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March 28, 2003
March 27, 2003
Yeah, that's what we need
Steve Forbes has a suggestion:
How about Newt Gingrich as our high-commissioner-equivalent in Iraq? He is politically skillful. He knows history as well as anyone. He has the absorbent mind to learn quickly what he'd need to know about the area, both before and after he arrived on the scene. And experience has taught him how to be politically nimble, a necessity in dealing with the treacherous political and social currents over there.
Would this be the same Newt Gingrich who had to resign in disgrace because he so badly bungled his brief shot at Congressional leadership?
The prince of darkness resigns
Cites conflicts of interest. He's still on the board though, just giving up the chair.
The war at home
From the Village Voice:
Briefly, the dots connect like this:
I thought we were going to be done in 48 hours
Despite the rapid advance of Army and Marine forces across Iraq over the past week, some senior U.S. military officers are now convinced that the war is likely to last months and will require considerably more combat power than is now on hand there and in Kuwait, senior defense officials said yesterday.
The truth revealed
More news from the coalition of the willing
Sure, sometimes most members of the "coalition" seem to support us in the well-intentioned but utterly useless way that you might "support" a charity to which you never actually donate any money.
But not Morocco. They've offered 2,000 monkeys trained to detonate land mines.
Truly does the world rally around us.
March 26, 2003
Shuck and jive
Good Carol Lay cartoon here.
The new face of journalism: sitting on your butt and taking credit for the work of others
I've ranted about this recently, and now the incomparable Neal Pollack chimes in:
This war is complicated, and I fear that traditional media aren't up to the task of explaining its complex complexities. The embedded reporters are plagued by combat inexperience, night blindness, or, in the case of the turncoat Brits, anti-American Fifth Column traitor tendencies. Not so us bloggers. We see through the muck that fills our TV and computer screens as we monitor them obsessively, not "pathetically," as our detractors in the old media say, 24 hours a day. We see what no one else can, because no one else is looking in the same places that we are. Our minds are very sharp pencils, and we're poking the world in the collective eye.
Neal's also got a couple of (non-satirical) guest entries from his military correspondents, so go spend some time there.
* * *
Not too much more from me today, probably--deadlines loom. And as any true patriot understands, the only thing more important to the war effort than blogging is, of course, cartooning.
Signs of the times, part two
I've seen some bluster on the right lately, to the effect of, "If those protestors get in my way, I'm going to run them down!"
Of course, if you do that, you will end up where you belong: jail.
A truck driver from South Fairmount was arrested Monday after he drove toward a group of anti-war protesters with his tractor-trailer rig in the West End.
Signs of the times, Wed. edition
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- On eBay, the highest bid wins -- unless the item on sale is a laser printer from CompAtlanta and the bidder happens to be Canadian.
Fortress America, here we come.
Our new bomb?
Blogger and journalist Steve Perry is on the Case of the Missing E-Bomb.
Oh the irony
I talked recently about the split between the fantasies of the Wall Street Journal's editorial page and their frequently admirable news coverage. Case in point, brought to my attention by reader Jeremy Dorin: yesterday's edition, on the editorial pages of which one can find a piece by Christina Hoff Summers which declares, "Suppose we got rid of the hyperbole [by feminists], half-truths, and untruths. Surely, some would argue, it would still turn out that women in our society are worse off than men? There is simply no evidence for that."
Meanwhile, on the front page, a news item announces, ""Women Remain well behind men in reaching the highest salary bracket, and are far more likely to live in poverty, the Census Bureau said."
March 25, 2003
Time to rename Canadian bacon
From the Globe & Mail:
Toronto — Washington delivered a stern message to Canada on Tuesday, saying Americans feel disappointed and betrayed by the Canadian decision to stay out of the war in Iraq.
March 24, 2003
This doesn't sound like a promising development.
CAIRO, Egypt - The United States and Britain should withdraw their troops from Iraq (news - web sites) immediately and without conditions, and the U.N. Security Council should hold an emergency meeting on the issue, the Arab League said Monday.
Readers may remember my uncertainty as to whether the Give it Back site (which advocates the return of the Statue of Liberty to the French) was serious or satire, given that it didn't really seem to succeed in either category.
Well, reader Mike Beers has figured it out: it's neither. It was a damn marketing ploy. The domain is now up for bid on eBay (current high bid: $14.50).
In the past week there has been more than 100,000 visitors!!!
So there you have it.
What do Iraqis think of the war?
Slate has a correspondent there. It sounds like emotions are running high and feelings are mixed, but we clearly haven't reached the promised "welcoming the liberators with open arms" stage quite yet.
The mood on the streets remains somber and sullen. Stores are mostly closed, and those that are open have run out of duct tape, gasoline, and aluminum foil (which is wrapped around computers to shield them from e-bombs). People seem sad, resigned, sometimes resistant, mostly fearful. There is universal opposition to the war: George W. Bush's name is spit with venom. Yesterday, a soldier saw me on the street and shouted, "George Bush, I fucked your mother. We will win this war because you are here. You are a human shield. We are all human shields and the world is with us." Still, Iraq's celebrated hospitality remains, even in wartime. I have been greeted with kisses and hugs as often as I have with people pointing fingers at me and yelling pow-pow.
And then there's this:
By deciding to pursue their enemy into the city center, the Americans appeared to have enraged many of the Iraqi civilians who live there, including those who said they were predisposed to support the American effort.
Afterthought: we took a lot of lessons from 9/11, but it occurs to me that there's one we might have overlooked--when you attack a nation, people tend to rally around their leader, even if they hate him.
Hope you remembered to send a card
Reader Walt Baxter wishes us a belated happy Afghanistan Day.
With everything going on in Iraq, I plum forgot about March 21. That was the 21st anniversary of Afghanistan Day. A transcript of the proclamation can be seen here.
If by "war correspondent" you mean "someone who watches a lot of television"
One of these days, someone who really understands the blogs is going to write the definitive story. But it hasn't happened yet.
According to Howard Kurtz, the hot new trend this war is Weblogging from the Front Lines. Or something like that.
This is backed up by the obligatory Instapundit quote:
"The most interesting thing about the blog coverage is how far ahead it is of the mainstream media," says University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds, whose InstaPundit.com site has seen a surge in traffic as the Iraq crisis has heated up, doubling to 200,000 hits a day. "The first-hand stuff is great. It's unfiltered and unspun. That doesn't mean it's unbiased. But people feel like they know where the bias is coming from. You don't have to spend a lot of time trying to find a hidden agenda."
Okay, reality check: ninety-nine percent of bloggers--myself emphatically included--are doing nothing more than sitting on their ample bottoms in front of computer screens surfing various news sources and posting links. Woo-hooo! It's a damn revolution, from the comfort of our easy chairs.
Yes, there are a few "front line" bloggers who may or may not be providing reliable information (several of them are anonymous, and as the cartoon says, on the internet no one knows you're a dog), and there's Kevin Sites, who's been "asked to suspend" his warblogging. And I'm sure there are a couple of others I don't know about.
And then there's the rest of us, sitting on our asses and posting links and spouting off. "Ahead of the mainstream media"? Come on, Howie, apply a little critical reasoning. Depending on your perspective, blogging may provide a much needed analysis and overview, or it may just be a bunch of pathetic know-it-alls who desperately crave attention and approval--but the overwhelming majority of bloggers are decidedly not reporters. For the most part, bloggers are amateur commentators. So you "know where the bias is coming from." Well, what a leap forward! What a change of pace from all those inexplicable columns by professional commentators like William Safire and Molly Ivins and Robert Novak and whoever else, all those mainstream media types with their impenetrable bias and unfathomable hidden agendas.
Yessirree, this internet thing that the kids are all excited about--I think it may be more than a fad.
Look, the relationship of bloggers to the mainstream media is roughly that of wood tick to deer, a parasite which draws sustenance from an unwilling host. Blogging is many wonderful things--a new form of independent publishing, giving voice to the voiceless, presenting a wide range of opinion and creating new communities and on and on--but this blogging vs. traditional media dynamic is just silly. Blogging vs. traditional punditry is really more like it, I think.
Afterthought: I stopped doing interviews about the blog when I realized I was being asked to talk about blogging more than I was being asked to talk about cartooning. There's so much nonsense being written, I think it's time for me to reconsider that policy.
Signs of the times
I really can't keep up. Somebody like the ACLU (hint hint) needs to start up an online database of this stuff.
In Oregon, the legislature wants to label protestors terrorists.
SALEM -- The harshest critics of the war protests in downtown Portland angrily called the demonstrators "terrorists" and wished aloud that the police and courts would treat them as such.
Look, if anybody "intentionally causes injury," they deserve to be arrested and dealt with in a manner appropriate to the crime. But life imprisonment? Have these morons completely lost their minds?
(I know that some people argue that protests aid terrorists by siphoning off valuable police resources and so on--but by that reasoning, so do St. Patrick's Day parades, the Oscars, and NCAA tournaments. The police exist, at least theoretically, to serve society--not the other way around. We need to try to remember that. Assuming that "we" are making such arguments in good faith, out of concern for society and not as an excuse to crack down on those with whom "we" disagree. Which of course "we" are not.)
They always bury the lede
Last paragraph in this New York Times article:
Other tents branching off the main room house the intelligence section, or G-2 (where CNN is on constantly); the air support unit, which coordinates with F-18 fighters, Harrier jump jets and helicopters of the Third Marine Aircraft Wing; the logistics section; and a liaison section, which coordinates among others with the engineers, chemical and biological experts and the British troops who today took over the positions the marines had established further south in the oil fields.
They're watching CNN. Not even the Marines trust Fox News.
It makes me think of the split between editorial and news in the Wall Street Journal, a paper which has some of the best reporting in all of journalism, alongside some of the most ludicrous editorials--because the businessmen to whom that paper is targeted may enjoy the editorial page's flights of fancy, but when it comes to making investment decisions, they need actual information, not ideological posturing.
(Not that I mean to praise CNN here, but at least they are, more or less, a news network, unlike Fox, which is a propaganda outlet posing as a news network.)
Signs of the times
I can't keep up.
"We hear you've been asking curious questions," U.S. Park Police officer Michael Ramirez said as he and fellow officer Karl Spilde approached me from behind a blossomless cherry tree. "Why are you doing that?"
The skepticism of the liberated
John Donovan of ABCNews.com reports:
Traveling unescorted into Safwan today, I got a far different picture. Rather than affection and appreciation, I saw a lot of hostility toward the coalition forces, the United States and President Bush.
Well, that's a relief
The good folks at French's mustard want us to know that "the only thing French about French's mustard is its name."
Big ups to Michael Moore
I can't watch award ceremonies--somehow my brain rebels, refuses to focus awareness, and I end up sitting in a vague, half-aware stupor, as if I am drifting out of phase, like the old Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk spends most of the episode floating transparently around the Enterprise in his shiny silver space suit until Mr. Spock figures out how to rescue him from his interdimensional purgatory.
Which is all to say, I didn't see the Oscars last night. But congratulations to Michael, for the award, and for the acceptance speech:
Whoa. On behalf of our producers Kathleen Glynn and Michael Donovan from Canada, I'd like to thank the Academy for this. I have invited my fellow documentary nominees on the stage with us, and we would like to — they're here in solidarity with me because we like nonfiction. We like nonfiction and we live in fictitious times. We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. Whether it's the fictition of duct tape or fictition of orange alerts we are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you. And any time you got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up. Thank you very much.
As real as it gets
MS. MITCHELL: And I think, as well, that frankly we in the media did not cover the anti-war movement as it was moving along on the Internet. We weren’t focused on that. And now, brilliantly, the Pentagon has accomplished the fact with embedding that we’re watching the war unfold in slices, if you will, maybe not getting the big picture, but trying to.
And why is that, exactly, Mr. Russert?
Why is it "very difficult to have any tolerance" for the people who never wanted to send American soldiers into this battle to begin with?
In the exceedingly unlikely event that the anti-war movement had won the day, those servicemen would still be alive this morning.
It all unfolds with ritualized familiarity. The people who clamor for war downplay or ignore the obvious consequence of war--that human beings on both sides are going to lose their lives. Until the dying starts, and then their anger is focused on those who opposed the war from the start.
This is why it's important for those who would take us into war to treat us like grownups, to explain why this terrible last resort is unavoidable: so that the American people can make an informed decision about the costs of the war and the rationality of those who would lead us there. Of course, this is exactly why those leaders can't admit their underlying motivations, the real reasons, the ones they've been discussing in policy papers and op-ed pieces for half a dozen years. Like this bit from the Project for a New American Century report released in 2000:
Indeed, the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.
"The need for a substantial American force presence." Not quite stirring enough to convince Americans to sacrifice their sons and daughters, is it? So instead we have weapons of mass destruction which may or may not exist, but which by the accounts of our own intelligence analysts posed little threat to us, at least until this war began. We have the liberation of the Kurds, except, oops, not really, as the Turks begin to roll into Northern Iraq. We have the liberation of the rest of the Iraqi population from the brutality of Saddam Hussein--an argument with genuine moral weight, but even at that, the question remains: will the price be worth it? And: why these oppressed people, but not others? Unless we plan to roll across the globe, liberating oppressed peoples everywhere, a virtual juggernaut of freedom and democracy and joy. But I'm guessing that's not in Richard Perle's playbook.
And if we'd had an honest discussion about motives and costs, we might also have spent some time looking at the lessons of history. How well has American impulse to impose our vision of How Things Ought To Be on other countries worked out in the past? Particularly in the region in question? The argument could plausibly be made that our current problems with fundamentalist terrorism can be traced back more or less directly to our support for the Shah of Iran. What rough beasts wait to be born this time around?
These questions were never asked, not in any meaningful way, and now it's too late. Now we have no choice but to sit and wait, and hope fervently that things actually do go as well as the proponents of this war have predicted, that the Iraqi people will soon lay down their arms and welcome us as liberators. And most of all, that human lives are not too great an abstraction to the men, and occasionally women, who sit in comfortable well-appointed rooms and dream of remaking the world in their own image.
March 23, 2003
And then there's this...
A Japanese toy maker claims to have developed a gadget that translates dog barks into human language and plans to begin selling the product -- under the name Bowlingual -- in U.S. pet stores, gift shops and retail outlets this summer.
I can only assume that the editors at Time magazine do not have much experience with dogs. Dogs are probably the most nakedly expressive creatures on the planet; a $120 device which translates their emotional state is pretty much the dictionary definition of "redundancy."
More suggested reading
WASHINGTON, March 22 — The recent disclosure that reports claiming Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger were based partly on forged documents has renewed complaints among analysts at the C.I.A. about the way intelligence related to Iraq has been handled, several intelligence officials said.
And this, which I actually should have linked to last week:
But how to explain that the vast majority of the world, with little to gain from it, is in the Franco-Russian camp? The administration claims that many countries support the United States but do so quietly. That signals an even deeper problem. Countries are furtive in their support for the administration not because they fear Saddam Hussein but because they fear their own people. To support America today in much of the world is politically dangerous. Over the past year the United States became a campaign issue in elections in Germany, South Korea and Pakistan. Being anti-American was a vote-getter in all three places.
Very Very Happy has a number of posts worth reading, including thoughts on the peace movement's real "worst nightmare":
As I watched a ten second clip on MSNBC of the middle aged father of one of the marines who was killed today holding up a photograph, choking back tears and asking the President to take a good look at the picture "of my only son," all the furious words in my head stopped, as did the accusations against people who mock those who did not want war.
Here's the story.
Things that make you go "hmmm"...
WASHINGTON, March 19 (UPI) -- The top National Security Council official in the war on terror resigned this week for what a NSC spokesman said were personal reasons, but intelligence sources say the move reflects concern that the looming war with Iraq is hurting the fight against terrorism.
The real winners
War began last week. Reconstruction starts this week.
Yesterday in New York City
My friends and I stood along the sidelines for about forty minutes, watching a seemingly endless crowd of protesters march down Sixth Ave. We joined the march at about 30th street, walked down to Union Square, ducked out for a longish lunch, and came back out expecting to catch the tail end of the march--but it was still going on, still with no end in sight.
There were a whole lot of people out there yesterday. This being New York, there must have been someone up on a rooftop somewhere who took some photographs which show the extent of the crowd, so please send links if you have them--I'm not seeing any on the news sites. I guess it just didn't occur to them to try to get an aerial shot.
Here's an article from the Times, and here's one from the AP (headlined, oddly, "Tens of Thousands in US Protest War"--when by the article's own admission, there were at least a hundred thousand in New York City alone).
The shape of things to come
From a must-read article in the American Prospect:
For months Americans have been told that the United States is going to war against Iraq in order to disarm Saddam Hussein, remove him from power, eliminate Iraq's alleged stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, and prevent Baghdad from blackmailing its neighbors or aiding terrorist groups. But the Bush administration's hawks, especially the neoconservatives who provide the driving force for war, see the conflict with Iraq as much more than that. It is a signal event, designed to create cataclysmic shock waves throughout the region and around the world, ushering in a new era of American imperial power. It is also likely to bring the United States into conflict with several states in the Middle East. Those who think that U.S. armed forces can complete a tidy war in Iraq, without the battle spreading beyond Iraq's borders, are likely to be mistaken.
And see, the thing is, they think that's a good thing. Go read the whole thing, especially if you're under the impression that the liberation of the Iraqi people is anything but an afterthought. And start watching for the increasing demonization of Iran, like this bit (via Maureen Dowd):
(Leeden) called Iraq "just one battle in a broader war. Iran is . . . the mother of modern terrorism."
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