Saturday, May 03, 2003

Mark Steyn on the "looting" of the Iraq National Museum:
The National Museum fell victim not to general looting but to a heist, if not an inside job, for which the general lawlessness provided cover. Am I sorry it happened? Yes, because it has given the naysayers, who were wrong about the millions of dead civilians, humanitarian catastrophe, environmental devastation, regional conflagration, etc., one solitary surviving itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny twig from their petrified forest with which to whack Rumsfeld and Co. The retrospective armchair generals are now complaining the generals didn't devote enough thought to saving armchairs from the early Calcholithic age. It isn't enough for America to kill hardly any civilians or even terribly many enemy combatants or bomb any buildings or unduly disrupt the water or electric supply, it also has to protect Iraq's heritage from Iraqis. ]

That assumption speaks volumes. But it also begs the question: What was this stuff doing in Baghdad in the first place?

He makes a good point, that these relics have nothing more to do with modern Iraq than they do with American Indians. They'd have been safer and more accessible at the British Museum or the Smithsonian. It's now being reported that there are far fewer items missing than we were told in the beginning. Whatever happened to the rest, I hope some ordinary Iraqi made some money on them.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Joel Engel asks some very pertinent and impertinent questions.

David Tell reports "a dispatch from Baghdad yesterday by Carol Rosenberg of the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service" from which he quotes, but doesn't provide a link. Anyway, it makes Baghdad sound like an episode from Star Trek where some earth-born researcher introduces a society like Chicago in the 1930s into some unsuspecting planet. Baghad is turning into Mogadishu? At least we've got tanks and firepower. We won't be trying to control things with helicopters.

From Rosenberg's dispatch:
So far, U.S. policy is primarily to leave the militias alone--U.S. troops are under orders to confiscate only those weapons they see while on patrol. When a new political system emerges, the U.S. theory says, Iraqis might abandon their flourishing, freewheeling weapons culture.

"As they taste freedom they've not been accustomed to for several generations, that is going to be one of the things that they themselves are going to want to eliminate," said U.S. Army Capt. Rick Thomas, a military spokesman.
Uh-oh. Not only do they hide in schools and hospitals, but now mosques, particularly the Mother of All Battles mosque, are lairs for the Baathists. Tell writes:
The Mother of All Battles Mosque, or Umm Al-Ma'arek, was Saddam Hussein's personal house of worship, constructed in memorial celebration of Iraq's "victory" over the United States in the first Gulf War and consecrated, if that's the right word for it, with a Koran purportedly written in the maximum leader's very own blood. It was from Umm Al-Ma'arek, for months on end until coalition airstrikes knocked Iraqi television off the air, that Baath party-sponsored imams broadcast regular Friday sermons urging jihad against the invading Western "pigs and apes."
Does this mean that the Freedom of Religion part of the rebuilding will have to wait awhile? It just might. I hope we've got people speaking to some other imams. Muslims started fighting with each other for control almost right from the start. We'll need to use that to our advantage, working with those who are willing to forego violence and against those who aren't.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Dorothy Rabinowitz writes about the funerals of some of our fallen soldiers:
On April 14 in Vermont, for example, mourners gathered for the funeral of 21-year-old Marine Cpl. Mark Evnin, killed in action on the drive to Baghdad. A thousand people attended the rites at Ohavi Zedek Synagogue in Burlington, at which the Marine's grandfather, a rabbi, presided. Reporters related how the Marine Corps League color guard and local firefighters flanked the walkway into the synagogue, where mourners included the Roman Catholic bishop and the governor.

Crowds lined the streets in salute--some with flags, some with signs--everywhere the funeral procession passed. But what struck the Burlington Free Press reporters most were all the strangers who had been impelled to come to the cemetery to honor the young Marine. One of them was a mother who had brought her two young children and stood holding two American flags. "Every single man and woman out there is my son and daughter," she told the journalists. "He could have done a lot with his life. But he gave it to the nation."
I've thought a lot about how it must feel to have spent so many years raising a child only to have him/her snatched away like this. I don't know how I'd handle it. I think of all the ways that it's possible, including drug addiction or other wastes of one's life. I think of my life. What have I really accomplished that is as honorable as fighting for my country?

The website Boycott Hollywood is being shut down due to legal threats by the William Morris Agency against the site's domain registrar. This will undoubtedly solve Hollywood's image problem.It should reinforce the lesson of the '60s and the '90s, that those who demand freedom and rights for themselves don't always want to allow the same rights to those who disagree. Our colleges and universities are a case in point. So this this.It starts with self-pity then becomes anger and ends with attempts to suppress the speech of others. I expect something similar to come from the gay/lesbian groups if they continue to win support in the press and the courts. Sexual license is a symptom of a society in decline, along with bread and circuses, politicians buying votes with tax funds.Even as our nation is at war with terrorists, we seem to lack the will to take measures that would really give us security. We don't trust our own government, and our police even less. Rights are being claimed to prevent us from taking appropriate measures, as government agencies allow political correctness to dirvert them from doing their jobs. Random searches at airports, instead of targeted ones based on behavioral profiles, waste everybody's time and ruin our air transportation businesses. Our government seems more and more to be controlled by activists and lawsuits, as are essential services like health care. Illegal drugs are everywhere, and the "solution" is said to be solve the crime problem by legalizing it.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

The Salt Lake Tribune, the National Enquirer in The Deseret Morning News. Apparently two reporters from the Trib sold a story to the Enquirer about a sex ring supposedly connected to the family of Elizabeth Smart. When the Enquirer printed the story and got sued and had to retract it, it reveialed the source and produced tapes of the two reporters. Now the Trib is embarrassed and has fired the two 'bloid boys.

Stanley Kurtz asks "the Libertarian question(s)":
Why should any form of adult consensual sex be illegal? What rational or compelling interest does the state have in regulating consensual adult sex? More specifically, how does the marriage of two gay men undermine my marriage? Will the fact that two married gay men live next door make me leave my wife? Hardly. So how, then, does gay marriage undermine heterosexual marriage? Why not get the state out of such matters altogether?
I acknowledge that those questions are compelling when we have pretty much accepted the idea that sex is a form of recreation. It reminds me of the "obvious" character of arguing for the end of prohibition.

Still thousands of deaths annually are proximately caused by alcohol, and millions of people have died or infected with AIDS because of casual sex. How many die from abuse of drugs? It doesn't matter, since none of these deaths counts for anything with libertarians.

They haven't victimized anyone else, besides having their medical expenses paid by insurance and medicare/medicaid. What obligation does any of us have to society? None. Everybody gets to do whatever he/she wants to, and those who don't like it can stay at home.

Thus the libertarian society becomes defined by the lowest common denominator. Everything is claimed as a constitutional right, and anybody who complains about the effect on the moral climate is a bigot.

I hear people speak of worrying about bringing children into a world like this. I never felt it myself so keenly.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Fox News Channel has gotten a lot of good insights from retired Air Force Lt. General Thomas McInerney the beginning of the Afghan Campaign. This afternoon he explained to Brit Hume that during that sandstorm that we thought had blocked everything, our Global Hawks were able to see through it and target the Republican Guard and pound it with JDAMs. He reported that General Franks had kept the Fourth Infantry off the coast of Turkey in order to hold three divisions of the Republican Guard in the north, expecting their movement to start the war. Instead, Franks started the ground war a day early and achieved tactical surprise and were able to seize oil fields before they could be set afire.

McInerney, being from the Air Force, understands the use of air power, and has explained things more clearly than any other military commentator I watched during the war.

Ah, Mark Steyn, would that I had had history teachers like you:
The Middle East is in its present condition in part because the European powers kept propping up the Turkish Empire decades after it had ceased to be prop-up-able. It would have been much better for all concerned if Britain had got its hands on Syria, Mesopotamia and Arabia in the 1870s rather than four decades later. But, even in the later stages of the Great War, after the British had comprehensively sliced and diced Turkey from top to toe, London's official position was that somehow the Ottoman Empire should be glued back together and propped up till the next war.

Now another Middle Eastern war has come and gone, and the bien-pensants are anxious that once again an obsolescent institution be glued back together and propped in position. This time it's the UN.
The U.N. being the center of European, especially French and Belgian, hopes for future relevance, may never recover. If it does, America will probably be to blame.

Children are the future
The opening of school in Baghdad has a hopeful ring:
"With the bombing and missiles, we were afraid because it was so loud and so dark." The dark and the loud noises are over, she told him softly but firmly. "And no country will be better than Iraq."

Somehow, we need to instill in these people the belief that they have fundamental rights that no one, not even an Ayatollah can take away.

Claudia Winkler writes about President Bush's commitments to Iraqi freedom. It looks to be a tricky thing to deliver when Mullahs and Ayatollahs can command fanatical crowds to rush our troops. They're counting on the p.r. value of video clips showing American soldiers firing on apparently unarmed crowds.

What worries me most is the attempts by Shi'ite clerics to seize political power. On one hand, Americans will be offended by such brazenness, but on the other, there will surely be arrests and more confrontations with such 'religious' leaders as we heard today. I'm sure that scenes of Americans taking on 'religious leaders' will sorely test our resolve, but I see no other choice if freedom is to emerge from this.

I've tried to bring the kind of warlord priest phenomenon in the Middle East into consonance with Islam as a religion of peace, but it's proving hard. It's interesting how Muslims will fight with other Muslims to the death, but when a non-Muslim third party is around, they all group together without seeming to have any regard for the difference between Sunni or Shi'ite.

Fox News headlines this story, "Art Experts Urge Sealing Iraqi Border."

And, while you're at it, install air conditioniing and stop the sand storms. That desert is murder.

Monday, April 28, 2003

This piece by David Plotz is about how to establish a liberal democracy in Iraq. It lists the following tipss:
1. Delay it. (Don't rush elections.)

2. Establish rule of law and an independent judiciary before elections.

3. Horizontal accountability. (I think this means checks and balances.)

4. Reverse the diaspora. (i.e. the brain drain)

5. Use new technology and media to instill the habits of democracy. (Most people don't learn the Declaration of Independence in their childhoods like we do.)

6. Let the United Nations organize the political process.

7. When you finally do hold elections, bring in international observers. (Jimmy Carter?)

Interesting, but I can't buy into No. 6. The U.N. is more an example of how to waste other people's money.

Update: Shiite clerics are already trying to grab power. Here's another piece explaining what would be wrong with using a coalition or the U.N. to build a new Iraqi nation.

Consider the opening lines from this editorial in the Chicago Tribune:

As of Friday, the number of U.S. military fighters killed or missing in the war with Iraq stood at 133.

As of Friday, the number of people murdered in Chicago this year stood at 164. Unlike some of those killed overseas, not one victim on the home front was slain by friendly fire.
We needed homeland defense long before 9/11, and not just from foreign terrorists. I can't begin to identify all the causes of crime--most of them would be controversial anyway--but we need to do better.

A good start would be to recognize that the most fundamental right we have is the right to life. Courts have focused so much on the rights of defendants that they can't seem to see the effect they are having on that most important one.

I'm in favor of anti-sodomy laws, not because I want to bash homosexuals, but because I don't want sodomy to become an accepted practice in this society. To me it's a matter of the survival of a moral free society. We've already seen examples of radicals demanding equal rights who, when they win, begin using their positions to impose their views on others. I don't want to live in a gay society. I don't want my children to be taught by gays. I don't want the "gay lifestyle" promoted as normal on television or other media.

Our society is already intimidated against any discussion of the causes of homosexuality, since if there is a cause, there might be a treatment, and that very idea is anathema to gays. Pressure from gay activists limits the epidemiological data for AIDS and related diseases.

I've never advocated violence toward gays and lesbians I'm not going to now. I wouldn't support imprisoning anyone guilty of consensual sodomy between adults. But I believe that homosexuality is immoral and a perversion of normal sexuality, and I believe that tolerance for it will erode the health of our society, just as tolerance for sexual promiscuity has. Sexual license of any kind harms family life, which is the basis of a strong society.

No government has the means to raise a nation's children. I think the motto should be "Everything I need to know I learned from my parents." Kindergarten is just a reinforcement.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

James Lindgren writes a simple summary of the last week's worth of news:
We are playing a game of expectations--some reasonable, some not. Like a New Hampshire primary in which a winner is treated as a loser because he did not win by as wide a margin as pundits expected, the war's domestic opponents keep raising the bar for success.
Yep. That's what it was like listening to Mark Shields last week sadly discussing the looting as if it made the whole endeavor a humiliating rout.

Stephen Hayes reports that Saddam bought off a lot more politicians and journalists than just George Galloway. We knew it, just not the specifics. I've always thought there was something hypocritical about journalistic "ethics" that cavil at trying to save lives but allow living in hotels and reporting from under the thumb of government minders. It's all kosher because they told us they were being censored. But Eason Jordan's confession shows how slippery that slope is.

I'm still waiting for the facts about Chirac's payoffs to surface. None of the explanations for his "diplomacy" make sense to me so far, but a need to cover up payments to him personally from Saddam would.