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Sunday May 25, 2003

Salam Pax has a new post from inside Iraq.


Democrats are turning up the heat on the administration for failure to find the dreaded weapons in Iraq.

I do hope they find the stuff soon, but not because it looks bad for the administration. It has already been established (by the UN, in fact) that at one point in time there was quite a bit of decidedly nasty stuff in Iraq. The question now is, where is it? If Saddam did destroy it there certainly would be records. There are detailed records of all the people he destroyed. It would be incomprehensible that they were destroyed and Saddam did not share the records with the UN. That would be just plain dumb. I don't think anyone believes that Saddam is dumb.

The main reason (practical not political) to find all Saddam's deathsauce (yeah, I borrowed that term from Lileks--I just love it: deathsauce) is so that it doesn't get into the hands of terrorists.

Bottom line: we know they existed at some point and until we know the fate of those WMD's we are potentially all in peril


More on Saddam's safe houses and killing fields. Heartwrenching quote from one of the Iraqi excavators, Karim Jasim:

'You see, sir, there are two Iraqs,' he muses, 'one above the ground, and another beneath it.'


SARS Sunday. More cases in Canada here and here. I hope the Canadians aren't downplaying the extent of the problem for PR purposes.

This was for you Sam. Hope you get to feeling better--Ed.


I think the atmosphere in Iran is ripe for revolution. The ruling mullahs are aging. The majority of the burgeoning younger Iranians are yearning for democracy--or at least reform. Although, I am not in favor of invasion or military force, perhaps the locals could rise up and overthrow the regime. Excerpt,

Officials will meet Tuesday at the White House to discuss the Iran strategy, with Pentagon officials pressing for action that could lead to the toppling of the government through a popular uprising, the Post said.

And also, there's this.


I think that there will be no peace in Israel until there is a military defeat of the Palestinians by the Israelis (although that is not politicially feasible since it would bring world condemnation), but here is another possibility from the Washington Times. Nugget:

Unless this new Palestinian government is able to root out all these disturbers of the peace, not just tone them down for a while, there won't be a new Palestinian state. The Israelis aren't about to shrink back and let the terrorists wage unilateral war against them, not again. There's a way out for both Jews and Arabs. It's even been tried before. And it worked for another small state. Those trying to shape a nascent Palestine could learn a lot from its history...

... It will be simple to tell if Mr. Abbas is serious. There will have to be, for however long or short a time it takes, a Palestinian civil war. That is the only way to assure that terrorism no longer threatens the chances of peace. No war, no peace. It's pretty much that simple.

In order for there to be peace, there must first be a military defeat. Whether it be an external or internal defeat remains to be seen.


Friday May 23, 2003

Astonishingly high levels of uranium have been detected in Afghan civillians. Nugget:

The average for his 17 "randomly-selected" patients was 315.5 nanograms, he said. Some were from Jalalabad, and others from Kabul, Tora Bora, and Mazar-e-Sharif. A 12-year-old boy living near Kabul had 2,031 nanograms. The maximum permissible level for members of the public in the US is 12 nanograms per litre, Dr Durakovic said.


An OpinionJournal article frowns on the latest Matrix Reloaded and Hollywood, generally. Excerpt,

Why the R rating? Certainly the barrage of elegantly choreographed martial-arts violence is one reason; but that stuff is merely a modern, stylized version of the barroom fighting in a cowboy film, rough but understandable. Besides, without it there's no movie. The real cocklebur is a gratuitous scene near the beginning of this video game--er, movie--that intercuts a paganistic orgy with private, full-flesh sex between the hero and heroine, Neo and Trinity, complete with pulsating drums in the background. So while teenage boys, religious syncretists and dime-store philosophers might be in love with "The Matrix Reloaded," it isn't all that popular with some parents. The R rating and one sex scene have forced us to make an unpleasant choice: Forbid our youngsters from seeing the movie that their friends are raving about or let the coarser side of popular culture claim one more little victory. Understandably, the topic of movie-going--or not-going--ruined no fewer than three of our dinner hours last week.

He does go on to make some good points. But hey, it's rated R after all. "Youngsters" probably shouldn't see it. I think the movie would do much better financially if some of the scenes which "earned" it an R rating were cut--but that's true of much that comes out of the film industry. It would be nice if videos or DVD's with "cleaned up versions" could be rented. After all, they do that for TV.


Martin Woollacott, writing in The Guardian thinks we may have overestimated Al Qaeda and it's acceptance in the muslim world after 9/11. Excerpt,

These less than reliable signs can be read up to a point. The first thing they suggest is that al-Qaida was always overestimated. Its cadres were smaller and less sophisticated than thought and its networks less extensive, in spite of all those young men through the Afghan camps. Its preparations for biological, chemical and radiological attacks were on a Heath Robinson level, and probably remain there.

...What they forget is that the extremists who set up in Afghanistan did so precisely because their type of violent terrorism and their totalitarian ideas had failed in their own countries, and especially in Egypt, from which some of the more senior figures in al-Qaida came. The authorities reacted with a vigour and sometimes with a ruthlessness which matched that of the extremist groups. The people saw the results of violent action, as the Egyptians did at Luxor, and rejected it both for moral and practical reasons. And other Islamist politicians outflanked these organisers of massacres by offering to the discontented a less harsh version of Islamic renewal that was more likely to succeed.

I believe that we are beginning to see this now in Saudi Arabia after the recent bombings in Riyadh.


US forces capture another Big Baath Badguy--number 8 on the most wanted list. There are also reports that the Ace of Hearts, Uday, is considering turning himself in.


The Laci Peterson murder trial is looking to be a full-fledged, cable-hyped, OJ style courtroom circus drama. We have a brutal murder. We have big names: Gloria Allred and Mark Geragos. And now we have this. Excerpt,

Scott Peterson's defense team says they have found the mystery woman who can provide information about the real killers of the California murder suspect's 8-months-pregnant wife, Laci, and their unborn child.

It's going to be a long, hot summer.


Thursday May 22, 2003

The UN Security Council will most likely lift the sanctions against Iraq . Here's another article from on the subject from Reuters . Check out the quote from that dastardly Dominique DeVillepin.

"After all, what is really at stake here is ensuring that the role of the United Nations is restored," Villepin told France Inter radio.

Not that he's actually interested in Iraqi's or the fate of the Iraqi nation. It's all about the UN.


Looks like the Israelis have found another Palestinian holiday cruise ship. I didn't think ships could travel on a roadmap. Here's the nugget:

The boat reportedly left Rashid Egypt on 16 May, heading towards PA Gaza with the major shipment of armaments. The ship originated in Lebanon according to the limited information available, and is linked directly to Hizbullah. Eight crewmembers on board were taken into custody, including at least one Hizbullah operative. The vessel was apprehended in international waters.

Yassar....you've got some 'splaining to do. As if.


Here's some more on the misleading nature of anti-gun reporting. Excerpt,

The congressional report comes amid controversy over how the news media have covered the 1994 law. CNN admitted it incorrectly reported last week that fully automatic weapons are banned under the legislation. Gun-owner groups say the media have consistently confused semiautomatics with fully automatic firearms and point out that the banned guns are only "cosmetically" different from many legal types of weapons. Machine guns and other fully automatic weapons are regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934. The 1994 law, set to expire in September 2004, banned some semiautomatic, military-style rifles. Semiautomatic guns fire one shot each time the trigger is pulled.


Wednesday May 21, 2003

You know, if I were to write something like this my editors would surely have stopped me. Oh, wait...I don't have any editors. Apparently, those at the Atlanta Journal Constitution have taken the day off. Excerpt,

The National Rifle Association wants the assault ban lifted. In its paranoid view, the banning of Uzis one day means your Colt will be confiscated tomorrow. The NRA leadership insists the right to own a gun accorded Americans in the Second Amendment extends to any and all guns, even those that fire off 30 rounds in less than two seconds and murder innocent children.

Now I'm not a fancy-dancy AJC editorial writer, nor am I a card carrying NRA member (in fact, I don't now, nor have I ever owned a gun), so what I do know about the subject, I've just picked up in passing. But if I were to write a published editorial (No, this doesn't count. Nobody reads this tripe, do they?), I believe I would at least have done a modicum of research--unless truth and veracity were not at issue....oh yeah, it's an editorial.

Thirty rounds in less than two seconds? That sounds like a fully automatic weapon to me (either that or a teenaged Nintendo player, hopped up on Mountain Dew). Fully automatic weapons were not even addressed by this ban since they have been strictly regulated since 1934. Besides that, if my memory serves correct (and that's just it folks--memory. It's not like I actually researched this for a major metropolitan publication) the ban did restrict clips to 10 rounds or less. Well, I did a quick google and found the info at bradycampaign.org: yup 10 rounds. So is this just an innocent error? Laziness? Deceipt?

Perhaps the answer is Machievellian in nature. Nothing wrong with a little duplicity and fraud if it helps to sway public opinion in favor of ones position. If you can bear the intellectual dishonesty, go read the whole thing .


The UN is just corrupt. Excerpt,

The deposed Iraqi dictator took as much as $3 billion from a program intended to provide food and medication to his people after the U.N. sanctioned oil sales in response to Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

"Everybody knew it, and those who were in a position to do something about it were not doing anything," Benon Sevan, the executive director of the Office of Iraq Program, told ABC News. "They made no show of concealing it," he said, "because the U.N. was just turning a blind eye to it."


Just go read this.


I think we would all feel better about airport security if it was perceived as anything more than eyewash. Although this is anecdotal, it shows what a sham it really is to perform random checks (often on kids and the elderly) and not focus on men. Excerpt,

According to U.S. State Department and federal court documents, a man from Brazil was able to con his way onto at least one domestic flight by posing as a U.S. State Department diplomatic security dignitary protection agent.

Like smooth-talking Frank Abagnale Jr. in the recent hit movie "Catch Me If You Can," Marcello Benati used phony credentials to sidestep airline security checks. The Brazilian national's shiny badge was emblazoned with the phrase "The United States of America: DSS Special Agent." His fake credentials bore the official seal of the U.S. and the job description "Advanced (sic) Team /Profiler Lead."

In February, Benati identified himself to a United Airlines employee at Miami International Airport as a federal agent in a hurry to escort an "important person." He was accompanied by an unknown male who flashed similar bogus law enforcement credentials. According to an investigative memo written by State Department Diplomatic Security Service special agent Richard Higbie, the United Airlines employee stated that both Benati and his companion were armed.

And how was he finally caught? Through after-actions follow-up and investigation? No.

Benati was arrested in April, but only after he accidentally left his wallet containing the fake badge and law enforcement credentials at a clothing store in Dallas.

Benati's companion is still at large.


After being subjected to decades of fear, torture and murder I think a certain amount of this is to be expected.


Like I said before, sometimes bought guys just don't stay bought . Excerpt,

For decades now has been a clear understanding, if not explicit deal: the Saudi royal family would fund the radical Wahhabi sect, in exchange for its believers packaging their terrorist practices strictly as export items. The deal - as of last week - seems off. The terrorists hit Saudis directly. Evidently their vile hatred for the West now extends to their own bankrollers, in the holy kingdom itself.

Hopefully, now that they are experiencing terror in the kingdom, the Saudis will be more amenable to curbing it. I think this is a good sign. sBut for those who think we need a regime change in Saudi Arabia, read this.


Tuesday May 20, 2003

Kevin Williamson laments the lack of public trust in the Fourth Estate.

What is the problem? Political bias? Sloppiness? Laziness? All of the above and more. Think about it this way: Every society needs a mythology. In our post-religious world, we don't have deities and demigods: We have psychology and statistics. We have urban legends and media myths. Let me bring this down to the local level for you: Last weekend, I was having dinner with a reporter (at Margaret Kuo's new place in Wayne, which you ought to try) and we were talking about terrorism and national security. This particular reporter - smart guy, very knowledgeable - opines that he doesn't trust Attorney General John Ashcroft because Ashcroft is a pointy-headed Bible-thumper who is so puritanical that he had his minions cover the exposed breast of the Spirit of Justice statue. Surely you all know this story: Ashcroft, shrieking at the sight of the uncovered female form of Minnie Lou, as the statue is affectionately known, orders it draped. Maureen Dowd of the recently discredited New York Times opined that Ashcroft put Lady Justice "in a burqa." The "burqa" line was immediately picked up by Al Gore, who did not disclose its dowdy origins.

The problem with this story is that it isn't true. Nope. Never happened. The statue is still there, still looks like it has always looked. It is true that Ashcroft doesn't use it as the background for his press conferences any longer, opting for the standard blue curtain.


Now comes this from the AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush made a direct appeal Tuesday to new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to clamp down on terror attacks against Israel while also reassuring Abbas that the United States still intends to help create a Palestinian state in 2005.

How many times do we have to hear this! Clearly the Palestinians don't want peace or else THEY WOULD STOP KILLING PEOPLE!! It is supremely ridiculous to assure them of a state or anything else. How much worse would the Israeli predicament be if the Palestinians had a soverign state? At least now, the Israelis can plow into Palestinian areas and kill a bunch of murdering terrorists without it becoming an "International Incident". Moreover, there already is a Palestinian state: it's called Jordan.


Jonathan Rauch sounds like a pretty smart chap:

In short, the United States has been on the wrong side of Arab history for almost five decades, and it is not doing much better than the Soviets. The old policy had no future, only a past. It was a dead policy walking. September 11 was merely the death certificate.

Bush is no sophisticate, but he has the great virtue-not shared by most sophisticates-of knowing a dead policy when he sees one. So he gathered up the world's goodwill and his own political capital, spent the whole bundle on dynamite, and blew the old policy to bits. However things come out in Iraq, the war's larger importance is to leave little choice, going forward, but to put America on the side of Arab reform...

....Spending the world's goodwill on reform in the Arab world is the most dangerous course the Bush administration could have set, except for all the others.


Who Killed Kyoto?

We've heard it now for so long that it's drummed into our heads. President George W. Bush soured relations with the E.U. by refusing to accept the Kyoto Protocol. In doing so, he took the U.S. into unilateralism and demonstrated his disdain for world opinion. That's what is at the root of the current divide between Europe and America. We're hearing that argument trotted out by various contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, most notably Senators Joe Lieberman and John Kerry.

The trouble is, it just isn't true. The Kyoto treaty was killed in November 2000, during the dying days of the Clinton-Gore administration. We didn't notice in the United States because something else was going on at that time. This is also why we didn't notice that it wasn't the Americans who killed it. It was the Europeans, most prominently (surprise, surprise) the French.


Peter Ferrara has a good primer on macroeconomic theory in the National Review Online. Oh yeah, it also supports President Bush's tax-cut package.


So this is what Amnesty International considers torture? Well, only if it's those ruthless Americans. Excerpt,

Amnesty International told BBC News Online that at least one Iraqi captive - a civilian, later released - had reported being kept awake for up to four days by loud music. "This is an issue that seriously concerns us. If there is a prolonged period of sleep deprivation, it could well be considered torture," said a spokeswoman.

Those evildoers!


Lileks is no man:

AM Raining. Rather serious rain, too. I'll have to resquirt the patio; yesterday I doused the cracks with life-killing deathsauce from the fine folks at Dow. I heard Gaia herself weep as her precious weedy children wither and die. Now I'll have to reapply the stuff to make sure the weeds are vanquished. I've given up on the lawn, which looks like a sample book for prairie infestations, but I'll be switched if spurge gets a foothold on my patio. A man has to take a stand, he does.

But he's always a hoot.


Oops

"We caught them red-handed, in the act. Now they're backpedaling," Mr. LaPierre said after yesterday's broadcast. In the first of the two segments that aired Thursday, a Broward County detective fired the AK-47 in semiautomatic mode, and the camera showed bullets hitting a cinder-block target. The detective then fired a legal semiautomatic weapon, and CNN showed a cinder-block target with no apparent damage. On Friday, CNN admitted that the detective had not been firing at the cinder block.


This, from "fly-over country". Bully!


Monday May 19, 2003

Here's some perfectly good nonsense from NewsBerkeley.com.

The main points seem to be:

So, in order for the Democrats to appeal to American voters (and even some Republican voters) and have a real chance to win back the White House, they must move further to the left. That's a solid plan.


Melanie Phillips has it exactly right in the Spectator. Go read. She even uses the word henchmen Excerpt,

So what were these Israeli measures? They released 180 Palestinian prisoners and opened up Gaza and the West Bank (closed to keep in mass murderers) as goodwill gestures. And what were the Palestinian goodwill gestures in return? They killed an Israeli gardener in the West Bank, fired rockets from Gaza into the Israeli town of Sderot, and sent a human bomb on his way into Israel from Nablus, with more to follow. Israel promptly sealed off Gaza again. But, of course, Israel is being oppressive and inflammatory and needs to be pressured into line. Does not the BBC tell us this, repeatedly?


Mohamed El Baradei is concerned about nuclear contamination in Iraq. Excerpt,

The IAEA chief first asked the United States on April 10 to secure nuclear material stored under U.N. seal at Iraq's Tuwaitha nuclear research center and was promised by the United States that its military would keep the site secure.

One of the sources stored at Tuwaitha is caesium 137, a highly radioactive powder that would be especially dangerous in a dirty bomb. In 1987, a canister of caesium powder found in a Brazil junkyard exposed 249 people to radiation, killing four.

After numerous media reports that Tuwaitha and other nuclear facilities in Iraq had been looted, ElBaradei wrote again to the U.S. on April 29 requesting permission to send a mission to Iraq to investigate the looting reports.

The IAEA has received no response from Washington and said that the contamination in Iraq could lead to a "serious humanitarian situation."

This tracks closely with a story from The Washington Post . Excerpt,

On April 10, the day after Hussein's statue tumbled out of its boots on Firdaus Square in Baghdad, Allison was dispatched to two of Iraq's most important nuclear sites. One was called the Tuwaitha Yellowcake Storage Facility, where the International Atomic Energy Agency keeps track of tons of natural and partially enriched uranium. Close by stood the forbidding berm walls of the Baghdad Nuclear Research Center, where Israel bombed the Osirak reactor in 1981 and the United States bombed a Russian-built reactor 10 years later. Between them, the two facilities entombed most of Iraq's former nuclear weapons program.

Just that morning, according to U.S. and U.N. sources, the Vienna-based IAEA had sent an urgent message to Washington. The twin complexes at Tuwaitha, the message said, were "at the top of the list" of nuclear sites requiring protection of U.S. and British forces.

A Marine engineering company had found the sites abandoned a few days earlier. The captain in command reported looters to be roaming the compounds. Allison's task was to measure the radiation hazard.

"We couldn't get close because we were receiving too high a dose" of radiation, Allison recalled. But the team found disturbing signs, even from a distance. The door to a major storage building, one of three known jointly as Location C, stood wide open.

Deal's personal dosimeter warned him to leave the scene, but first he shot a few seconds of videotape, by reaching his hand with the camera around the doorframe. The jerky images showed office debris strewn alongside scores of buried drums. Those drums, and others nearby, were supposed to contain 3,896 pounds of partially enriched uranium and more than 94 tons of yellowcake, or natural ore.

Looters had plainly been inside. At a minimum, they had exposed themselves and their families to grave health risks. More ominously, they might have taken some nuclear materials with them.

"There were also containers of what looked like medical isotopes on the ground," Allison said. "We backed off because we didn't have the capability to deal with radiation that high."

Before Team 3 could complete its survey, Allison received a "frago" -- a fragmentary order -- to leave at once. Tuwaitha was at the center of an unresolved dispute between the Bush administration and the IAEA, which monitors compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and Bush's advisers were divided among themselves. Until it had clear instructions, the headquarters for U.S. ground forces in Iraq wanted nothing to do with the site.

Standing under the desert sun with an Iridium satellite telephone at his ear, Allison raised his voice in angry protest at orders to leave the nuclear center unprotected. Eventually his superiors agreed to allow Marines to stay. Allison's report later that day said that even so "the maneuver commander did not have sufficient forces to secure both sites."

"I hope somebody has done something," Allison said, recounting the story some time afterward, "because a lot of that [material] is just laying around."

It sounds like Mr. El Baradei's concerns are well-founded.


Al Qaeda Arms Traced to Saudi National Guard Excerpt:

A small number of officers in the national guard have been involved in illicit gun sales for years, according to the officials, and have sold weapons, including automatic rifles, to anyone willing to pay prices well above their market value. The officials emphasized that the motivation of the officers selling the weapons was money, not ideology, and does not indicate any al Qaeda penetration of a force that is supposed to protect the government.

Probably, the motivation is both money and ideology. But, I believe the Saudi regime is truly concerned about terrorism which occurs on their soil (sand?). After all, they bought off Osama and his tribe so they would go away from the kingdom. But sometimes bought guys don't stay bought.


No, things are not going well in Iraq. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON, May 18 Long before President Bush ordered the attack against Iraq, the White House and the Pentagon drew up a plan for rebuilding and running the country after the war that was nearly as meticulous as the battle plan.

But over the past two to three weeks, the wheels have threatened to come off their vehicle for establishing the peace.

The looting, lawlessness and violence that planners thought would mar only the first few weeks has proved more widespread and enduring than Mr. Bush and his aides expected and is threatening to undermine the American plan.

Five weeks after Baghdad fell, Mr. Bush finds himself exactly where he did not want to be: forced to impose control with a larger number of troops and to delay the start of efforts to turn power over to Iraqis.

But these things do take some time. Here's a look at things in Kosovo. Excerpt:

"Could you step out of the car please, sir, and turn off the ignition?" Officer Ilir Xhemajli asked Labinot Rrahmani, the young driver of an aging red Nissan Micra. He was driving without his license, but Officer Xhemajli let him off with a stern warning.

The scene would be unremarkable to any American driver. But in Kosovo the mere existence of an indigenous police force, built from scratch by the United Nations in the four years since the end of the NATO-led war against Serbia, is an extraordinary accomplishment.

Four years? Extraordinary accomplishment?

But here is the key:

"The basic lesson of everything we have done is that you cannot have the basis of democracy if you don't have the rule of law," said Simon Haselock, spokesman for the United Nations Interim Mission in Kosovo. "We have factionalization, mafias, and all these other problems because we didn't start by establishing a rule of law."


John F. Kerry faults President Bush for not doing enough to stop terrorism. Read the Washington Times article. Excerpt:

Presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry blamed the Bush administration yesterday for not doing enough to prevent last week's terrorist bombings in Saudi Arabia, saying it was not enough to warn that an attack was imminent and ask for protection. "It's insufficient for this administration to say, 'We notified them, but they didn't do anything.' It's the obligation of this administration to make sure that they are doing something, and you don't do it by passing on a communication and then sitting there. You have to be engaged," Mr. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Kerry says that as president he would have an energy policy that wouldn't rely as much on foreign oil. Drilling in ANWAR? Increased drilling in the Gulf? Flower Power?