« May 2004 | Main | July 2004 »

June 30, 2004

Attn: Leftists, Communists, Socialists, Progressives, Greens, et al.

Please follow your leaders, it is the only path to redemption and, er, peace:

In a newly released book, author Greg Bates reveals that noted linguist, author and political analyst Noam Chomsky and historian Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States, have both decided to vote for independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader this November.

Ralph Nader is the only moral choice. Take a stand. Send a message. Reject the status quo. Vote Nader.

Posted by Old Benjamin at 10:44 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Euro Celebrity Chic

Fahrenheit 9/11, the film which has divided America, held its British celebrity screening tonight. . . .

Tonight politicians and celebrities turned out for the film’s screening in Leicester Square.

Those who came to see the film, which presents the American president as foolish and out of his depth in the White House, included Jude Law and his girlfriend Sienna Miller, Elton John’s partner David Furnish, singer Anastasia and actor Peter O’Toole.

Politicians Claire Short and George Galloway were also at the screening, hosted by Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein.

Speaking before the film Furnish said: “Elton is a supporter of Michael Moore as a documentary maker. He enjoyed Bowling for Columbine and he’ll definitely be watching this new film.” . . .

Tonight Bianca Jagger said before the film began that she hoped the film would make people realise that they “shouldn’t vote for Bush again.

“Not only is he dangerous for America he is dangerous for the rest of the world.

“Michael Moore is a candid film-maker who uses a language that people understand, “ she said. . . .

O’Toole confessed that he didn’t know much about the documentary maker but added: “I don’t like war at all. I’ve been in one. I had bombs dropped on my head when I was seven.”

Asked what he knew about the film O’Toole replied “not a sausage.”

Duran Duran star Nick Rhodes said the war was an “unmitigated catastrophe”. While Claire Short said: “It would be better for the world if Bush went.

I often wonder whether these people deserve the freedom they take for granted. O'Toole -- who doesn't like war at all -- must be referring to the Nazi bombing of London in WWII in recollecting his experience at the age of seven. One wonders if he wouldn't be been happier if Britain would have just surrendered to the Nazis. That indeed would have ended the war.

Posted by Old Benjamin at 09:24 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Bottled Piety

A couple clutch Victor Hanson Q&As:

Q: What are your thoughts on the International Institute of Strategic Studies' Strategic Survey 2003-4, which contends that Al-Qaeda has grown because of the war in Iraq and that there are still 18,000 Al-Qaeda members still active around the world?

Hanson: If true, that is equal to a division- far less than the 20 million or so Japanese, German, and Italian combatants that we took on in World War II, much less the 2 billion Chinese, Russians, Eastern Europeans, and African and Asian states that made up the so-called communist bloc. I am wary of the "because of Iraq" logic-the rationale of all phony wars. It is like saying, "because of the battle of Midway" now we are fighting the Japanese all over the Pacific, or "because of B-17 raids in 1942" we got ourselves into a war in North Africa and Sicily. The fact is we have made amazing progress in dismantling bases in Afghanistan, pressuring Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, taking out Saddam Hussein, and shutting down terrorist enclaves in Europe, America, and Asia. Once you go to war, of course, the enemy fights back even more fiercely. Those holed up in Fallujah or Mr. Sadr's followers are either Baathist holdouts, al Qaeda operatives, or pro-Iranian militants who were our enemies long before March 2003.

What we are witnessing is a coming showdown, where lines are drawn, the sides become clear, and the stakes apparent. So al Qaeda has not "grown" so much as grasped that it is now in a war for its existence and must either come out and fight or slowly be strangled. Witness the situation in Saudi Arabia that is at least clearer than the last decade, when the Royal Family paid bribe money to deflect the killers against us. I suspect that there are fewer al Qaeda members now than before the invasion of Afghanistan. If they are so smart, how did they turn a friendly Saudi government into their enemy, lose Afghanistan, make an enemy of a once neutral Musharraf, and are without the intelligence and succor of Saddam's Iraq? And they are about to turn 350 million timid Europeans into perturbed hosts ready to expel or at least closely monitor all foreign Arab nationals.

* * *

Q: As far as morality is concerned, from the get-go the U.S.-imposed regime of sanctions upon Iraq was grossly immoral, just like the English blockade of Germany after the end of the Great War. These policy decisions caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in both instances. Was Hussein a bad guy? Sure. Then why did NR's hero, Don Rumsfeld, and Washington arm Saddam in the 1980's? Because he was "our" bad guy then, when it seemed he was about to lose to Iran. Morality, indeed. Do you want to invade China, next, Professor Hanson?

Hanson: Calm down and quit the boilerplate hyperbole that only reflects a hysteria rather than reasoned analysis. The English mistake in 1918-9 was not the blockade, but allowing a mostly victorious German army to surrender in France and Belgium-"we were stabbed in the back by Jews and communists and never lost"- rather than to be crushed under an Allied counterattack that ended up in Berlin. Not "hundreds of thousands," but rather 50 million died for that blunder a mere twenty years later.

But enough of bottled piety. We gave some intelligence to Saddam and allowed a few arms sales-less than 2% of his aggregate arsenal that otherwise was supplied by the Russians, French, Germans, and Koreans. I did not agree with that decision, but was aware of the reasoning-a radical theocracy in Iran had taken our diplomats, organized killers of Americans in Lebanon, and promised our destruction. The realpolitik was not unlike our decision to arm the mass-murdering and former Nazi-partner Stalin in 1942, albeit on a much smaller scale-a policy rarely criticized today by the Left although we knew at the time that 30 million Russians had been liquidated, and our aid would only strengthen such repression both during and after the war. There is little morality in war, and states are faced with choices between bad and worse. Only utopians from the campus or newsroom have the luxury of hindsight and leisured perfection. China? Rather than worrying about a hypothetical and nonsensical US invasion, why not turn your attention to China's real invasion of Tibet and its subsequent near annihilation of Tibetan culture. Criticizing the US for not being divine is easy, but taking on an autocratic government whose predecessors killed 50 million of their own people is quite another thing.

Posted by Old Benjamin at 09:02 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

June 29, 2004

Taking Down Sadr

Belmont Club has an informative post on the U.S. military's victory over Sadr's militia. I found this bit particularly striking:

In what was probably the most psychologically revealing moment of the battle, infantrymen fought six hours for the possession of one damaged Humvee, of no tactical value, simply so that the network news would not have the satisfaction of displaying the piece of junk in the hands of Sadr's men. The enemy understood the rules of engagement too well, but from the other side. "Squeezed into a few downtown blocks, Sadr militants began using children to shuttle ammunition, soldiers said. Youngsters carrying large plastic bags darted from corner to corner, and the soldiers would not shoot them. 'We all grew up knowing you don't hurt women and children,' Taylor said. 'And they used that to their advantage.' The US estimates that 20 civilians were killed in operations around Najaf. The Najaf hospital claims 81. When the Russians retook Grozny after a disastrous first foray, they returned to the operational formula of Marshak Konev in Berlin and rained down 8,000 artillery shells per hour on the town, killing perhaps 27,000 before attempting it again. The vastly more powerful Americans did not, yet triumphed. They are inept, as everyone knows.

Ted Koppel was determined to read the names of 700 American servicemen who have died in Iraq to remind us how serious was their loss. Michael Moore has dedicated his film Farenheit 9/11 to the Americans who died in Afghanistan. And they did a land office business. But at least they didn't get to show Sadr's miliamen dancing around a battered Humvee. The men of the First Armored paid the price to stop that screening and those concerned can keep the change.

Posted by Old Benjamin at 08:38 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Iraqi Sovereignty

An Iraqi perspective from Iraq the Model:

I was on duty-call in the hospital all yesterday and I was in the ward when I heard the news that Mr. Bremer had already transferred the power to the new government two days ahead of the expected date. I was so happy about this news and I couldn’t wait until I finish my tour to celebrate the occasion.

My friends all seemed thrilled and optimistic, yet they seemed to have no interset in celebrating the event. I decided to do something so I asked one of my colleagues to cover for me for an hour; I told him that I have to get something from outside.I directly headed to the nearest bakery and ordered a nice cake and returned to the hospital as fast as I could. On the way, I didn’t see any large calibrations but I noticed that the streets were busier than usual and people looked lively and relaxed.

I invited some of my friends, one of us volunteered to get some beverages and we gathered around the cake to celebrate the happy event. I took some pictures but sadly not all the doctors (female mainly) agreed on me posting their pictures and I’ll respect their will.

Some of us were celebrating regaining sovereignty, some were celebrating the end of occupation, others were happy because they think the new government will bring safety and order. I was celebrating a new and a great step towards democracy, but we were all joined by true hope for a better future and by the love we have for Iraq.

After wards we sat for a while discussing different matters. The hall was busy and everyone was chatting and laughing loud. They had Al-Jazeera on (something I never managed to convince them to stop doing). Then suddenly Mr. Bremer appeared on TV reading his last speech before he left Iraq. I approached the TV to listen carefully to the speech, as I expected it to be difficult in the midst of all that noise. To my surprise everyone stopped what they were doing and started watching as attentively as I was.

The speech was impressive and you could hear the sound of a needle if one had dropped it at that time. The most sensational moment was the end of the speech when Mr. Bremer used a famous Arab emotional poem. The poem was for a famous Arab poet who said it while leaving Baghdad. Al-Jazeera had put an interpreter who tried to translate even the Arabic poem which Mr. Bremer was telling in a fair Arabic! “Let this damned interpreter shut up. We want to hear what the man is saying” One of my colloquies shouted. The scene was very touching that the guy sitting next to me (who used to sympathize with Muqtada) said “He’s going to make me cry!”

Then he finished his speech by saying in Arabic,”A’ash Al-Iraq, A’ash Al-Iraq, A’ash Al-Iraq”! (Long live Iraq, Long live Iraq, long live Iraq).

I was deeply moved by this great man’s words but I couldn’t prevent myself from watching the effect of his words on my friends who some of them were anti-Americans and some were skeptic, although some of them have always shared my optimism. I found that they were touched even more deeply than I was. I turned to one friend who was a committed She’at and who distrusted America all the way. He looked as if he was bewitched, and I asked him, “So, what do you think of this man? Do you still consider him an invader?” My friend smiled, still touched and said, “Absolutely not! He brought tears to my eyes. God bless him.”

Another friend approached me. This one was not religious but he was one of the conspiracy theory believers. He put his hands on my shoulders and said smiling, “I must admit that I’m beginning to believe in what you’ve been telling us for months and I’m beginning to have faith in America. I never thought that they will hand us sovereignty in time. These people have shown that they keep their promises.”

As Andrew Sullivan wrote, you won't read that in the New York Times -- which is really a shame.

Posted by Old Benjamin at 08:26 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Taking My Stuff

That's what the Democrats want to do. At least they're being honest:

Headlining an appearance with other Democratic women senators on behalf of Sen. Barbara Boxer, who is up for re-election this year, Hillary Clinton told several hundred supporters -- some of whom had ponied up as much as $10,000 to attend -- to expect to lose some of the tax cuts passed by President Bush if Democrats win the White House and control of Congress.

"Many of you are well enough off that ... the tax cuts may have helped you," Sen. Clinton said. "We're saying that for America to get back on track, we're probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."

The common good? They're obviously not talking about liberty.

Posted by Old Benjamin at 02:24 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

John Keegan on Nation Building in Iraq

An interesting and somewhat pessimistic column from the preeminent military historian.

Posted by Old Benjamin at 02:20 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Gitmo Case

Eugene Volokh (see here, here, and here) and Professor Bainbridge have serious problems with the Supreme Court's decision concerning the al Qaeda types held at Guantanamo Bay. And rightly so.

Posted by Old Benjamin at 10:37 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Housing Bubble?

Arnold Kling has a helpful column up at TCS on the putative housing bubble. He's offering financial advice too.

Posted by Old Benjamin at 10:05 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

June 28, 2004

Michael Moore Hates America

Yes, he really does, as David Brooks points out:

Like Hemingway, Moore does his boldest thinking while abroad. For example, it was during an interview with the British paper The Mirror that Moore unfurled what is perhaps the central insight of his oeuvre, that Americans are kind of crappy.

"They are possibly the dumbest people on the planet . . . in thrall to conniving, thieving smug [pieces of the human anatomy]," Moore intoned. "We Americans suffer from an enforced ignorance. We don't know about anything that's happening outside our country. Our stupidity is embarrassing."

It transpires that Europeans are quite excited to hear this supple description of the American mind. And Moore has been kind enough to crisscross the continent, speaking to packed lecture halls, explicating the general vapidity and crassness of his countrymen. "That's why we're smiling all the time," he told a rapturous throng in Munich. "You can see us coming down the street. You know, `Hey! Hi! How's it going?' We've got that big [expletive] grin on our face all the time because our brains aren't loaded down."

Naturally, the people from the continent that brought us Descartes, Kant and Goethe are fascinated by these insights. Moore's books have sold faster there than at home. No American intellectual is taken so seriously in Europe, save perhaps the great Chomsky.

Before a delighted Cambridge crowd, Moore reflected on the tragedy of human existence: "You're stuck with being connected to this country of mine, which is known for bringing sadness and misery to places around the globe." In Liverpool, he paused to contemplate the epicenters of evil in the modern world: "It's all part of the same ball of wax, right? The oil companies, Israel, Halliburton."

In the days after Sept. 11, while others were disoriented, Moore was able to see clearly: "We, the United States of America, are culpable in committing so many acts of terror and bloodshed that we had better get a clue about the culture of violence in which we have been active participants."

This leads to Michael Moore's global plan of action. "Don't be like us," he told a crowd in Berlin. "You've got to stand up, right? You've got to be brave."

In an open letter to the German people in Die Zeit, Moore asked, "Should such an ignorant people lead the world?" Then he began to reflect on things economic. His central insight here is that the American economy, like its people, is pretty crappy, too: "Don't go the American way when it comes to economics, jobs and services for the poor and immigrants. It is the wrong way."

In an interview with a Japanese newspaper, Moore helped citizens of that country understand why the United States went to war in Iraq: "The motivation for war is simple. The U.S. government started the war with Iraq in order to make it easy for U.S. corporations to do business in other countries. They intend to use cheap labor in those countries, which will make Americans rich."

But venality doesn't come up when he writes about those who are killing Americans in Iraq: "The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not `insurgents' or `terrorists' or `The Enemy.' They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow — and they will win." Until then, few social observers had made the connection between Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Paul Revere.

Propagandist trash.

Posted by Old Benjamin at 06:34 PM | Permalink | TrackBack