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Wednesday October 22, 2003

Paul Krugman defends explains Mahathir's hateful comments:

"THE EUROPEANS killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy: They get others to fight and die for them." So said Mahathir Mohamad, the prime minister of Malaysia, at an Islamic summit meeting last week. The White House promptly denounced his "hate-filled remarks. "

Indeed, those remarks were inexcusable. But they were also calculated --

for Mahathir is a cagey politician, who is neither ignorant nor foolish. And to understand why he made those remarks is to realize how badly things are going for U.S. foreign policy.

The fact is that Mahathir, though guilty of serious abuses of power, is in many ways about as forward-looking a Muslim leader as we're likely to find. And Malaysia is the kind of success story we wish we saw more of: an impressive record of economic growth, rising education levels and general modernization in a nation with a Muslim majority.

It's worth reading the rest of last week's speech, beyond the offensive 28 words. Most of it is criticism directed at other Muslims, clerics in particular. Mahathir castigates "interpreters of Islam who taught that acquisition of knowledge by Muslims meant only the study of Islamic theology." Thanks to these interpreters, "the study of science, medicine, etc. was discouraged. Intellectually the Muslims began to regress."

Well, actually a close reading of Mahathir's comments indicates that he castigates the clerics solely because it is the lack of understanding of science and other disciplines that prohibits Muslim countries from developing their own weapons systems with with they can use to destroy Israel and the West.

I don't actually understand how this speech (which Krugman characterizes as simply throwing rhetorical "red meat" to his base) indicates that things are going badly for U.S. foreign policy. Nor do I understand why Krugman, trained as an economist, feels competent to pontificate on such issues. Keith Burgess-Jackson believes it's simply that Krugman hates President Bush.

The signs of Krugman's hatred are there for all to see. First, he is obsessed. Nearly every column for the past year has been about the Bush administration, and often about the president personally. I assume that Krugman has free rein as far as column topics go (just as I do at TCS), so why he focuses almost exclusively on President Bush requires explanation. Hatred explains it. Second, I have never seen Krugman make a favorable comment, even grudgingly, about President Bush. Someone might say that there is nothing favorable to be said, but that is disingenuous. Nobody is perfectly bad (omnimalevolent) and nobody performs only evil deeds (omnimaleficence). Krugman could prove me wrong by writing an occasional favorable column about the president or his administration. I will not hold my breath waiting for it.

Third, he systematically questions President Bush's motives. If the president says he did X for reason Y, Krugman says it was really for reason Z. Awarding a contract to Halliburton cannot possibly be legitimate; it must be a case of cronyism. Reducing taxes cannot be based on principle (e.g., that people are entitled to the fruits of their labor; that self-sufficiency is intrinsically good); it is calculated to "secure a key part of the Republican party's base," namely, the wealthy. To read Krugman is to see only corruption and deceit on the part of the president and his staff. It's not that the president's good intentions go awry, mind you. That would be a legitimate criticism. The president has bad intentions. Fourth, Krugman gives every indication of wanting the Bush administration's policies to fail, even if this redounds to the detriment of the American people. Krugman's incessantly negative and increasingly shrill and virulent columns about the war in Iraq, for example, come across as positively gleeful. One senses a hope, on his part, that the American reconstruction of Iraq fails.

Huh, I wonder why all these things are happening now?

Perhaps we could ask Paul Krugman.

Tuesday October 21, 2003

Yesterday, I referred to the "backward and antiquated state of most Muslim societies". Today comes a U.N. report written by a group of Arab intellectuals and academics which quantifies this backward state:

An Iraqi-al-Qaida link?

Saddam Hussein ordered the training of al-Qaida members two months before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to an independent Iraqi weekly.

The Fedayeen, under the command of Saddam's late son Uday, directly supervised 100 al-Qaida fighters who were split into two groups, reported Al-Yawm Al-Aakher, citing an Iraqi officer identified by the initial L.

One group went to Al-Nahrawan and the second to Salman Pak, near Baghdad, where they were trained to hijack airplanes, the officer said in an article translated by the Washington, D.C.-based Middle East Media Research Institute.

According to the testimony of Iraqi military defector Sabah Khalifa Khodada Alami, Iraqi intelligence had a Boeing 707 fuselage at Salman Pak used to train groups how to hijack planes without weapons. His claims were consistent with commercial satellite photos showing the fuselage. Saddam's regime insisted to U.N. inspectors Salman Pak was an anti-terror training camp for Iraqi special forces.

Seymour Hersh has a lengthy article in the New Yorker analyzing the prewar intelligence and the (so far) lack of reckoning with some (but not all) of the ground truth. In fact, over half of the article deals with the specific Niger Uranium story. My guess is that, after the Kay report, Mr. Hersh had to do quite a bit of editing. Lots of detail which I'm not privy to, but a few points from the excerpt:

Since midsummer, the Senate Intelligence Committee has been attempting to solve the biggest mystery of the Iraq war: the disparity between the Bush Administration's prewar assessment of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and what has actually been discovered.

The committee is concentrating on the last ten years' worth of reports by the C.I.A. Preliminary findings, one intelligence official told me, are disquieting. "The intelligence community made all kinds of errors and handled things sloppily," he said. The problems range from a lack of quality control to different agencies' reporting contradictory assessments at the same time. One finding, the official went on, was that the intelligence reports about Iraq provided by the United Nations inspection teams and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitored Iraq's nuclear-weapons programs, were far more accurate than the C.I.A. estimates. "Some of the old-timers in the community are appalled by how bad the analysis was," the official said. "If you look at them side by side, C.I.A. versus United Nations, the U.N. agencies come out ahead across the board."

This was the lead to the story and made me skeptical from the start. Is it really that surprising that the C.I.A. estimates differed from the U.N. monitors? Don't you think that the U.N. inspection teams and IAEA monitors would be more accurate than C.I.A. estimates? Of course the U.N. agencies come out ahead across the board. They were there on the ground in Iraq. The C.I.A. did not have that kind of access.

In late February, the C.I.A. persuaded retired Ambassador Joseph Wilson to fly to Niger to discreetly check out the story of the uranium sale. Wilson, who is now a business consultant, had excellent credentials: he had been deputy chief of mission in Baghdad, had served as a diplomat in Africa, and had worked in the White House for the National Security Council. He was known as an independent diplomat who had put himself in harm's way to help American citizens abroad.

Perhaps Ambassador Wilson had excellent credentials as a diplomat, but I'm not aware that he and any credentials as a weapons inspector, nor any particular knowledge of WMD. In fact, Mark Steyn of the Chicago Sun-Times had this to say about him:

That would also include the pro-Saudi Middle East Institute, whose "adjunct scholar" is one Joseph C. Wilson IV. Remember him? He's the fellow at the center of the Bob-Novak-published-the-name-of-my-CIA-wife scandal. The agency sent him to look into the European intelligence stories about Saddam Hussein trying to buy uranium in Africa. He went to Niger, drank mint tea with government flacks, and then wrote a big whiny piece in the New York Times after the White House declined to accept his assurances there was nothing going on. He was never an intelligence specialist, he's no longer a "career diplomat," but he is, like so many other retired ambassadors, on the House of Saud's payroll.

Nor could Ambassador Wilson be deemed "independant" by any rational assessment. He vehemently opposed the war in Iraq and he actively supported both Al Gore and John Kerry.

Ok, back to the New Yorker.

But Wilson's account of his trip forced a rattled White House to acknowledge, for the first time, that "this information should not have risen to the level of a Presidential speech." It also triggered retaliatory leaks to the press by White House officials that exposed Wilson's wife as a C.I.A. operative—and led to an F.B.I. investigation.

Now this states as fact: It also triggered retaliatory leaks to the press by White House officials. Clearly this has been alleged, but I don't think that this charge has thus far been proved. Particularly not proven is the retalitory intent of the alleged leaker.

Monday October 20, 2003

More on the imminent threat directly from Instapundit:

INSTAPUNDIT READER BRUCE BATISTA has obtained a retraction from a columnist who repeated the "imminent threat" canard:

Generous as they are, my editors are not about to put their money where my mouth is, especially since they, and presumably Mr. Batista, have access to the same on-line newspaper database that apparently does not contain any direct reference by the president to an "imminent threat" from Saddam among hundreds of references by others to an unspecified "imminent threat."

To the contrary, in Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech, according to alert reader Pedro J. Diaz, the president went out of his way to say that the threat from Iraq was not imminent. These were Bush's words:

"Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, all recriminations would come too late."

So, Mr. Batista and others who rushed to their keyboards to correct my "journalistic malpractice" or "outright fraud" can claim the high ground.

Indeed they can.

The columnist, Tom Brazaitis of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, then falls back on the "but Bush implied it!" defense. Except that, as he's just admitted, Bush didn't imply it, but expressly disclaimed it.

What the "Bush implied it" claim really amounts to is an astonishing admission that the corps of journalists and pundits who cover national politics, and who pride themselves on their sophistication in doing so, got the story wrong

What's more, they got it wrong in the face of explicit statements from the President, and others.

That's far more humiliating than any retraction. It's an admission of outright professional incompetence. These guys claim to be able to get to the truth when the President is lying. Meanwhile, they can't even get to the truth when he's explicitly telling the truth. How pathetic is that?

Ralph Peters has an excellent column in todays New York Post about the longest struggle. It's about the endless struggle between Islam and the (Judeo-Christian) West. Excerpt,

When Arabs complain of their victimization by the West, inevitably citing the interlude of the Crusades, they neglect to mention that, within a century of the birth of Islam, Muslim armies had swept across North Africa, through Spain, and deep into France. In the process, Christian communities that had shaped the faith were devoured.

To the north, the Arabs relentlessly pushed back the Orthodox Christian empire of the Byzantines. Turkic tribes thrust westward, across the Russian steppes and through the Balkans, establishing Islam's frontiers in today's Hungary and Romania.

The combat hardly paused. And the tide slowly turned. Long weakened by the West's internal rivalries, Byzantium fell in the middle of the 15th century. But by the end of that century, the Moors had been expelled from Spain. After a thousand years of defeats, the West's march to dominance began.

Even so, a Turkish army besieged Vienna as late as 1683 - until defeated by the valor of a Polish king. Russia fought fanatical Islamic warriors throughout the 19th century - as Russia does again today. And the Balkan wars that finally expelled the Turks in the early 20th century were vastly more horrific than those of our own time.

The struggle did not stop. It only moved. With the age of European imperialism, the conquests shifted in the other direction. The Islamic world of the greater Middle East, proud of its tradition of conquest, found its methods and values could not compete with modern, mechanized, liberal societies. The Mahdi's horsemen fell to Maxim guns.

Clearly the Islamic world understands this. It is because of their adherence to seventh century practices that it was defeated. That is why their countries and societies perform so poorly today. This is essentially what the Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said last week (among other things) at the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). I've read the full transcript of his speech which has been branded as anti-semitic. It's more than simply anti-semitic. It outlines what all the Islamic countries must do in order to finally defeat the West. Excerpts,

To begin with, the governments of all the Muslim countries can close ranks and have a common stand if not on all issues, at least on some major ones, such as on Palestine. We are all Muslims. We are all oppressed. We are all being humiliated. But we who have been raised by Allah above our fellow Muslims to rule our countries have never really tried to act in concert in order to exhibit at our level the brotherhood and unity that Islam enjoins upon us.

... But halfway through the building of the great Islamic civilisation came new interpreters of Islam who taught that acquisition of knowledge by Muslims meant only the study of Islamic theology. The study of science, medicine etc. was discouraged.

...Intellectually the Muslims began to regress. With intellectual regression the great Muslim civilisation began to falter and wither. But for the emergence of the Ottoman warriors, Muslim civilisation would have disappeared with the fall of Granada in 1492.

...The early successes of the Ottomans were not accompanied by an intellectual renaissance. Instead they became more and more preoccupied with minor issues such as whether tight trousers and peak caps were Islamic, whether printing machines should be allowed or electricity used to light mosques. The Industrial Revolution was totally missed by the Muslims. And the regression continued until the British and French instigated rebellion against Turkish rule brought about the downfall of the Ottomans, the last Muslim world power and replaced it with European colonies and not independent states as promised. It was only after World War II that these colonies became independent.

...We are enjoined by our religion to prepare for the defence of the ummah. Unfortunately we stress not defence but the weapons of the time of the Prophet. Those weapons and horses cannot help to defend us any more. We need guns and rockets, bombs and warplanes, tanks and warships for our defence. But because we discouraged the learning of science and mathematics etc as giving no merit for the akhirat, today we have no capacity to produce our own weapons for our defence. We have to buy our weapons from our detractors and enemies. This is what comes from the superficial interpretation of the Quran, stressing not the substance of the Prophet's sunnah and the Quran's injunctions but rather the form, the manner and the means used in the 1st Century of the Hijrah. And it is the same with the other teachings of Islam. We are more concerned with the forms rather than the substance of the words of Allah and adhering only to the literal interpretation of the traditions of the Prophet.

... Our only reaction is to become more and more angry. Angry people cannot think properly. And so we find some of our people reacting irrationally. They launch their own attacks, killing just about anybody including fellow Muslims to vent their anger and frustration. Their governments can do nothing to stop them. The enemy retaliates and puts more pressure on the governments. And the governments have no choice but to give in, to accept the directions of the enemy, literally to give up their independence of action.

... It cannot be that there is no other way. 1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews. There must be a way. And we can only find a way if we stop to think, to assess our weaknesses and our strength, to plan, to strategise and then to counter-attack. As Muslims we must seek guidance from the Al-Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet. Surely the 23 years' struggle of the Prophet can provide us with some guidance as to what we can and should do.

... We know he and his early followers were oppressed by the Qhuraish. Did he launch retaliatory strikes? No. He was prepared to make strategic retreats. He sent his early followers to a Christian country and he himself later migrated to Madinah. There he gathered followers, built up his defence capability and ensured the security of his people. At Hudaibiyah he was prepared to accept an unfair treaty, against the wishes of his companions and followers. During the peace that followed he consolidated his strength and eventually he was able to enter Mecca and claim it for Islam. Even then he did not seek revenge. And the peoples of Mecca accepted Islam and many became his most powerful supporters, defending the Muslims against all their enemies.

... We must build up our strength in every field, not just in armed might. Our countries must be stable and well administered, must be economically and financially strong, industrially competent and technologically advanced. This will take time, but it can be done and it will be time well spent. We are enjoined by our religion to be patient. Innallahamaasabirin. Obviously there is virtue in being patient.

... But the defence of the ummah, the counter-attack, need not start only after we have put our houses in order. Even today we have sufficient assets to deploy against our detractors. It remains for us to identify them and to work out how to make use of them to stop the carnage caused by the enemy. This is entirely possible if we stop to think, to plan, to strategise and to take the first few critical steps. Even these few steps can yield positive results.

As I said, it's far more than just anti-semitism. It's an acknowledgement of the backward and antiquated state of most Muslim countries. It's a call for all Muslim countries to act in concert in an effort to modernize so that they can build powerful armies and weapons systems so that they can once and for all defeat the West.

The Guardian has discovered the true problem of militant Islam. Turns out it's just the deeply ingrained fear of Arabs that permeate Western cultures:

Arabophobia has been part of western culture since the Crusades, with Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden only the latest in a long line of Arab bogeymen. For centuries the Arab has played the role of villain, seducer of our women, hustler and thief - the barbarian lurking at the gates of civilisation.

Khobar Towers, USS Cole, Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Twin Towers ('93 and '01). Simply a result of our irrational fear?

This from The Palestine Chronicle regarding the deaths of three Americans in the Gaza Strip last week"

Yet the objectives of the right wing government of Israel entail more. There remains Gaza, although sliced up, riddled with settlements, military compounds and checkpoints, and degraded with untold poverty, still provides a somewhat safe haven for resistance factions that managed to adapt to the harshness of the bloody 'incursions' of Israel. Without forcing Gaza into submission, Israel remains partly ineffectual in obliging its detested peace 'vision' on the Palestinians. A large-scale invasion of Gaza however is apt to produce thousands of casualties, if not trigger a large-scale humanitarian catastrophe. To invade Gaza, Israel is in need of even a greater American commitment, a mandate, boundless enough that would provide a political shield for Sharon and his henchmen to overlay any damaging international outcry.

Because of this, and because of the Israeli attempt to instigate direct US involvement on the ground, the Israeli intelligence very much could have been the perpetrators of the killing of the three Americans in Gaza. While the style of Palestinian bombings are all but a mystery, death by remote control is the Israeli intelligence's most ideal assassination method, used with profusion and precision during the current al-Aqsa Intifada.

Palestinian factions rarely if never, deny responsibility for their bombings, no matter how tactless they may appear. On several occasions, more than one faction claimed credit for the same attack, purportedly to perplex the Israeli army and defuse its responses. The utter denial of any connection with the attack on the US diplomats in Gaza – which was made by all major Palestinian resistance groups with unambiguous wording – is a noteworthy indicator that the Palestinian resistance might in fact be innocent of masterminding the deadly blast. The patent, albeit perpetual Israeli plot to get Palestinians in direct military strife with the United States – one can hardly forget how Israeli intelligence 'leaked' information alleging that the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) was the group behind the September 11 attacks - is all too clear, even to the most radical elements in the Palestinian resistance. Palestinians groups have proved cunning enough not to lend Israel a helping hand.

The real culprits may never be caught, even if a few Palestinian youngsters with bruised faces 'confess' to carrying out the attack. Alas, it matters little who the real architect of the sophisticated bombing was. Israel and the US government's verdicts are already out, and the PA, to distance itself from any blame, is 'hunting' for 'terrorists' among the refugees in Gaza, who, according to Arafat, 'not only committed a criminal act,' but have also 'betrayed the cause of their own people.'

In times like these, evidence, motives, truth and due process are purely ornamental vocabulary, and sadly, the least relevant of all.

I've written enough about the Kay Report, but check out what Saxby Chambliss has to say.

Here's the New York Post on last Thursday's largely unheralded American diplomatic triumph:

And the vote's unanimity sends a powerful symbolic message: No one can credibly maintain the claim that America is "diplomatically isolated" on Iraq.

It also means that Germany and France, would-be saboteurs of U.S. policy in Iraq, have accepted two things:

Nor should anyone miss the significance of Syria's "yes" vote: With Turkish, Israeli and U.S. forces on her borders - and with the United States giving its blessing to the recent Israeli air raid on a terrorist training camp near Damascus - Syria has come to realize which way the wind is blowing.

Meanwhile, weasel-enabler Kofi Annan, the U.N. secretary general, had this to say: The resolution is "a clear demonstration of the will of . . . the Security Council to place the interests of the Iraqi people above all other considerations."

Finally, the Security Council is considering the interests of the Iraqi people.

Joseph M. Hochstein puts the rigors of living in Israel in perspective:

Fear and hope are highly subjective and personal, of course. An objective reality that U.S. journalists generally ignore is that Israel's terrorism death toll -- measured in fatalities per 100,000 residents -- is much lower than the homicide rate in the District of Columbia and dozens of other U.S. cities. But that's another story.

Kanan Makiya sees the complete debasement of much of the Iraqi infrastructure since his departure 10 plus years ago and Fred Hiatt links the the facts on the ground to future possible engagements with the thugocracies of Iran and North Korea:

But the Iraqi-born academic, who has returned to live in the Baghdad house expropriated from his father, now says he miscalculated how much Iraq had changed in the decade-plus since he wrote his book. "I admit I did not understand the full extent of the rot," he says. "A totalitarian state had metamorphosed into a full-fledged criminal state."

Makiya's observation bears on the challenge the United States now faces in Iraq and on the debate over prewar intelligence failures. But it has significance beyond Iraq, too, as we think about repressive governments in North Korea, Burma, Belarus, Cuba and elsewhere. What does it mean for a totalitarian state to become a mafia enterprise? What provokes such an evolution? And what implication does it have for the chances of recovery?

Bush administration officials have acknowledged their surprise at the utter and instant collapse of Iraq's state structures as U.S. troops entered Baghdad. It wasn't only the Republican Guard that melted away, but the police force and entire civilian bureaucracies as well.