Friday, March 30, 2007

'Surge' in attacks on Green Zone

If indeed the surge is making Iraqis safer, it doesn't seem to be having the same benefit for the international Green Zone...

Strikes on Baghdad's Green Zone on the Rise

On 6 of Past 7 Days, Rockets or Shells Have Hit Sector That Includes U.S. Embassy

By Karin Brulliard and Robin Wright
Washington Post
Thursday, March 29, 2007; A15

BAGHDAD, March 29 -- Iraqi insurgents are increasingly hitting Baghdad's fortresslike Green Zone with rockets and mortar shells, officials said Wednesday.

Insurgents have struck inside the Green Zone, which includes the U.S. Embassy, on six of the past seven days, once with deadly consequences. A U.S. soldier and a U.S. government contractor were killed Tuesday night by a rocket attack that also seriously wounded a civilian, military and embassy officials said. One soldier and at least three other civilians received minor injuries, U.S. Embassy spokesman Lou Fintor said.

The attack stunned a workforce normally blase about Baghdad's habitual wartime booms and blasts.

A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said, "There are increasing attacks on the embassy."

"These are people who are trying to kill Americans," the official added. "They have someone who is a straight shooter."

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy did not answer calls or return e-mails seeking comment early Thursday.

The Tuesday attack was the gravest in a series that have hit the walled zone of about four square miles in recent days, U.S. officials said. Three rockets crashed down Wednesday, Fintor said. Two attacks, coming two hours apart, hit Monday. The zone was also hit Saturday and Sunday, officials said. At least 10 people were wounded in those attacks.

A week ago, a rocket attack landed about 100 yards from the Green Zone residence of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, jolting the room where he was holding a news conference with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. Ten rocket and mortar attacks have struck inside the heavily protected sector this month, according to the U.S. military. Most have hit in the past week.

Military and embassy officials would not say where the weapons landed, citing security reasons.

"It's clear that there have been increasing targeting attacks against the international zone," Rear Adm. Mark I. Fox, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said at a news conference. The increased use of mortars and rockets is a "change in tactics," he said, and part of an overall strategy to disrupt the government and incite sectarian violence.

The Green Zone is regularly targeted with airborne weapons. Insurgents can launch rockets and mortars from miles away, using Global Positioning System coordinates to guide the missiles toward their marks. But the attacks have not often caused serious injuries.

Wednesday morning, embassy personnel received a bulletin citing the "recent increase of indirect fire attacks on the embassy compound." It included strict instructions: Body armor and helmets would now be required for all "outdoor activities" within the sprawling embassy complex, even short walks to the cafeteria. There would be no group gatherings outside, including at the famed Palace Pool. No "nonessential" visitors would be allowed in the compound.

A U.S. official in Baghdad characterized embassy personnel as "anxious and alert."

Fadhil Shuweili, an adviser to Iraq's minister of state for national security, said most rockets and mortars targeting the Green Zone are believed to come from Sunni areas on the outskirts of Baghdad.

In an e-mail, Lt. Col. Christopher C. Garver, a U.S. military spokesman, said the military forces are "aware of the current threat and are taking both active and passive measures to reduce the risk to our personnel." He did not describe the measures.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

We'll all turn Japanese, I really think so

Japan's energy wisdom
Renée Loth
March 26, 2007 | Boston Globe

An island nation with no domestic oil supply, Japan offers a glimpse into the world's energy future, when oil reserves decline to unsustainable levels and alternatives are the only alternative.

Nearly 10 years after the Kyoto global- warming summit meeting, the country still claims a leadership role in reducing carbon emissions. According to the International Energy Agency, Japan's energy consumption as a percentage of gross domestic product is the lowest in the world.

The national expression of concern for the earth dovetails nicely with the traditional Japanese reverence for nature (Shintoism sees gods in every mountain, rock, and tree), but in fact Japan has no choice: The country imports almost all its oil and 60 percent of its food. It is self-sufficient only in rice.

However, Japan has managed to drive down energy use dramatically without sacrificing the comforts of an affluent society. The per capita consumption of energy in Japan is nearly half that in the United States, but the per capita incomes are roughly the same. So prosperity alone doesn't explain why the United States burns so much more oil.

Japan's economy is still the second largest in the world. Its office towers and shopping malls teem with innovation and commerce. Its prowess in innovation and design keeps the Japanese well-stocked in consumer gadgets: cellphones with GPS maps, high-tech toys, the peculiarly appealing new electric toilet.

How do they do it? Partly, the Japanese have invented their way out of energy abuse. Hybrid cars from Toyota and Honda are just the most obvious examples. Four of the world's five largest producers of solar panels are Japanese, with Sanyo commanding 24 percent of the market. The government's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) is busy testing thin, flexible solar panels that, among many other uses, can be carried along to recharge a cellphone on the go.

"This is a problem of moral dimensions," said Japan's minister of environment, Masatoshi Wakabayashi. With a green feather in his lapel and a copy of Al Gore's book on his desk, Wakabayashi is a bureaucrat with a cause. "I think we are receiving the message that our mother earth is in crisis," he said. "We have a common consciousness of this fact."

Indeed, Japan's famous insularity and conformity, burdens in other settings, work to its advantage here. On a recent tour sponsored by the Japan Foreign Press Center, I saw a society that has fully internalized the wisdom of restricting energy imports. Businessmen diligently separate their lunch box trash for recycling. Residential recycling is even more intense, with at least 10 sorting categories, including small metal items, bulky refuse, used cloth and chopsticks. Neighbors frown if the wrong items are in the bins.

Houses, cars, and appliances here are all much smaller than in the United States, but better designed. Even delivery trucks are hardly bigger than the average suburban Hummer. There is a growing movement called "watashi no hashi" ("my chopsticks") that urges people to carry their own into restaurants so as to cut down on the waste of the disposable kind.

The transportation sector is responsible for 20 percent of Japan's C0² emissions (which overall are the fifth largest in the world). But gasoline is taxed so that a gallon costs roughly $4.50, and the fast, clean, and relatively inexpensive subways (the basic fare is about $1.50) arrive with military precision.

Long-distance travel by the Shinkansen bullet train, though expensive, is almost space age in its efficiency, and easily competes with air travel, especially for business. At the stations, transit workers greet each train like sentries, holding huge bags for the (sorted!) trash.

Government campaigns to urge energy conservation are myriad. There are tax deductions for consumers who buy "green tech" appliances and cars; a "top runner" designation for environmentally friendly companies; a "warm biz" and "cool biz" campaign that sanctioned the removal of suit jackets by Japan's decorous businessmen in order to keep air-conditioned offices no cooler than 68 degrees; and a "minus 6 percent team" for citizens to join to help Japan meet its Kyoto goal of a 6 percent annual reduction in greenhouse gases, on the way toward 20 percent below 1990 levels.

Wakabayashi says that 1.8 million Japanese citizens have pledged to take six steps to achieve the goal, such as turning off the lights.

It doesn't hurt that Japan is in a race for pride of place with the European Union. Earlier this month, the EU committed itself to reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020, with the added challenge that it would achieve 30 percent if the United States agreed to join. But Takayuki Uedo, manager of the New and Renewable Energy Division of Japan's natural resources agency, is scornful of the EU's effort. "We are 20 years ahead of the EU countries," he said, pointing to a program to help homeowners purchase domestic hydrogen fuel cells.

Can the common consciousness of energy conservation in Japan - a country where commuters form a silent queue on subway platforms and no one jaywalks - ever be translated to the United States? Let's hope so. Sooner or later, we are all Japan.

GOP's "brilliant plan" to vote for, then veto, Iraq timetable

Rush Limbaugh thinks the Republicans' "plan" for the Senate to narrowly pass the bill calling for a withdrawal timetable, only to have Bush veto it, was "brilliant." I sense spin doctoring here by him and the White House (see below).

There may indeed have been a planned agreement among Bush and certain Republican Congressmen, who felt they couldn't afford to vote against this bill. But its purpose was not to "get to the business of presenting the president a clean [Iraq war] bill." Its purpose would have been to provide political cover for certain Congressmen in their home districts, while allowing Bush not to capitulate to the Democrats and public opinion, (which Bush loathes).

But how many more times can this "plan" work, if the Democrats stick to their guns and keep sending bills on withdrawal up for a vote? Think about 2008. Democrats can run for Congress, boasting truthfully that they listen to public opinion, which is 70% in favor of withdrawal. They can scapegoat Bush as a partisan roadblock. And the Democratic presidential nominee can force the GOP nominee to say he agrees with Bush (who is terribly unpopular), or with the Democrats and public opinion. It's a win-win proposition for Democrats.

Every time Bush vetoes one of these bills, the Republicans lose precious swing votes in 2008.
Stay tuned!....

March 28, 2007
Mitch McConnell's Brilliant Senate Move


PERINO (White House Spokesman): I read a report this morning that indicated that somehow the Senate Republicans were defying the president. Actually, that's not the case. In fact, last week when the president met with the Senate Republican leadership. They talked about needing to go ahead and get this vote over with and get the bill to the president's desk so he could veto it so that they could go on and get to the business of presenting the president a clean bill.

HELEN THOMAS (WH press corps): It was planned?

PERINO: If you look through the president's remarks on Friday, he indicated that.

RUSH: Helen Thomas thinks it's a conspiracy now! It's a conspiracy, folks, because Bush met with the Senate Republicans and they planned something. They did it in secret, and now the White House press secretary has made it known. "It was a plan? Really? Well, who could we subpoena on that? Who could we bring up and make 'em take the fifth on that?" So I offer this sound bite here, just a little reassurance for you people out there worried that the president would not veto it. I think he clearly wants to. I think he'd like to veto it today, to tell you the truth.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hitchens' 'phased withdrawal' from stupidity underway

In-the-wise readers of Hitchens' columns will recognize in this installment the beginnings of a "phased withdrawal" from his previously unwavering position, which could only be characterized as "Invasion – Yeah!" and "Occupation – Indefinitely!" This is significant, because Hitchens has been the most formidable apologist for America's invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Briefly, I think the idea of Democratic Sen. Peter Galbraith, which Hitchens mentions, is interesting, and might be an improvement over the status quo; but Hitchens doesn't consider any possible downsides. (It is also, strictly speaking, "strategic redeployment," which only one year ago was called "cut and run" by war supporters.) One major downside: Putting all our military eggs in the northern Kurdish basket would make us pretty beholden to them, and would surely encourage Kurds' ambitions for their own state, encompassing parts of Turkey. This in turn would seriously anger our staunchest secular Muslim ally in the region. Talk about loyal gratitude!

Also, I would like to know exactly what would constitute an "al-Qaeda challenge" in Iraq, assuming American forces withdrew. This is the bogeyman we keep being threatened with by Bush, Cheney, et al if we withdraw, but they never explain what they mean by it.

Does Hitchens honestly think that al Qaeda would have any success raising an army and challenging anybody? They're acting at the fringes of the Iraq conflict now. That the Shi'ites (with or without Iran's help) wouldn't stamp them out if al Qaeda dared to form a regular army is beyond belief. Or would an "al-Qaeda challenge" be dozens or even hundreds of terrorists hiding around Iraq, plotting attacks? Well, that's the status quo, and none of our efforts have succeeded in stamping out the terrorists. We're too few, too clumsy, too disliked by the locals, and always a day late and a dollar short.

Finally, regarding Hitchen's warning to Democrats about "abandoning" the Kurdish provinces if America withdraws from Iraq completely… If the Kurds are really so united and self-sufficient (with their own army, government), then why do they need America? If the Kurdish provinces are the model of what we want all of Iraq to be, so that we can withdraw un-precipitously and in our own good time, then why would we want to keep our forces there? Do we really want to teach Iraqis the lesson: If you choose peace & stability, we will reward you with permanent U.S. bases on your territory?

By Christopher Hitchens
March 26, 2007 | Slate

Wised-up opinion in Washington holds that the Republicans are being unsmart in opposing the Democratic attempt to impose a timeline on American withdrawal from Iraq. By resisting this demand, it is argued, the GOP insists on assuming the whole responsibility for the war, when it could have said to the opposition: All right, have it your own way; we will adopt your timetable and be ready to blame you if it goes wrong. But by opposing the proposal, the president's supporters are apparently shouldering the entire burden.

This analysis only works if you think of politics as a process of maneuvering, whereby each party hopes to reap the benefit of the other party's mistake in having either "lost" Iraq or in having "acquired" it in the first place. It also only works if you make the assumption that there is no middle policy between "surging" or "scuttling." As it happens, though, the Democrats know perfectly well that this is untrue, and it's time that they were called on the point.

The most senior Democrat to have called, the earliest and the longest, for the removal of Saddam Hussein is Peter Galbraith. For many years a senior staffer on the Senate foreign relations committee and during the Balkan wars a highly visible ambassador in Zagreb who urged the defeat of Slobodan Milosevic, he was exposing American complicity with Saddam's genocide at a time when Republican administrations considered Baghdad a strategic ally. His work on pushing for the passage of the Prevention of Genocide Act and in drawing attention to what was happening during the Anfal campaign in northern Iraq was exemplary.

His latest book, The End of Iraq, is notable for two things. First, it gives one of the most acute and intimate portraits of the Bush administration's catastrophic mismanagement of the intervention. Second, it proposes a serious program for a radical change in policy. What are our irreducible objectives in Iraq? To prevent the country and its enormous resources from falling into the hands of the enemies of civilization—most notably al-Qaida—and to protect what remains of the secular and democratic alliance that we once hoped might emerge to govern the situation. We made—both parties, not just the Bush administration—some serious promises to Iraqi democrats down the years. It would be morally impossible, as well as politically suicidal, to walk away from them.

Given the apparently irreversible fracturing of Iraq into at least three confessional and ethnic parts, an outcome that may have been innate in the Iraqi state, we cannot hope—so runs his argument—to police or manage the sectarian horror show that has been launched by the parties of god. And we run the grave risk of being drawn into it. However, there is a possible way of saving some of our credit. If we reconfigure our military presence to the north, in the three Kurdish provinces, we can reduce the size of ourselves as a target, remain just "over the horizon" in the case of an al-Qaida challenge, be available "case by case" in the event of any appeal from the Iraqi government for help, and protect the most outstanding of our achievements in the country, which is the emergence of a relatively peaceful, democratic, and prosperous region under coalition auspices.

By definition, this would mean a much smaller and leaner force, in an area where so far no American soldier has been killed by hostile action. (See, if you like, my report from Kurdistan in the current Vanity Fair.)

It would associate us with the secular and democratic Iraqis and Kurds, many of whom continue to witness for such values in the face of a terrifying campaign of torture and murder by the rival theocrats. And it would remove the suspicion that we are being "spun," or manipulated, by Iraqi factions who hope to use U.S. soldiers to crush their own private enemies. It would, finally, be congruent with values that are shared across American politics—such as the defense of self-determination and the protection of minorities from massacre and persecution, which was part of Operation Provide Comfort with which the world reacted to Saddam's barbarism in 1991.

I have my reservations about Galbraith's proposal, because I think that partition is always and everywhere a defeat and often leads to more wars and more partitions. But I strongly recommend a reading of his powerful book, which makes the case that partition is no longer avoidable and that we must broker "an amicable divorce" between the factions. And I know that he has been invited to address meetings of the newly elected Democratic intake on the Hill, many of whom have expressed varying degrees of interest and enthusiasm in his plan. The stakes here are not low. Does the Democratic leadership seriously suggest the abandonment of the whole of Iraq, including the abandonment of a region where the inhabitants have done everything that has been asked of them, from providing for their own defense with their own army to settling their own factional divisions? Is it to be forgotten that senior Democratic senators from Al Gore to Claiborne Pell spent much time in the 1980s and '90s defending the Kurdish cause against the degraded realpolitik of men like Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Henry Kissinger?

At present, it seems that some Democrats are interpreting public disillusionment with Iraq as a mandate for isolationism and for treating a country that occupies a keystone position between Iran and Saudi Arabia as if it were negligible or irritating or an obstacle to plans for universal health care or the arrest of global warming. That this is a huge historical mistake is the least offensive way of putting it.

[In America, since when is the opposite of isolationism occupation? Democrats and war critics are not preaching isolation; in fact, they're demanding heavier engagement with Iran, Syria, North Korea, Israel, and Palestine. Engagement overseas does not necessarily, or even normally, entail guns a-blazin'. – J]

Buchanan: Are US foreign adventures inevitable?

I'll get tarred and feathered for saying this, but… The UN needs its own standing military force – not just for peacekeeping missions, but for peace-making operations in places like Darfur. Of course, the Security Council would have veto power over their deployment, which would mean they might never be deployed…. But it would be a start.

If successful, the UN's "humanitarian" army would leave the business of "traditional" war to state actors, and help end America's confusion about when to intervene for moral or humanitarian reasons. America would go to war only when its vital interests were at stake, instead of being tortured with guilt for not "saving" the world and "ending tyranny on earth."

Interventions Without End?
by Patrick J. Buchanan
Posted 03/27/2007 ET

"Whatever happens in Iraq, retreat from the world is not an option," wrote Financial Times columnist Philip Stephens last weekend.

Why not? Because a world map highlighting those regions where the West's vital resources are located would exactly overlap a map highlighting those regions where state power is crumbling, disease and poverty are pandemic and violence rules.

"The implication of this is obvious," says Stephens.

"We can proudly declare ourselves isolationists, resolve to eschew 'imperialist adventures,' decry liberal interventionists such as Britain's Tony Blair and damn the neoconservatives around U.S. President George W. Bush. But, one way or another, the West cannot avoid getting involved. On this, moral impulse and hard-headed interests are as one."

We are fated to intervene forever. "The reality of interdependence of a world shrunk by globalization cannot be wished away."

Put me down as not so sure. For if America is defeated in Iraq, as we were in Southeast Asia, who will ever again intervene in the Middle East?

As Stephens writes, Europe's "eternal role" seems to be that of the "concerned bystander" to disasters anywhere. And, revisiting the 20th century, the United States did not declare war on the Kaiser's ally Turkey in 1917, despite the Armenian massacres. Nor did we did confront Stalin over genocide in the Ukraine. FDR recognized Stalin's regime as it perpetrated that holocaust. Nor did we intervene to halt Mao's slaughter and starvation of millions of Chinese.

America looked on during Pol Pot's genocide. Clinton stood aside in Rwanda. No one is calling for the 82nd Airborne to be dropped into Darfur.

No matter, says Stephens, the West cannot abide the emerging new world disorder. But, again, that begs the question: Who is going to intervene?

If Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the U.S. investment in blood and treasure, end in defeats, who does Stephens think is going to send troops to rescue imperiled "liberal democratic values"?

In his second inaugural, President Bush declared that America's national goal is now to "support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny on earth."

Are Americans still willing to support that utopian mission with blood and billions of dollars?

In a Gallup poll this year that posed the question, "Should the United States try to change a dictatorship to a democracy when it can, or should the United States stay out of other countries' affairs?" -- by near five to one Americans said, "Stay out." Fifteen percent said "yes" to the Bush commitment. Sixty-nine percent said to stay out of the internal affairs of other countries.

Columnist David Broder cites a Penn, Schoen poll conducted Jan. 30 to Feb. 4. By 58 percent to 36 percent, respondents said, "It is a dangerous illusion to believe America is superior to other nations; we should not be attempting to reshape other nations in light of our values."

"By an even greater proportion -- almost three to one," adds Broder, "they say the main goal of American foreign policy should be to protect the security of the United States and its allies, rather than the promotion of freedom and democracy."

By 70 percent to 27 percent, Americans agreed, "Sometimes it's better to leave a dictator in charge of a hostile country, if he is contained, rather than risk chaos that we can't control if he is brought down."

By 58 percent to 38 percent, American agreed with the statement that "if negotiating with countries that support terrorism like Iran and Syria will help protect our security interests, the U.S. should consider negotiating with them."

"Practicality trumps idealism at every turn," writes Broder.

"Idealism"? That is true only if one buys the proposition that refusing to talk to enemies and fighting unnecessary wars is idealism rather than folly. FDR and Truman talked to Stalin, Ike invited the Butcher of Budapest to Camp David, Nixon went to Beijing to talk to Mao, Reagan accepted Gorbachev's invitation to Reykjavik during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Were all these men devoid of idealism?

Stephens believes the successors to Bush and Blair will find they have no option but to intervene to prevent the new world disorder.

Perhaps. But given the rage and revulsion Americans feel at having been stampeded into Iraq and pinioned in Baghdad, unable to stop the bleeding but unwilling to walk away in defeat, the American appetite for intervention has probably been sated for a long, long time.

U.S. global hegemony is history. Like every nation, America must now choose -- between what is vital and worth fighting for, and what may be "idealistic," but is not worth a war.

Not long ago, America produced 96 percent of all she consumed and was the most self-sufficient republic in history. With statesmanship and sacrifice, we can become so again. With leaders like we once had, we can chuck the empire. For what good has it done us?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Editorial: NYPD spying violated 4th Amendment

If you really want to know more about this fascist, un-Constitutional scandal perpetrated by Bloomberg's NYPD, read this debate between Paul J. Browne, New York City Police Department's Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, and Jethro Eisenstein, civil rights attorney and co-counsel on the Handschu case, which put limits on how police may carry out "political investigations."

NYPD spying violates Fourth Amendment

From the editors

Posted: 3/26/07

Prior to the 2004 Republican National Convention held at Madison Square Garden, a New York Police Department division dubbed the "RNC Intelligence Squad" traveled around America and to Europe and the Middle East to surveil activist groups interested in protesting or disrupting the event, The New York Times reported.

The NYPD sent representatives pretending to be sympathizers to 15 states and abroad to report directly to New York, which led to the arrest of more than 1,800 people before or during the four-day convention.

While the City of New York could take no shortcuts to ensure the safety of the convention's guests, what authority does a city police department have to oversee the investigation of groups outside its jurisdiction?

The New York Civil Liberties Union, which represents the arrested protesters, contends the NYPD overstepped its boundaries by targeting groups with no obvious plans to break the law.

According to court documents, the NYPD's wide-ranging list of suspects included the theater troupe Billionaires for Bush, which intentionally avoids confrontations that could lead to arrests, and Bands Against Bush, which organized speeches and concerts in five cities during the convention, The Times reported.

While the department's tactics were approved under the outdated Handscu Authority, which was created in 1980 in response to the NYPD's unreasonable surveillance of Vietnam protesters, at no time did the squad have to answer to federal authorities.

While the city cannot rely solely on the intelligence it receives from national agencies, probing groups internationally should require more than the approval of Handscu, which was intended solely to monitor the actions of the NYPD.

The NYPD should have deferred to federal authorities, which have the standing resources and expertise to handle such a task, instead of cutting the Fourth Amendment's corners in its own investigation.

Bolton gets b--ch slapped by BBC panel, audience

I watched this twice on BBC last weekend, because this British guy Tony Benn was pummeling Bolton so hard, every word ringing true (with the audience piling on), and all Bolton could do was make wisecracks, like that Benn proved "the American Revolution was a good idea."

It's too bad we don't have any honest, forthright critics in America anymore, not like Tony Benn. After 4 years of f--- ups and false promises, it's still not "safe" in America to criticize the Iraq War, without having your patriotism, your loyalty, or your courage questioned. It's unreal!

Now watch this and enjoy. It'll make you feel good, like the whole world isn't yet insane:

Sunday, March 25, 2007

NYPD spied on protesters before GOP Convention

The revelation that undercover NYPD officers traveled the U.S. and Europe gathering intel on people who planned to protest peacefully at the 2004 GOP Convention is outrageous, and totally opposed to what we expect from our police in a free society.

This is something I would expect to read about in Moscow or Tehran, not New York City!

This news is even more disturbing than the new trend of un-Constitutional "free speech zones" at the Democratic and Republican conventions, where protesters were corralled into pens far away from the convention delegates.

The comments of 1st Amendment lawyer Julie Hilden on "free speech zones" applies just as well to the NYPD's spying on U.S. citizens who are not under any suspicion of any criminal acts:

"Like the statement that protest is unpatriotic, the statement that protesters are likely to be terrorists, or likely to be otherwise violent, is damaging to our status as a free society. This assumption also collapses upon examination: Why would someone trying to change the system through protest be more likely than others to resort to violence to destroy the system?"

I would only add that, besides voting, protest is really all we, the Average Joes, have at our disposal to influence our leaders. And even voting is often a futile exercise, depending where you live. So, that only leaves protest as a means of political expression. If we take that right away or infringe upon it, America won't be America anymore.

Report: New York Cops Tracked Activists Ahead of 2004 Republican Convention
Saturday , March 24, 2007
Associated Press

NEW YORKUndercover New York police officers traveled around the United States and to Europe to observe activists who planned to protest at the 2004 Republican National Convention — including hundreds who showed no sign of illegal intent, a newspaper reported.

Posing as activists or sympathizers, the officers attended meetings of political groups in at least 15 U.S. states and filed reports with the police department's intelligence division, The New York Times reported on its Web site Saturday.

The officers involved in the "RNC Intelligence Squad" then identified certain groups as potential threats, the Times reported, citing hundreds of still-secret reports it viewed from the police department's intelligence division. The police often shared information with departments in other cities.

Police spokesman Paul Browne said the activities were legal. He said the operation was an essential part of preparations for the huge crowds that came to the city during the convention.

"Detectives collected information both in-state and out-of-state to learn in advance what was coming our way," Browne told the Times.

The secret digests said some of the groups planned acts such as blocking intersections and hacking into Web sites. But the Times reported that the vast majority of the reports it viewed described people who gave no obvious sign of wrongdoing, such as members of the satirical performance-art group "Billionaires for Bush" and a group that had planned concerts with political speeches.

Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the revelations of "spying" were shocking.

"The New York Civil Liberties Union condemns this operation and is considering legal action against the police department," she said in a statement.

More than 1,800 people were arrested at the four-day convention at Madison Square Garden, where President George W. Bush accepted his party's nomination for a second term in office. The convention was policed by as many as 10,000 officers.

Pending civil rights lawsuits have challenged the legitimacy of the arrests. Documents released under a court order in January showed that arrested protesters were held before their initial court appearances for up to six times longer than those arrested on charges unrelated to the convention.

The documents also show that the 2001 terrorist attacks heavily influenced the city's decision to detain and fingerprint hundreds of protesters at the convention.

In 2003, a federal judge — at the behest of Mayor Michael Bloomberg — broadened the NYPD's authority to investigate political, social and religious groups. Browne insisted police have not abused the new guidelines.

Browne told the Times that the 18 months of preparation before the convention allowed hundreds of thousands of people to demonstrate while also ensuring that the convention had relatively few disruptions.

"It was a great success, and despite provocations, such as demonstrators throwing faux feces in the faces of police officers, the NYPD showed professionalism and restraint," he told the Times.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Zinn: No room for 'compromise' on Iraq

Americans love compromise and moderation. But sometimes it's not only immoral not to take a stand, it's illogical and nonsensical. Iraq is one of those issues. You can't be "kind of" in favor of the occupation. Either it's worthwhile and improving Iraqis' lives, or it's a failure and we should leave. The evidence, I believe, overwhelmingly points to the latter.

Are We Politicians or Citizens?
By Howard Zinn
May 2007 Issue

As I write this, Congress is debating timetables for withdrawal from Iraq. In response to the Bush Administration's "surge" of troops, and the Republicans' refusal to limit our occupation, the Democrats are behaving with their customary timidity, proposing withdrawal, but only after a year, or eighteen months. And it seems they expect the anti-war movement to support them.

That was suggested in a recent message from MoveOn, which polled its members on the Democrat proposal, saying that progressives in Congress, "like many of us, don't think the bill goes far enough, but see it as the first concrete step to ending the war."

Ironically, and shockingly, the same bill appropriates $124 billion in more funds to carry the war. It's as if, before the Civil War, abolitionists agreed to postpone the emancipation of the slaves for a year, or two years, or five years, and coupled this with an appropriation of funds to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act.

When a social movement adopts the compromises of legislators, it has forgotten its role, which is to push and challenge the politicians, not to fall in meekly behind them.

We who protest the war are not politicians. We are citizens. Whatever politicians may do, let them first feel the full force of citizens who speak for what is right, not for what is winnable, in a shamefully timorous Congress.

Timetables for withdrawal are not only morally reprehensible in the case of a brutal occupation (would you give a thug who invaded your house, smashed everything in sight, and terrorized your children a timetable for withdrawal?) but logically nonsensical.

If our troops are preventing civil war, helping people, controlling violence, then why withdraw at all? If they are in fact doing the opposite—provoking civil war, hurting people, perpetuating violence—they should withdraw as quickly as ships and planes can carry them home.

It is four years since the United States invaded Iraq with a ferocious bombardment, with "shock and awe." That is enough time to decide if the presence of our troops is making the lives of the Iraqis better or worse. The evidence is overwhelming. Since the invasion, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died, and, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, about two million Iraqis have left the country, and an almost equal number are internal refugees, forced out of their homes, seeking shelter elsewhere in the country.

Yes, Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant. But his capture and death have not made the lives of Iraqis better, as the U.S. occupation has created chaos: no clean water, rising rates of hunger, 50 percent unemployment, shortages of food, electricity, and fuel, a rise in child malnutrition and infant deaths. Has the U.S. presence diminished violence? On the contrary, by January 2007 the number of insurgent attacks has increased dramatically to 180 a day.

The response of the Bush Administration to four years of failure is to send more troops. To add more troops matches the definition of fanaticism: If you find you're going in the wrong direction, redouble your speed. It reminds me of the physician in Europe in the early nineteenth century who decided that bloodletting would cure pneumonia. When that didn't work, he concluded that not enough blood had been let.

The Congressional Democrats' proposal is to give more funds to the war, and to set a timetable that will let the bloodletting go on for another year or more. It is necessary, they say, to compromise, and some anti-war people have been willing to go along. However, it is one thing to compromise when you are immediately given part of what you are demanding, if that can then be a springboard for getting more in the future. That is the situation described in the recent movie The Wind That Shakes The Barley, in which the Irish rebels against British rule are given a compromise solution—to have part of Ireland free, as the Irish Free State. In the movie, Irish brother fights against brother over whether to accept this compromise. But at least the acceptance of that compromise, however short of justice, created the Irish Free State. The withdrawal timetable proposed by the Democrats gets nothing tangible, only a promise, and leaves the fulfillment of that promise in the hands of the Bush Administration.

There have been similar dilemmas for the labor movement. Indeed, it is a common occurrence that unions, fighting for a new contract, must decide if they will accept an offer that gives them only part of what they have demanded. It's always a difficult decision, but in almost all cases, whether the compromise can be considered a victory or a defeat, the workers have been given some thing palpable, improving their condition to some degree. If they were offered only a promise of something in the future, while continuing an unbearable situation in the present, it would not be considered a compromise, but a sellout. A union leader who said, "Take this, it's the best we can get" (which is what the MoveOn people are saying about the Democrats' resolution) would be hooted off the platform.

I am reminded of the situation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, when the black delegation from Mississippi asked to be seated, to represent the 40 percent black population of that state. They were offered a "compromise"—two nonvoting seats. "This is the best we can get," some black leaders said. The Mississippians, led by Fannie Lou Hamer and Bob Moses, turned it down, and thus held on to their fighting spirit, which later brought them what they had asked for. That mantra—"the best we can get"—is a recipe for corruption.

It is not easy, in the corrupting atmosphere of Washington, D.C., to hold on firmly to the truth, to resist the temptation of capitulation that presents itself as compromise. A few manage to do so. I think of Barbara Lee, the one person in the House of Representatives who, in the hysterical atmosphere of the days following 9/11, voted against the resolution authorizing Bush to invade Afghanistan. Today, she is one of the few who refuse to fund the Iraq War, insist on a prompt end to the war, reject the dishonesty of a false compromise.

Except for the rare few, like Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, Lynn Woolsey, and John Lewis, our representatives are politicians, and will surrender their integrity, claiming to be "realistic."

We are not politicians, but citizens. We have no office to hold on to, only our consciences, which insist on telling the truth. That, history suggests, is the most realistic thing a citizen can do.

Afghanistan: Less is best

When less is best

By Rory Stewart
Tuesday, March 20, 2007 | International Herald Tribune

Why are we Westerners in Afghanistan? Vice President Cheney talks terror, Britain focuses on narcotics. The European Union talks "state-building," others gender. On a different day, the positions seem interchangeable. Five years ago, we had a clear goal. Now we seem to be pursuing a bundle of objectives, from counterinsurgency to democratization and development, which are presented as uniform but which are in fact logically distinct and sometimes contradictory.

Finance officers in Kabul and shepherds in Kandahar want to know what we did with the $10 billion we spent in the last four years. So do any number of commentators on Afghan TV and radio. And when Helmand villagers see soldiers from countries thousands of miles away carrying guns and claiming to be only building schools, they don't believe them.

I have noticed that many Afghans now simply assume we are engaged in a grand conspiracy. Nothing else in their minds can explain the surreal gap between our language and performance. The United States needs to be honest about what it wants from Afghanistan and what it can achieve.

We should remember that we came first to protect ourselves against terrorist attack. Afghans can understand this and help. But counterterrorism is not the same as counterinsurgency. Counterterrorism requires good intelligence and Special Forces operations, of the sort the United States was doing in 2002 and 2003. Recently, however, NATO has become involved in a much wider counterinsurgency campaign, involving tens of thousands of troops. The objective now is to wrest rural areas from Taliban forces.

But many of the people we are fighting have no fixed political manifesto. Almost none have links to Al Qaeda or an interest in attacking U.S. soil. We will never have the troop numbers to hold these areas, and we are creating unnecessary enemies. A more considered approach to tribal communities would give us better intelligence on our real enemies. It is clear that we do not have the resources, the stomach, or the long- term commitment for a 20-year counterinsurgency campaign. And the Afghan Army is not going to take over this mission.

Our second priority should be to not lose the support of the disillusioned population in the central and western part of the country. We have spent billions on programs that have alleviated extreme poverty and supported governance but have not caught the imagination of Afghans. Afghans are bored with foreign consultants and conferences and are saying, "Bring back the Russians: At least they built dams and roads." To win them over we should focus on large, highly visible infrastructure to which Afghans will be able to point in 50 years — just as they point to the great dam built by the United States in the 1960s. The garbage is still 7 feet deep and buildings are collapsing in Kabul. We can deal with these things and leave a permanent symbol of generosity.

Once we are clear about our own interests, we can think more clearly about the third priority, which is to improve Afghan lives through development projects. There are excellent models, from UN Habitat to the Aga Khan network, which has restored historic buildings, run rural health projects, and established a five- star hotel and Afghanistan's mobile telephone network. The soap business that the American Sarah Chayes has developed with Afghan women has been more successful than larger and wealthier business associations. Such projects should be separated from our defense and political objectives.

Sometimes it is better for us to do less. Dutch forces in the province of Uruzgan have found that, when left alone, the Taliban alienate communities by living parasitically, lecturing puritanically and failing to deliver. But when the British tried to aggressively dominate the South last summer, they alienated a dangerous proportion of the local population and had to withdraw. Pacifying the tribal areas is a task for Afghans, working with Pakistan and Iran. It will involve moving from the overcentralized state and developing formal but flexible relationships with councils in all their varied village forms.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that we squandered an opportunity in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003, being distracted by Iraq and not bringing enough troops or resources. But my experience in Afghanistan has led me to believe that the original strategy of limiting our role was correct.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Why Republicans Don't Like McCain

Well, well, well.  My prediction that McCain will win the GOP nomination may not come to pass.  It's ironic:  McCain would  fare better in a general election than in a GOP primary!  Perhaps I have overestimated Republicans' savvy will to win...

His lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union is 86%; and McCain says if you took out campaign finance reform and and tobacco laws, he'd be closer to 95%.  It's true, on all the "big" conservative issues -- abortion (#1), school prayer, school vouchers, flag burning, guns, gays, Iraq -- McCain votes the "right" way. 

And unlike Giuliani and Romney, he's been consistently pro-life.  He's almost as enthusiastic about the Iraq war as Bush & Cheney. 

So why don't Republicans trust him?  Because, at one time, some Democrats and the media fancied McCain as a "maverick" who thought for himself.  His foray into campaign finance reform with liberal Democrat Russ Feingold, and his attempt to ban soft money issue advertising, doomed him to dreaded "moderate conservative" status for eternity (or until the Rapture). 

His "sins" against conservatism, whether real or imagined, will never be forgiven by the Republican rank-and-file.  Too bad.  It couldn't have happened to a more ambitious guy....

A one-man crackup
Matthew Continetti
Monday, March 19, 2007 | International Herald Tribune


WASHINGTON: Call me crazy, but I wasn't expecting the crowd at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference here to devote its most passionate boos to Senator John McCain of Arizona, a conservative himself and the Republican establishment's choice for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. But boo it did.


The right's ambivalence, even antagonism, toward the McCain candidacy is stunning. And it is responsible for all the talk these days of a looming conservative crisis.


Last week's New York Times/CBS News poll of Republicans seemed to portray a party in disarray. Most Republicans are social conservatives, yet the poll found they embraced Rudolph Giuliani, the pro-choice former mayor of New York, over McCain, who is pro- life. Most Republicans are hawks who support President George W. Bush's new counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, but the poll also found that they want a candidate in 2008 who will demonstrate a flexibility in policymaking that this notoriously stubborn White House lacked for the first three and a half years of the war. And almost two-thirds of respondents want more choices for president.


It's McCain's transformation from insurgent to semi-favorite son that has unsettled the Republican Party and the conservative movement.


In past years, the Republicans nominated the man who had patiently waited his "turn": Ronald Reagan in 1980, George H.W. Bush in 1988, Bob Dole in 1996. The man who ought to benefit from the machine this time around is McCain, whose insurgent campaign against George W. Bush came close to winning the nomination eight years ago. And sure enough, large portions of the party establishment have embraced him.


But there's a problem. While McCain and the conservative activists who compose the Republican grassroots share many positions — pro- war, pro-life, against waste in government and for low taxes — a significant portion of those grassroots just doesn't like him.


For some, the animosity is issue- based. Conservatives recall that during the 2000 primary campaign, McCain adopted some of the left's pet issues and flirted with the idea of a party switch. Others have become First Amendment absolutists with respect to campaign finance reform legislation, which McCain champions. Many refuse to accept the scientific consensus on global climate change and recoil at McCain's attempts to find a free-market solution to the problem. Others cannot forgive the senator for his votes against the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts.


Another reason for the animosity is personal. Ideologues have long memories. There are Republicans who haven't forgiven McCain for labeling the Reverends Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson "agents of intolerance" back in 2000. There are others who bought into the story that McCain's temperament made him unfit for America's highest office.


More important than ideology or personality is culture. For years conservatives have cast a suspicious eye on McCain because non-conservatives find him appealing.  They distrust the institutions of liberal culture — the news media in particular — to such a degree that a politician those institutions embrace must be suspect.  They grow furious when they hear McCain on Don Imus' radio show but not Rush Limbaugh's. The politics of polarization militate against a McCain candidacy. The man transcends the partisan divide — but what partisans want above all is a fellow partisan.


So the Republican Party is left at an impasse. The unsettling effect the McCain candidacy has had on the party is one reason so many Republicans are chomping at the bit to enter the presidential race. It's come to the point where two of the handful of Republican senators who supported McCain in 2000 — Chuck Hagel and Fred Thompson — are positioning themselves for a late entry into the campaign.


Call it poetic justice, tragedy or farce: McCain's quest to become the establishment candidate has jeopardized his candidacy and exposed deep fissures within the conservative movement.  A true reckoning will be had only if McCain revives the authentic, conservative, reform-oriented insurgent spirit that motivated his 2000 candidacy. Let McCain be McCain, as the saying goes. Then the fissures will be healed, for better (from McCain's point of view) or worse.


The 1988 Democrats had seven dwarfs. The 2008 Republicans may have as many as 10 — possibly more. That's a sign of weakness and confusion. And until the McCain campaign corrects course, it will have only itself to blame.


Matthew Continetti is the associate editor of The Weekly Standard and the author of "The K Street Gang: The Rise and Fall of the Republican Machine."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Response to: "Liberals: A very modest proposal" on Global Warming

It's true, we who believe the majority of scientists who say global warming is almost certainly man-made should clean up our act. We should walk the walk if we're going to talk the talk.

That said... unlike the Gores, Kennedys, and Pelosis of the Left, I don't own a private jet, mansion, or a Hummer. Neither do most people who are concerned about global warming.
The problem of global warming is so big that personal sacrifice alone won't solve it, or even most of it.

According to the
Nat'l Resources Defense Council: " Coal-burning power plants are the largest U.S. source of carbon dioxide pollution -- they produce 2.5 billion tons every year. Automobiles, the second largest source, create nearly 1.5 billion tons of CO2 annually."

It's not within any one person's power to reduce our output of CO2 from coal; or to design more fuel-efficient cars. Yes, we should turn down the thermostat in winter, and rely less on A/C in the summer.
And yes, people should carpool, combine trips, and walk or ride bikes more often. Yes, hybrid cars are now on the market, and selling better every year, although they're still more expensive than regular autos to buy and maintain.

But a
ll of this is nipping at the heels of a problem much too big for individuals acting alone to tackle.

To have a real impact on human emissions, and thus reduce global warming, we need Government and private Industry to work together to make systemic changes.

Only Government working together with Industry can switch from dirty coal and oil to more eco-friendly energy sources, like wind, water, even nuclear. Only Governments (national, state, and local) can invest in efficient mass-transit systems, instead of building more highways. Only Government can create tax and other incentives to change harmful environmental behaviors.

And remember: America is not an island. Other countries' decisions affect us. Only our Government can agree with other Governments to make sure that the real economic costs of global warming are not passed on to citizens, but rather accounted for during production, so that no country can enjoy an unfair competitive advantage in the short-term by polluting as much as possible (like China).

Perhaps a metaphor will put things in perspective... If every passenger on the Titanic had grabbed a bucket and started bailing water, maybe the boat would have stayed afloat a little longer. But it still would have sunk.

This time, we can see the iceberg coming. It's dead ahead. The passengers are pointing and yelling at the Captain. Maybe it's already too late to change course, maybe not. Why don't we try right now to avoid it?

Liberals: A very modest proposalst proposal
By Burt P
Monday, March 12, 2007

My friend Pat Sajak recently made an excellent point. He said that inasmuch as he doesn't take global warming to heart, he sees no good reason to alter his life style. However, he wonders why those who are insisting they can feel the rising ocean lapping at their ankles don't take drastic action to alter theirs.

He's right, of course. I mean, assuming you are one of those people who actually has faith in U.N. reports and really believes that man controls the earth's thermostat, wouldn't you have to shape up? I mean, wouldn't you think these worrywarts would all begin riding bicycles and start wearing their snow suits to bed? It's damn hard taking their "The End is Near" placards seriously when they're driving their Hummers to and from the demonstrations.

Consider Al Gore, the man who could give Chicken Little lessons in panic and hysteria. As ominous as global warming is, it obviously hasn't done anything to spoil his appetite. And why, when he isn't shrieking into a microphone, doesn't he look terrified? If you thought that, say, a giant comet was hurtling at the earth or a dozen nuclear bombs were set to explode, would be you be grinning and saying "Cheese" to every camera pointed in your direction?

The thing about liberals is that they're always telling the rest of us how to live and then, oh so conveniently, ignoring their own advice. Take such professional busybodies as Arianna Huffington and Bobby Kennedy, Jr., for instance. She excoriates people who drive SUVs while she and her two tots live in a mansion that I can guarantee sucks up BTUs at a rate that would make your head spin. As for Mr. Kennedy, who spends his life screaming about what the rest of us are doing to destroy the ozone layer, he's constantly gadding about on private jets.

Let us not forget that other holier-than-thou character, Michael Moore, who has also sworn off commercial airlines in favor of corporate aircraft.

Of course, that brings us to her royal highness, Nancy Pelosi, non-stop Speaker of the House. First off, she insisted on an upgrade to a larger military jet than the one her predecessor had. She wanted one with a private bedroom, a kitchen, and room for her entire family -- second cousins included -- on a jet that was capable of flying non-stop from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco.

When some people began to question the need she had for this airborne palace, she insisted that rabble-rousers were only raising a stink because she was a woman. Poor dear! She had no sooner lifted that marble ceiling all by her wonderful self, and here it came crashing down on her tiara!

Personally, I think she should have the largest plane the military has available. As I see it, they'll need a jumbo jet just to get Pelosi's ego airborne.

What's interesting about global warming is how quickly the Left added it to their manifesto, right along with pacifism, affirmative action, bi-lingual education, open borders, and outlawing gun ownership. What makes global warming such a joke is the way that the same liberals who know even less about climatology than I know about 18th century Romanian poetry are trying to pass themselves off as science experts. As Michael Crichton pointed out, when folks start talking about consensus among scientists, they're talking politics, not science. Nobody goes around claiming there's a consensus of experts when it comes to the laws of thermodynamics or asks the U.N. to decide if there's any validity to DNA. Only with global warming are we supposed to put it to a vote, and then abide by the results of a fixed election.

Let a scientist suggest that man plays a very puny role when it comes to determining the earth's climate, and you can count on Al Gore's goon squads trying to bully him into silence, and even questioning his right to teach or to conduct research.

When it's pointed out that in the 1970s, in a world very much like the one in which we now live, the same crowd was worried sick over the coming ice age, it's either dismissed as irrelevant or condemned as heresy.

The last time I argued with a left-winger about global warming, he actually said, "But what if we're right?"

What logic! What insight! I felt as if I were arguing with someone transported from the Dark Ages, someone convinced that the earth was flat. Even if you showed him photos taken from outer space, showing the curvature of the earth, he would still say, "But what if I'm right?"

Funny, isn't it, that these alarmists are always anxious to play the "what if" game when it comes to global warming, but not when it comes to global terrorism. Ask them, for example, what happens if we simply pull our troops out of Iraq, leaving it ripe for Al Qaeda? What happens if we ignore Iran and its threat to nuke its enemies? Or what happens if we decide to quit policing the world and leave such matters strictly up to the U.N.? (After all, they did a bang-up job in Cambodia in the 1970s and are doing equally fine work today in Darfur.)

The reason it's so easy to despise liberals isn't simply because they're such blockheads, but because they are so hypocritical and self-righteous.

Understand, though, that I'm not suggesting they are entirely worthless. What I am suggesting is that we establish whether my suspicion is correct that they not only think like chickens and squawk like chickens, but actually taste like chicken. We could then raise them as livestock.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Hitchens: So, Was I Wrong About Iraq?

Here's a brief rebuttal to show why Hitchens is, was, and will always be wrong about Iraq:

> If flouting UN resolutions is a reason to go to war, let's attack Israel and Turkey, who have been flouting more them for more years. The key question regarding Iraq always was: Did it pose an imminent threat to the U.S. or to other countries in the region? After Iraq War I, with daily flyovers by U.S. forces in the North and South of Iraq, and U.S. forces stationed in the Gulf, the answer was clearly: No.

> Again, even if Saddam did have some chemical or biological weapons remaining from the 1980s and early 1990s, could they have been weaponized and used on the U.S., or our allies? Western intelligence could and did answer that question in 2002: No. Thus, Iraq did not present a clear and present danger to America.

> As for inspection, ask the inspectors themselves if they thought their efforts were working (Yes), and if Saddam had large amounts of WMD stashed away (No).

> Yes, Colin Powell's performance at the UN was a disgrace, but it's too convenient to lay all the blame on him – or on George Tenet, whom Bush gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom after no WMD turned up in Iraq. Iraq has always been Bush's show. By all accounts, Powell didn't want to go before the UN, but in the end he decided to "Tom" it up, with his artist's renderings of Iraqi mobile weapons labs and aerial drones and all. Pathetic.

> Yes, even Hitchens admits that Bush exaggerated the al Qaeda-Iraq connection. To this day, Bush hardly misses and opportunity to say "al Qaeda" "9/11" and "Saddam Hussein" in the same breath. Is it really any surprise, then, that somehow, in September 2003, 70% of Americans believed – incorrectly – that Saddam was involved in 9/11; and in September 2006, a shocking 45% of Americans still believed Saddam was "personally involved" in the 9/11, even after Bush publicly denied it in September 2003!? Are Americans just plain stupid? Did they concoct this bogus idea all by themselves? Did the "liberal media" for its own inscrutable, diabolical reasons, plant this thought (which would only serve to help Bush!) in the Americans' brains? Or were Americans perhaps listening too closely and trustingly to what their President was saying "between the lines"?

> I've already chopped up Hitchen's argument that a civil war in Iraq was inevitable, even if Saddam had remained in power. It's pure speculation, totally unproveable or unrefuteable. It's a throwaway line of argument.

> Strikingly, what Hitchens ignores in all of this is what IRAQIS think. He doesn't care at all. Hitchens doesn't care that Iraqis want us to leave. He doesn't care that they hate being occupied by a foreign nation. And of course he doesn't care that Iraqis are living with fewer basic services like electricity, water, hospitals, and schools. Or that they have less security, or a chance to find a job. Or that nearly 2 million Iraqis (8% of the pre-war population) have fled the country. Or that at least 24,000 Iraqis , and perhaps as many as 100,000, have been violently killed since the U.S. invasion.

To Hitchens – and to Bush and his cronies – Iraq is just another chessboard for Western power plays. Its people are disposable pawns. What matters are OUR wishes, and OUR security. For Hitchens and his ilk, it is a given that America retains the absolute right to attack whomever it wants, on the slimmest of pretexts, in order to prevent another terrorist attack, and damn the consequences for the rest of the world's poor innocents.

And naturally, all of our "honest" mistakes are excusable, because our intentions are pure, and good, and noble, unlike all those other countries.

What a bunch of craven, arrogant $&#@*s !

So, Mr. Hitchens, Weren't You Wrong About Iraq?

Hard questions, four years later.
By Christopher Hitchens
March 19, 2007 | Slate

Four years after the first coalition soldiers crossed the Iraqi border, one can attract pitying looks (at best) if one does not take the view that the whole engagement could have been and should have been avoided. Those who were opposed to the operation from the beginning now claim vindication, and many of those who supported it say that if they had known then what they know now, they would have spoken or voted differently.

What exactly does it mean to take the latter position? At what point, in other words, ought the putative supporter to have stepped off the train? The question isn't as easy to answer as some people would have you believe. Suppose we run through the actual timeline:

Was the president right or wrong to go to the United Nations in September 2002 and to say that body could no longer tolerate Saddam Hussein's open flouting of its every significant resolution, from weaponry to human rights to terrorism?

A majority of the member states thought he was right and had to admit that the credibility of the United Nations was at stake. It was scandalous that such a regime could for more than a decade have violated the spirit and the letter of the resolutions that had allowed a cease-fire after the liberation of Kuwait. The Security Council, including Syria, voted by nine votes to zero that Iraq must come into full compliance or face serious consequences.

Was it then correct to send military forces to the Gulf, in case Saddam continued his long policy of defiance, concealment, and expulsion or obstruction of U.N. inspectors?

If you understand the history of the inspection process at all, you must concede that Saddam would never have agreed to readmit the inspectors if coalition forces had not made their appearance on his borders and in the waters of the Gulf. It was never a choice between inspection and intervention: It was only the believable threat of an intervention that enabled even limited inspections to resume.

Should it not have been known by Western intelligence that Iraq had no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction?

The entire record of UNSCOM until that date had shown a determination on the part of the Iraqi dictatorship to build dummy facilities to deceive inspectors, to refuse to allow scientists to be interviewed without coercion, to conceal chemical and biological deposits, and to search the black market for materiel that would breach the sanctions. The defection of Saddam Hussein's sons-in-law, the Kamel brothers, had shown that this policy was even more systematic than had even been suspected. Moreover, Iraq did not account for—has in fact never accounted for—a number of the items that it admitted under pressure to possessing after the Kamel defection. We still do not know what happened to this weaponry. This is partly why all Western intelligence agencies, including French and German ones quite uninfluenced by Ahmad Chalabi, believed that Iraq had actual or latent programs for the production of WMD. Would it have been preferable to accept Saddam Hussein's word for it and to allow him the chance to re-equip once more once the sanctions had further decayed?

Could Iraq have been believably "inspected" while the Baath Party remained in power?

No. The word inspector is misleading here. The small number of U.N. personnel were not supposed to comb the countryside. They were supposed to monitor the handover of the items on Iraq's list, to check them, and then to supervise their destruction. (If Iraq disposed of the items in any other way—by burying or destroying or neutralizing them, as now seems possible—that would have been an additional grave breach of the resolutions.) To call for serious and unimpeachable inspections was to call, in effect, for a change of regime in Iraq. Thus, we can now say that Iraq is in compliance with the Nonproliferation Treaty. Moreover, the subsequent hasty compliance of Col. Muammar Qaddafi's Libya and the examination of his WMD stockpile (which proved to be much larger and more sophisticated than had been thought) allowed us to trace the origin of much materiel to Pakistan and thus belatedly to shut down the A.Q. Khan secret black market.

Wasn't Colin Powell's performance at the United Nations a bit of a disgrace?

Yes, it was, as was the supporting role played by George Tenet and the CIA (which has been reliably wrong on Iraq since 1963). Some good legal experts—Ruth Wedgwood most notably—have argued that the previous resolutions were self-enforcing and that there was no need for a second resolution or for Powell's dog-and-pony show. Some say that the whole thing was done in order to save Tony Blair's political skin. A few points of interest did emerge from Powell's presentation: The Iraqi authorities were caught on air trying to mislead U.N inspectors (nothing new there), and the presence in Iraq of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a very dangerous al-Qaida refugee from newly liberated Afghanistan, was established. The full significance of this was only to become evident later on.

Was the terror connection not exaggerated?

Not by much. The Bush administration never claimed that Iraq had any hand in the events of Sept. 11, 2001. But it did point out, at different times, that Saddam had acted as a host and patron to every other terrorist gang in the region, most recently including the most militant Islamist ones. And this has never been contested by anybody. The action was undertaken not to punish the last attack—that had been done in Afghanistan—but to forestall the next one.

Was a civil war not predictable?

Only to the extent that there was pre-existing unease and mistrust between the different population groups in Iraq. Since it was the policy of Saddam Hussein to govern by divide-and-rule and precisely to exacerbate these differences, it is unlikely that civil peace would have been the result of prolonging his regime. Indeed, so ghastly was his system in this respect that one-fifth of Iraq's inhabitants—the Kurds—had already left Iraq and were living under Western protection.

So, you seriously mean to say that we would not be living in a better or safer world if the coalition forces had turned around and sailed or flown home in the spring of 2003?

That's exactly what I mean to say.