries. Whatever Serbia did to the people living in Kosovo, Kosovo was and remains, under American and international law, part of Serbia. Serbia had never attacked the United States or our allies, or any of its neighbors. Serbia never even retaliated when the United States was bombing its capital city, Belgrade.

Human-rights abuses were present in both Iraq and Serbia. The CIA documented that 2,000 people were killed by Milosevic in Kosovo in the years prior to the U.S. bombing. Saddam Hussein gassed, shot, tortured and starved hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens before the United States went to war to overthrow the dictator. The now regular unearthing of mass graves in Iraq compels the conclusion that Iraq, not Kosovo, presented the stronger human- rights justification for intervention.

Those who doubt the United States will exit Iraq anytime soon suspect that U.S. and British troops will have to stay for a long time to quell centuries-old Shiite, Sunni and Kurd hostility. The same has proved true for the need for U.S. and other NATO troops in Kosovo: NATO troops are now in their fifth year of occupation to protect both ethnic Serbs and Albanians from annihilating each other.

Critics fault President Bush for not obtaining prior U.N. approval for the recent Iraq war, forgetting that President Bill Clinton did not obtain prior U.N. approval to wage war over Kosovo, either. In Iraq, the U.N. Security Council had given open-ended authority in 1991 to the United States "to restore . . . security to the area." While one can argue whether that wording was sufficient to justify the United States' action 12 years later, President Clinton had nothing like that authority when he dropped the first bomb on Belgrade.

After the capitulation of Milosevic, the U.N. Security Council did pass a resolution recognizing the de facto status of the United States and NATO in Kosovo. The Clinton administration pointed to this as after-the-fact U.N. ratification, claiming that the international community condoned the action. The same can be said about Iraq: Just two months ago, the U.N. Security Council passed a similar resolution regarding the United States' and the United Kingdom's presence in Iraq.

Whatever international law says, what about legality under the U.S. Constitution? President Bush sought and obtained approval from Congress before acting in Iraq (and, in a separate, earlier vote, in Afghanistan). President Clinton never did.

I can understand opposing U.S. action in both Iraq and Serbia. I can understand supporting it in both. I can understand concluding that, on grounds of human rights, attacks on U.S. allies, international law and U.S. Constitutional law, the war in Iraq was a clearer case than the war in Serbia. To support the decision to attack Serbia, but not Iraq, however, is illogical.

Lest you think that the war on terror is anywhere near its apex, read this:

The group, called the "Yello-Red Overseas Organization," warned in a one-page letter sent to the South Korean Embassy in Thailand that it will launch the attacks through April 30, embassy spokesman Ryoo Jung-young told The Associated Press.

The group described itself as "anti-American" and threatened to attack diplomatic compounds, airlines and public transportation systems in South Korea, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Australia, Kuwait and Pakistan. Several of these countries have sent troops to Iraq.

or this:

An explosion struck a bus carrying military personnel in Istanbul on Thursday, but it was not immediately clear what caused the blast or whether there were any casualties, NTV television reported.

or this:

Saudis blamed Al Qaeda militants for the Saturday night attack and said it was proof of the terror network's willingness to shed Muslim blood in its zeal to bring down the U.S.-linked monarchy. They vowed to hunt down the attackers.

Here's Peggy Noonan's take on the President and why, after a month of bad press, the polls are fairly stable:

Americans do not think Mr. Bush has a persona to dazzle history, they think he is the average American man, but the average American man as they understand the term: straight shooter, hard worker, decent, America-loving, God-loving.

That does not mean Americans will give him a blank check and say: Go do what you want. It means they'll give him the benefit of the doubt and stand by him with cool eyes as long as they feel it's right for them and the country.

Hey, have you seen the new "Run, Hillary, Run" bumper stickers?....The Democrats put them on their rear bumpers and the Republicans put them on their front bumpers (attribute Prairie Home Companion). If you are offended, or think that is in poor taste, you should read this. writes of The National Lawyers Guild, who recently sent a delegation to North Korea to, develop “personal and professional relationships” and to determine the “real situation for the people of the DPRK (North Korea)”. Here are a few quotes from their 24 page report:

We noted that this was not the Orwellian society George Bush and much of the media is trying to portray.

We noticed that the people on the whole looked well dressed and active. We saw no one who looked malnourished or emaciated and our observations were confirmed by many of the foreigners we met who had dealings around the country. The DPRK has very little are able land and we saw crops being harvested everywhere it was possible to grow them. It appears every square inch of arable land is cultivated, and on the roofs of their country cottages people had planted vines of what looked like melons or squash.

The contrast between North Korea and its lack of policeman and North America in which armed police in bulletproof vests are commonplace was more than striking - it was startling.” “If the presence or absence of armed policemen is a criterion for a free society then it speaks volumes about the nature of the two societies.

As we finished they surrounded us and joyfully filled our pockets with apples, as our eyes filled with tears of appreciation. Little did we know upon going to this country, where its populace was allegedly being starved, that we would have our pockets stuffed with produce!

Miners and steel factory workers—those whose labor is most dangerous and difficult -- earn more than lawyers or doctors. The professionals take their reward out of the mental satisfaction of the job itself and the prestige which comes with it. So, unlike our society, it is those who work the hardest physically who make the most. Workers are encouraged to speak out if they have ideas on improving things and committees exist at the shop levels for input.

The delegation questioned whether within that system, there is in fact more participatory democracy than in the American federal system or the parliamentary system in which democracy ceases to operate once the elections are over. It is more circular, with local committees sending up to the next level requests, complaints and so on and so on up to the national level with discussion, at least in theory at these levels and then feedback to the local level until an agreement is reached based on resources available and circumstances.

The term "useful idiots" comes to mind. But to be fair, to these types truth is relative, fungible. Check out the National Lawyers Guild website and read the entire 24 page report.

Trouble in the Workers Paradise:

Thousands of people were believed killed or injured Thursday when two trains carrying oil and liquefied petroleum gas collided and exploded in a North Korean train station, hours after leader Kim Jong Il passed through on his return from a China visit, South Korean news media reported.