Saturday, April 12, 2003

I've been out of town for the past few days. Actually, considering that I live in a county of 4,439 square miles and a population of about 11,000, maybe I've been in town (Provo, Utah). It seems like weeks since the fall of Baghdad, but it's only two days. To listen to NPR on the way home today, you'd think that we were in the 8th year of Vietnam. On the Media, the show that discusses the ethics of journalism as if such a thing really existed, discussed the firing at the Palestine Hotel, where all the reporters embedded in the Iraqi Regime were housed. I haven't seen so much indignation since Clinton denied having sexual relations with "that woman, . . .". The arrogance was insufferable.

I didn't hear anybody point out the ethical ramifications of submitting censored reports--with real censors, not the metaphorical American version which consists of political leaders exercising their own freedom of speech to respond to reporting they deem unfair--and calling it journalism. I missed the show last week, so maybe I just missed their memorial to Michael Kelly, a real reporter who probably considered what Peter Arnett, and the rest of the Palestine tenants, do to be more like being Saddam's press agent. Today they discussed, with typical disdain, the difficulties of so-called "unilateral" reporters who go it alone in the war zone, so that they can feel superior to those embedded with the troops. There was a lot of whining about how the coalition forces despise such people and had mistreated one of them. I felt so sorry for him, that I had to turn off the radio to calm my rising gorge. Why aren't these people arrested and repatriated to France, where they obviously belong? To call it unethical to report our own troops's viewpoint, but accept Saddam's "minders," and pay extra for the privilege, without batting an eye, seems to turn ethics on its head. But don't mind me, I'm just a lawyer.

Meanwhile, it's "Pay no attention to those cheering crowds and toppling statues! Go out there and get the Real Story--find the war crimes committed by American Marines--show the war as the failure we know it must be! We know there's a quagmire in there somewhere!

This is the program that gave Eason Jordan the opportunity to deny that CNN's integrity was compromised by what it had to do to maintain a bureau in Baghdad. I'm sure it will have something to say about his column in yesterday's NYTimes, next week. Maybe a whole five minute segment.

I suppose it's to somebody's credit that this issue was raised last year, but I'm really not interested in hearing any more about the ethics of journalists. You don't get ethics from canons of ethics, or commentators or all the writhings of justifcation for shoddy behavior. You sometimes have to do some pretty scuzzy stuff for your job. Just ask the Marines. But I just can't work up any sympathy for people like Eason Jordan, who sold their integrity for "the story," and now want my sympathy for how difficult it was.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

It just occurred to me that this war would make a good dissertation for a PhD in Sociology. It would be very interesting to study the factors that cause a totalitarian system to lose control over night.

I heard Ann Garrels on NPR this morning report that the Iraqi minders of the "journalists" staying at the Palestine Hotel just didn't show up for work this morning. One, whom they called the money guy, came and tried to get some more money from the reporters, but they told him where he could go. Another Iraqi official who had been pretty mean and threatening to them in the past, was caught trying to steal the car belonging to an Italian news crew. Without Saddam behind him he was begging them not to hurt him. They should have named him Wormtongue.

Another good dissertation topic would be a study of the Arab news media and how they have gone from total denial to acceptance overnight. It fits with what I've read and heard elsewhere about the Arab mentality. They are very fatalistic, and when they see how things are going, they accept it as God's will and go on. This is why resolve on our part is so important in dealing with them. As long as we dithered and didn't slam them back, they assumed we were wimps and they could attack us with impunity. Maybe they should study us a little more.
"The pride the Arabs felt in the initial stages of the invasion, before those legendary 'pockets of resistance' halting the advance of the world's only superpower were revealed as a myth, has been replaced by immense shame and humiliation. The images of US soldiers taking a picnic in the heart of Baghdad will haunt the Arab psyche for generations to come "

"America now rules the world, either directly or by proxy; and there is nothing anyone can do about it," he concludes.

"Nothing, that is, but wait for history to take its course, for Fortune's wheel to turn as it inexorably does, crushing underneath those who once danced on top of it. But not in our lifetime. Yes, there will be more terrorism, and Osama Bin Laden - or at least his infamous voice - was heard once more yesterday, calling for suicide attacks and thus giving more easy justification, as he did on Sept. 11, to America's imperial ambition. Thanks, Osama, you've done us all about as much good as George W. Bush. Both are two sides of the same coin."
Yes, they need to study us more. They still don't get it. Couldn't we build some madrassah's for them?

Here's a good quote from Lee Bockhorn:
Today's students . . . find it difficult to believe that Flower Power will get us very far with the likes of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein; it seems they would rather opt for Special Forces and stealth bombers.

The Iraqi people overthrew the Ba'ath Regime of Saddam Hussein today. And we helped.

The Fox News Channel is reporting that 30,000 to 50,000 Iraqi-Americans and Iraqis are marching and celebrating in Dearborn, Michigan. This must be a nightmare for the likes of Howard Dean and the anti-war demonstrators. One of the celebrants told Fox's reporter that a lot of streets in Iraq will be renamed after Americans who died in this war. I imagine that there will be a number named after George W. Bush. I hope there are some memorials to Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and especially Paul Wolfowitz as well, who has been a true friend to the Iraqi people.

Brit Hume says to prepare ourselves for a barrage of stories under the head, "Now for the hard part . . ."

Peter Jennings is suggesting that the war so far has been a cakewalk, but his military consultants are having none of it. With a military machine like ours, nothing is a cakewalk. Not even training exercises. I suppose that in comparison with earlier battles like Normandy, Iwo Jima, etc., this looks like a cakewalk, but in terms of effort and expense, it looks like the result of a lot of lessons learned and a lot of preparation. Cakewalks are like that. You don't see all the practice leading up to the performance.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

I was a lot happier before I heard of James Carroll. This column is clever rhetorically, but its points are all unpersuasive, and many are lies. Example:
Did war planners not know that that mass [sic] of people would face death, maiming, homelessness well before the leading clique is cornered? Does it help a bereaved Iraqi family to be told its anguish is ''collateral?''
Of course they did. But what Carroll ignores, and what makes him so disgusting is his implication that had we just left Saddam alone, all those people would be alive and happy. What does he say about the millions who have died in Saddam's wars? Or, to bring it down to a manageable level, the people of Halabja, or the children in that prison for kids who hadn't joined the Ba'ath version of the Hitler Youth? It's just fine if a living breathing version of Big Brother tries to bring 1984 to reality, as long as we can turn our backs and pretend we're not involved.

Here's a question, "Should the Boston Globe waste another inch of newsprint or another drop of ink on the heinous ideas of this American Ba'athist?" The answer is no.

Well, this account will certainly be played up on the homefront. This is awful, but it'st the kind of thing that John Stuart Mill had in mind when he wrote: "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse." This is where resolve becomes crucial.

Children being released from Saddam's prison.

It's close to midnight here, and nearly 10:00 a.m. in Baghdad (9:00 if they don't have daylight savings time) The news is really weird. Another sighting of Saddam and sons was called in by CIA operatives and a building in Baghdad was hit by 4 2000 lb. JDAMs. They'll have to look for body parts and use DNA testing, if the pictures of the spot are accurate. The Fog of War News is all around.

As I was watching Fox a few minutes ago, they had a split screen showing a feed from Abu Dhabi TV overlooking a bridge leading to the eastern bank of the Tigris River, when two Abrams tanks pulled up onto the bridge. Then you saw rock chips and smoke or dust just in front of the camera, which panned up to the sky and then tipped over, so all it showed was the railing from the deck or roof it was standing on. Views of a plane identified as an F-14. Then a closer view of the tank on the bridge came up for a moment before it was blanked out by a cloud of dust.
Apparently a bomb from an F-14 had been dropped between the camera and the tank on the bridge.

The tanks are being attacked by "technicals," that robust armament from Somalia. But they don't stand up well to Abrams tanks and Bradleys with chain guns. This ain't Blackhawk Down.

Monsoor Ijaz is commenting and saying that the Imams are all telling their people that they should not resist what the Americans are doing. He's saying that the way this war is being fought is proving to those who can see it that we're coming in good faith.

We're doing this right. We're taking pains to avoid harming civilians. We're bringing humanitarian aid. We're respecting their sacred sites and their antiquities. And we're making it clear that we don't want to occupy this country any longer than it takes for them to get an Iraqi government working. These points seem to have been totally disregarded by those who are determined to paint this as an imperial conquest. If this is an empire, it's certainly not in the Roman model. America the Un-empire.

Earlier the Brits announced that they had killed "Chemical " Ali in Basra, but now they're saying it's not he. I don't know if we'll ever know for sure about any of these guys. I wish we quit announcing this reports about Saddam or anybody else. The only way to know for sure is to find the corpse or wait a few years to see if he pops up somewhere else. With all of Saddam's doubles, we could kill him a dozen times and still not know if we got him.

Some good news is that the Al Jazeera offices have been hit by a missile, is where the Information Minister, aka Baghdad Bob, aka the Black Knight, was broadcasting his reports. Al Jazeera reports that it was hit by 4 missiles, which may mean that nothing happened to it at all. But the camera position showing two tanks on the bridge was definitely targeted to prevent Abu Dhabi TV from broadcasting their operations. Brian Wilson of Fox is suggesting that the Abu Dhabi camera was located above a machine gun emplacement which drew fire and caused the camera to be knocked down. No information about what happened to the camera operator. Then a second shot came which appeared to be from a closer camera at a slightly different angle. Then a bomb (apparently) blew up an obscured the scene. No telling what happened to that camera either.

Rick Leventhal reports that George Bush could run for president in Iraq and win in a landslide. Heh. Maybe he needs to be sure that no Democrats are given a role in the rebuilding, just democrats. This is quite a show.

Monday, April 07, 2003

I finally got to hear the last few moments of Friday's Hugh Hewitt Show which was a memorial to Michael Kelly. I was surprised to hear my letter to Hugh about Kelly and the meaning of what he was doing when he died, being read to conclude the program. I guess if it's good enough for Hugh's program, it's good enough for this blog. It certainly was, and is, heartfelt:
When I hear stories like this, I always think of the line from King Lear:

"Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life, and thou no breath at all?"

This war has produced so much sorrow, but yet so much nobility and hope.

I grieve so much for all the people who have lost loved ones, but then I think about the baby girl, delivered of a refugee woman in Iraq, by a navy medical officer a few days ago, named America by her mother, and I thank God for giving us the opportunity to see this time.

I agree with the Supreme Court's cross burning case. I'll leave it to the law professors to parse the decision, but it is a good thing, in all of the fervor for freedom of speech, that we remember that the stated purpose of the Constitution is, among other things, "to insure domestic Tranquility, . . . promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, . . ." The Fourth Amendment speaks of "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, . . . shall not be violated, . . ." but it then modifies it to apply only to unreasonable searches and seizures. I assume that a general right to be secure in one's person and house is already in the preamble, or was so obvious that nobody could imagine anyone raising the Freedom of Speech clause being raised as a protection for threats of violence. What really saddens me is that three Supreme Court Justice believe just such an argument.

Now this is a demonstration I can support. It demonstrates something that doesn't need a debate or articulation. Short greetings are enough:
"Thank you very much, Mr. Boss."

"We love you United States."

"Saddam donkey."

"Night and day, no water."

"Hospital. No electricity, no food, no medicine."

"Very happy. I love you George Bush."

A horse-drawn cart rolled past. "Hi, boys!"
Then there were the signs: "Buses, taxis and smiling pedestrians passed the intersection, many carrying white flags made of tattered rice bags."

MSNBC is reporting that troops have located a "pesticide" warehouse or factory 30 miles northeast of Karbala, near a military training facility. These have to be tested to see if they're the smoking gun or not. We don't know yet, but it substantiates the view that it requires troops on the ground to do an adequate inspection of a regime like this. Of course, the French will still need more proof.

Baghdad is being looted by Iraqis. Rick Leventhal on Fox describes many brand new Bobcats, the small construction tractors, on the highway heading out of Baghdad carrying loot, most noticeably generators. The Brits have put on a clinic on how to take a city, and Basrah is now under their control.

The tarnish on this operation is still the problems with "blue on blue" casualties, those inflicted by mistakes in targeting or just getting in each other's ways. The whole argument about whether we had enough troops on the ground seems moot now. I'm sure that these things appear inevitable because of the fog of war where everybody is trying to think while their adrenyline is redlining, and sometimes because of real fog or sandstorms. For most of the troops this was the first time they've been in real war, but none of these reasons can erase the horror of the deaths caused by our own weapons mistakenly aimed at our own troops or our allies.

One of the most important ideas in the world is the idea that governments derive their authority from the consent of the governed. The only other legitimate source of power is God. From ancient times, men have believed that their rulers were established by God and that the ruled were responsible to him for honoring or dishonoring such authority. Ancient kings also saw their positions as stewardships from God and felt an obligation to protect and deliver prosperity to their people. They were given the trust because of their performance in war. But being a great fighter or leader in battle is decreasing as an indicator of good leadership in a world where economics play a greater role than war.

The Army has driven tanks into Saddam's Presidential Palace on the West Bank of the Tigris. 17 days into the war. I think this embedding plan is working out pretty well for the Pentagon. That palace looks a little like the Stanford Campus, but the tankers were holding up a flag of the University of Georgia. Go, Bulldogs!

Funny, they aren't showing this on Lebanon TV.

New vocabulary: "Bimp" A soviet-built troop carrier. Sounds fierce.

Sunday, April 06, 2003

I'm watching a live feed from Greg Kelly from Saddam's Presidential Palace, with a shot of soldiers carrying the Stars and Stripes in. It's amazing to think that we can watch the the front lines live.

But I worry about rope-a-dope tactics. There will be a counter attack.

I wish we had all the underground tunnels and bunkers accounted for. I'm pretty jumpy after reading this report. I imagine they have intel that makes them feel secure. After all, those bombs must have done something. I just wish I knew more.

Update: The military is announcing control of at least one Baghdad palace and entering another. The American Flag is up. Now they have to earch and confirm their intelligence and check for booby traps. It just sounds too good too soon.

This weekend is General Conference for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often called the Mormons. "Mormons" is discouraged because of the claims by some evangelicals that member of the The Church of Jesus Christ of LDS are not Christians because we don't subscribe to some doctrines which were adopted by councils several centuries after the disappearance of the Apostles. Indeed, we don't, but I strikes me as odd that such critics, who also claim that revelation ceased with the apostles, should arrogate to themselves the right to decide who are Christians and who aren't, and then base that determination, not on scripture, but on the traditions inherited from the Catholic Church.

In fact. we proclaim that the original church ceased to be Christ's well before the various councils were convened. They are evidence that church doctrines were no longer provided by revelation as they had been during the Apostolic Period and had become the domain of philosophers and theologians, that this falling away was predicted by the apostles themselves, and that the church and the authority by which it was led have been restored in modern times.

The Church is led by modern apostles, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelves. The presiding officer among them is the President whom we sustain as the Lord's prophet, although we sustain all apostles as "prophets, seers and revelators."

Gordon B. Hinckley has spoken several times during the conference, including comments on the Iraq War. His remarks will probably appear in transcript within a few days, but they can be downloaded as a soundfile through here. His remarks are thoughtful and sensitive, but they support the idea that the gospel is not anti-war, but supports wars to defend famillies and freedom. This will no doubt lead to new charges that we LDS are not true Christians, but we've heard that before and are not worried.