Saturday, February 15, 2003

Alisa, you'll love it
The Tony Blair riddle:

Demonstrations in 300 cities worldwide, expected to attract millions Saturday, reflect a "hatred of war" and he said he also hated war. Making a case for the morality of ousting Saddam, however, Blair said that his "weapons are real."

"Ridding the world of Saddam would be an act of humanity," Blair said. "It is leaving him there that is inhumane."

That, he continued, "is why I do not shrink from military action should that indeed be necessary." If it is necessary, "We should be as committed to the humanitarian task of rebuilding Iraq for the Iraqi people as we have been for removing Saddam."

Blair also linked Iraq's stability to a settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, drawing applause from the mostly supportive crowd of party faithful. "There will be no stability in the Middle East until there is a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians based on a secure Israel and a viable Palestinian state," he said

"Many of the people marching today will say that they hate Saddam," Blair said, "but the consequence of taking their advice is that he would stay in charge of Iraq, ruling the Iraqi people."

"There will be no march for the victims of Saddam, no protests about the thousands of children that die needlessly every year under his rule," Blair said, "no righteous anger over the torture chambers which if he is left in power are left in being."

Although he said he rejoices "we live in a country where peaceful protest is a natural part of our democratic heritage," Blair went on to challenge their aims and acknowledge his position on war with Iraq was not the popular one.

"I simply ask the marchers, however well intentioned, to understand this," Blair said. "I do not seek unpopularity as a badge of honor, but sometimes it is the price of leadership and the cost of conviction."

"If there are 500,000 on that march, that is still less than the number of people whose deaths Saddam has been responsible for," Blair said. "If there are 1 million, that is still less than the number of people that died in the wars that he started."


via "The Iranian"
Robert Kagan: Europeans Are Sissies:

I've undergone a strange phenomenon. People tell me I've become a pop star.

Maybe that's all you neo-conservatives really want. Doesn't your book basically update the old idea that Americans are cowboys and Europeans are wimps?

It's more complicated than that. Europe is not up to the challenge of meeting the war on terrorism. Americans are readier to use military force.

It sounds so John Wayne -- the alpha Americans versus the beta males of Europe. It's pretty insulting to Europeans.

It's not. It's an objective reality. Europeans are not insulted by what I have to say. They agree with my depiction of the gap between the United States and Europe. If you go around to any European leader, to Tony Blair or Chirac, they will tell you that they don't have enough military power. But they have a difficult time persuading the public to pay the costs.

Is that because so much of their money goes to social programs?

Partly, and also because the European public feels unthreatened. But the main reason they spurn war is because they lack military power. They're weak. That's the structural gap between the United States and Europe. Those who have more power are more inclined to use it. We've gone to war six times in the last 12 years -- Panama, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Persian Gulf, Kosovo, and now we're going to another. Americans believe in the use of force. I don't mean everyone, but the end product of American foreign policy under both Democratic and Republican administrations has been to go to war.

Noam Schreiber, in the same edition of the NYT magazine:

So why would the F.B.I., which must know a bit about Al Qaeda, have given Congress such an unrealistically high estimate? Bureaucratic politics. The greater the threat, the larger the budget that can be justified. Even more important, says Larry Johnson, a former State Department counterterrorism official: ''If you give a realistic estimate, people can say, 'See, you underestimated the threat.' As long as you make a dire prediction, it's never going to be proved wrong.''

Friday, February 14, 2003

It's much simpler this way, Brian, really. What, you don't have an automatic British-American spelling converter installed?

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Quote of the week

Hume Horan, former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, on American foreign policy:

It has been my experience that when the United States makes it clear to all the world that we are utterly determined that something must be done, reality tends to rearrange itself in a complaisant pattern. Once we do, Arab and Israeli leaders could turn to their populations and say with a shrug, "What could I do against the might and desire of the United States?"
Fighting for its national interest? Maximizing its own influence? Who do these surrender-monkeys think they are? What Gaul!

Kudos to "The New Republic" for attempting to bring back some sanity into the debate. Link courtesy of Matthew Yglesias, who also links to an American blogger previously unknown to me, Daniel W. Drezner (go there for the full text and the links):

DEFENDING OLD EUROPE: I know I've had some fun at "Old Europe's" expense, but there's a meme making its way across the Blogosphere about these countries that crosses the line. The most recent version I've seen is this Steve Dunleavy op-ed in the New York Post that Glenn Reynolds linked to yesterday. Here's the final sentence of that article:

"It chills the bone when the French government and so many of its citizens steadfastly try to undermine Bush, even sneer at him, when so many of them were saved by the nation he leads - with the greatest band of brothers on earth."

Now, this boils down to the notion of indebtedness -- that because the U.S. sacrificed to liberate France during two World Wars, they owe us some gratitude now. The same could be said of Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, etc.

Let's be blunt -- this is a bullshit argument. First of all, what's the statute of limitations on such gratitude? Surely we Americans owe a debt to France for their invaluable assistance during the Revolutionary War -- not to mention the Louisiana Purchase. ...


Finally, exactly why did we liberate France -- and Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, etc. -- in the first place? The simplest, noblest answer you can give is that we were fighting tyranny in the name of democracy. One can carp about the inconsistent, hypocritical attitudes of Old Europe, but it's impossible to deny that their governments' positions genuinely reflect public sentiments in those countries. In other words, they are repaying the debt they owe to us -- by governing themselves in a democratic manner. It's a crying shame they don't want to give the Iraqis the same option, but sometimes democracies make wrong decisions.

Don't tell me a country owes us anything for what we did more than a half-century ago -- it's a stupid, emotive argument that is devoid of any genuine substance.

Someone please pour a bucket of cold water on Colin Powell's head for me. And over the heads of the respective editorial staffs, and over these of "warbloggers"...

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Easy there, Gil. The US has presented the rest of the NATO with an entire package of demands which included - among tons of other things - these Patriot defense systems. Germany, France and Belgium decided that some of the other articles on the US wish list constitute offensive, as opposed to defensive, measures, and vetoed it in its entirety. Now they are haggling over the exact components of a smaller package, there is little reason to doubt that Turkey will get what it needs. (Link, in German).

Looks like the next "political crisis" will be over a fly getting in some wacky senior government member's coffee. The world is going crazy, isn't it? Now, Powell is screeching that the NATO is going to break up over this nonsense, unless everyone agrees, immediately, unequivocally, without a peep of protest, etc.

Update: Gil quotes a Hebrew article in an update of the same post: the missile defense systems shipped by Germany to Israel are an antiquated model and as such absolutely useless. My question: why didn't anyone notice this earlier? Didn't the Israeli military examine the gadgets before shipping them the whole way?

Update #2: Great minds think alike. According to this - (German again, I don't care to check it out in English at the moment) a US senator, Ernest Hollings, is urging Powell to take it easy....

Update #2: U.S. offers scaled-down NATO proposal
Political monotheism

Aziz Poonawalla, the bikini pundit*, opens with "occupation watch I" a promising new series on his blog. Before you click the link, try to guess what it is about. The (American?) labour market? Professional education? Unemployment? Wrong. Military occupation? Better. The one in Tibet? Western Sahara? Chechnya? East Turkestan? Kashmir?

Oh please, Miranda. Don't you know that there is No Occupation But The Israeli Occupation And Ariel Sharon Is The One And Only Villain? Really. Where do you live, on the moon? Expect many sequels on the said blog. And elsewhere.

* Why didn't they have a "pompous ass" category in that competition? (Via Egghead)

Update: Jonathan Edelstein offers a nice civil-minded discussion on the same subject.
Now for Transatlantic mud-throwing

Inspired by ExpatEgghead (go there for the links):

The Chicago boyz like to make assumptions .

Let us take it a step farther. Let’s assume that the French and Germans have been actively assisting Iraq to acquire WMD, especially nuclear weapons. Why would they do this? First, of course, money. That has to be part of it. In the German case, I think it is probably the main part. But they are running huge risks just for money. There must be more. What?

Sure.. try this link.The Corporations That Supplied Iraq's Weapons Program. Oh look, Unisys ,Alcolac International ,Rockwell ,Tektronix ,Sperry Corp. Now those don't seem European to me. Humbug. That list does not include German companies as it was a German newspaper that pinched it from somewhere in the UN.

Yes, it is amusing that such a dissident left-wing newspaper as the one it was originally puiblished in, didn't dare to. Still, the German media is abuzz with the subject: 1,2, 3. I wonder why this particular publication has caused such a stir, maybe it was the timing. Looks like you can get all the information you care for out of the suppliers database of the Iraq Watch project.

Now let's try some French-American dirty secrets:

A witness unsuspicious of any left-wing pro-Euro-weenie leanings, Reuel Marc Gerecht of the AEI in an equally kosher publication, "The Weekly Standard":

France's internal-security and intelligence services have, however, much better information on such terrorists than do the Algerians. But so far we have not heard senior U.S. officials publicly thanking the French, who gladly share their al Qaeda-related intelligence information. Nor have we heard Assistant Secretary Burns similarly praising the Israelis, from whom over the years we have learned much about Middle Eastern terrorism.

"Le Monde", quoted by "Village Voice", maybe not quite up to the same standards:

French officials were long known to have been frustrated with Washington's neglect. Shortly after the attack, Le Monde reported on a meeting between French and U.S. intelligence: "The first lapse has to do with the processing of intelligence items that come out of Europe. According to our information, French and American officials did in fact hold important meetings in Paris from the 5th to the 6th of September, that is, a few days prior to the attacks. Those sessions brought representatives of the American Special Services together with officers of the DST (Directorate of Territorial Security) and military personnel from the DGSE (General Overseas Security Administration).

"Their discussion turned to some of the serious threats made against American interests in Europe, specifically one targeting the U.S. Embassy in Paris," Le Monde continued. "During these talks, the DST directed the American visitors' attention to a Moroccan-born Frenchman who had been detained in the United States since August 17 and who was considered to be a key high-level Islamic fundamentalist. But the American delegation, preoccupied above all with questions of administrative procedure, paid no attention to this 'first alarm,' basically concluding that they were going to take no one's advice, and that an attack on American soil was inconceivable. It took September 11 for the FBI to show any real interest in this man, who we now know attended two aviation training schools, as did at least seven of the kamikaze terrorists."

The real highlight is the case of Coleen Rowley mentioned in the article above. Pity the warbloggers have conveniently forgotten this text:

The Minneapolis agents who responded to the call about Moussaoui's flight training identified him as a terrorist threat from a very early point. The decision to take him into custody on August 15, 2001, on the INS "overstay" charge was a deliberate one to counter that threat and was based on the agents' reasonable suspicions. ]...[

As the Minneapolis agents' reasonable suspicions quickly ripened into probable cause, which, at the latest, occurred within days of Moussaoui's arrest when the French Intelligence Service confirmed his affiliations with radical fundamentalist Islamic groups and activities connected to Osama Bin Laden, they became desperate to search the computer lap top that had been taken from Moussaoui as well as conduct a more thorough search of his personal effects. ]...[

The Minneapolis agents' initial thought was to obtain a criminal search warrant, but in order to do so, they needed to get FBI Headquarters' (FBIHQ's) approval in order to ask for DOJ OIPR's approval to contact the United States Attorney's Office in Minnesota. Prior to and even after receipt of information provided by the French, FBIHQ personnel disputed with the Minneapolis agents the existence of probable cause to believe that a criminal violation had occurred/was occurring. As such, FBIHQ personnel refused to contact OIPR to attempt to get the authority. While reasonable minds may differ as to whether probable cause existed prior to receipt of the French intelligence information, it was certainly established after that point and became even greater with successive, more detailed information from the French and other intelligence sources. ]...[

The fact is that key FBIHQ personnel whose job it was to assist and coordinate with field division agents on terrorism investigations and the obtaining and use of FISA searches (and who theoretically were privy to many more sources of intelligence information than field division agents), continued to, almost inexplicably,5 throw up roadblocks and undermine Minneapolis' by-now desperate efforts to obtain a FISA search warrant, long after the French intelligence service provided its information and probable cause became clear. ]...[

Well, having set my inner Eurobitch on the loose, what could the Americans possibly find in Bagdad? Something the CESM have been trying to tell them for years?
His last official act was easily his most foolish one. According to an investigation of the "New Europe" letter conducted by "Die Zeit" (in German), Vaclav Havel was sought out late in the evening, during a theatre performance by the Czech deputy foreign minister, Alexander Vondra. It was Havel's last day, or rather, last night, in office. Next morning, he wouldn't have been the president of the Czech Republic anymore, but a respected private citizen. Vondra was carrying a friendly letter to the American president he asked Havel to sign, as it turned out, without consulting the Czech PM and not even his direct boss, the Czech FM. Havel obliged, shortly afterwards it was all over the global media: the leaders of New Europe take a principled stand.... In the resulting frenzy everyone seemed to miss the fact that there was no active leader of the Czech Republic on the list of signatoriesand that the existing Czech government opposes the letter's content.

No one is perfect, and Havel certainly isn't. Now go and read the marvellous "New Yorker" pages on him, along with an older David Remnick article.
Spotted in Ha'aretz:

If all goes well next week, it will be difficult to find space in London's hotels and conference halls. No fewer than four international conferences will be dealing with efforts to end the war in the territories: a meeting of the donor nations will include an unprecedented discussion on the ways to monitor money they send to the Palestinian Authority; a second round of meetings for the working teams for Palestinian reforms, which for the first time will include official Israeli representatives; the possibility of a decisive meeting between Yossi Beilin and his team, with Yasser Abed Rabo and his, on their virtual shadow peace plan between Israel and Palestine; and the critical meeting of the Quartet, one more attempt, and perhaps the last, to save the road map from the deep freeze of the Iraq War.

Care for a quick intelligence test? Name the number of displaced persons and of the victims of military violence, the main conflict parties and their leaders between latitudes 39-44 N and longitudes 40-48 E. Then go to 60-80 E and 25-45 N and try the same. I'm waiting for the news on respective conferences. An educated guess is that they don't take place because the are not enough conference halls in major western cities to hold them.

Anyway, "foreign diplomacy" must function like adolescent crushes these days:

A foreign diplomat told Labor Party Chairman Amram Mitzna yesterday that Bush is not crazy about Sharon, despite the impression in the media.
More civilian planning for the war:

Tal G. in Jerusalem

We received a color brochure in the mail about how to prepare a "sealed room". Our flat is on the top floor of our building, and each room has an air conditioner that's connected to the roof. Sometimes water drips from the AC in heavy rain, so I'm not sure if surrounding the whole unit with heavy plastic is sufficient. And the booklet doesn't say anything about this. But I tend to think that if there really is a chemical attack, an improvised sealed room won't help too much.

Rinat of Balagan:

My mother had asked me what I am going to do here in Israel alone when the war begins. Today, at a coffee break with some friends, I got to te conclusion I have three options. a) Gonna work, write and send free-lancer articles to brasilian press; b) Gonna volunteer and work in anything my city needs if possible and necessary; c) Gonna die here with everyone else. Weird? Yeah, but true.

Monday, February 10, 2003

International cooperation

Touching in a way. There goes Imshin of "Not a Fish" and posts a link to the IDF Homefront command booklet:


Ok, I’ve been avoiding thinking about this, but now I have to deal with it (I still haven’t read the Home Front Command booklet, but both girls have). We’ve been told that the security room is NO GOOD! All that unpleasantness getting it emptied of the neighbors’ stuff – for nothing. Apparently it has to be kept open as an evacuation route and therefore cannot be sealed. So our options are: Use the communal air-raid shelter with 65 other cranky families; prepare a sealed room in the apartment (we’ve already decided Youngest’s room is most suitable) and hope the building doesn’t get a direct hit from a conventional missile; flee to Mitzpe Ramon (could be a problem because it looks like we’ll both be working as usual, but maybe we could send them with our in-laws).


I’m starting to be nervous. I dislike this uncertainty about what’s going to happen with the kids.

Along comes one Salam Pax of Baghdad:

What still worries me is the air-tight room business, as much I try not to think about it Alan (who started the issue in the comments link) is right. So I guess I have to thank you for offering all the information. It’s just not that easy getting the family to listen, it took me a week to convince them that we need a well. There is one place where I got even more information from, Imshin has posted something a while ago about that issue so I went back to check only to find an even more informative post with a very useful link [link to Imshin's post above]. (OK, so I am not sure how the proprietors of that site will react if they know an Iraqi is finding their information very useful).

Imshin I hope you and your family will be safe.

Via the comments, I did try to put his mind at peace regarding "the proprietors of that site". I don't know whether I succeeded. Hmm... Salam, are you going to invite the IDF Homefront command to a Chai party in Baghdad after it is over?

Update: Diane of "Saddam-free in nought-three! Onto Baghdad!" "Letter from Gotham" comments on this as well.

Update #2: Imshin's comment, a Greek tragedy in two paragraphs:

The story is told of a Jewish family to whom Saddam Hussein owes his life. I heard one of the sons of this family, who wished to remain anonymous, although the family's name is known, telling the story on Israeli radio a few weeks ago. This family apparently had business connections with the Hussein family in Tikrit. When Saddam's mother was pregnant with him, they took her to stay with them in Baghdad, where they tried to help her receive medical help. She was grieving over an older son who had died. One day, she was so distraught that she tried to throw herself under the wheels of a car passing in the street. The father of this Jewish family caught her and pulled her back to safety.

All this didn’t help the city of Ramat Gan, just east of Tel Aviv, in 1991, which absorbed most of the missiles Saddam sent our way. A high proportion of “Iraqi” Jews has traditionally inhabited Ramat Gan (including the same Zilcha family, if I’m not mistaken).
Civax writes

Anyway, Just let the war begin and get it over with, this whole thing of keeping us waiting in the air is really getting on everybody's nerves around here. You want to shoot? Shoot! Don't talk!

and suddenly I remember a much-quoted statement from the other side.

:: Wednesday, October 23, 2002 ::

" order to restore international peace and security"
Draft of the US-British Resolution on Iraq. Peace and Security. Ha.
Bomb us already, stop pussyfooting.
Why I should be going to New York these days

Pity it won't function.

To comfort my readers: the picture is a caricature. It accompanies an article (in German) on the amazing popularity the usually cold-shouldered Germans are currently enjoying in New York, or rather, in its left-leaning quarters (excerpt, somewhat loosely translated):

We Germans have always suffered a poor international image. For all our donations to Amnesty International and to Greenpeace ]...[ It has never been of any use, especially not in the US. Americans stuck to their idea of Germans as goose-stepping Nazis in disguise.

Along came Schroeder, gave Bush a good kick, had the cheek to contradict the US government and declared himself absolutely against the war. And suddenly we became the good gyus. Demonstrators in the Central Park are carrying photos of our Chancellor with "Thank you, Schroeder" written on them. Others are shaking the hands of German guests and congratulating them on their anti-war Chancellor. Newspaper vendors and taxi drivers smile approvingly when they recognize a German accent. ]...[ People I meet at receptions tell me how much they would like to learn German in order to be able to read German newspapers: the American media conceales everything of interest to them.


In my part of New York we, the Germans, have become cool all of a sudden. A part of the modern world. Of the real modern world, the one of Eminem, Michael Moore, HipHop, Mos Def, Tony Kushner. Here, everyone loves us. Until Schroeder gives in, that is.

Damn it, I should be going to New York. Right now. I simply want to be part of it. My German accent is so much more convincing when I speak any language other than German.
On weird comments

Some posts before February 10 may have double comments links, a side effect of my template experiments. Pick out the one you like, both versions will be preserved for eternity, Haloscan willing.

If you don't see any comments links at all, try the little gadget in the left-hand bar, currently called "Zonkboard". Should both Haloscan's and Zonkboard's servers be down simultaneously, consider it an evil conspiracy against this weblog.

Sunday, February 09, 2003


...a URL, typed in at random: led me to an unequivocal statement on all things blogging could I have possibly missed Matthew Yglesias?

...I think it was via good old Languagehat's comments: Frizzy Logic - what would an acknowledged bikini expert make of this?

...the aforementioned Languagehat sadistically links to what is supposed to be an advanced test of English vocabulary... language proficiency measured by knowledge of music theory and chemistry lab work termini? yup, "arcane and daedal"

...and Waggish do you call it? fisks? ... Slavoj Zizek:

... Zizek, being a mischievous sort of person, is celebratory of the fact that his self-involvement has led to considerable personal success, but when presented with a popular platform, he can't say anything. I don't mean that he doesn't try to make points; I mean that he concertedly avoids saying anything even remotely germane to Israel (the third quote above and his comments on Nazism not excepted). This sets him a far ways off from Edward Said and Stanley Aronowitz, theorists with more readable soapboxes. His mention of American disaster movies in an Israeli newspaper is absurd, but he doesn't seem to be able to help himself.

So Zizek relegates himself, happily it seems, to the status of entertaining clown. His most popular analogues seem to be Charlie Kaufman (for building fluffy Escher castles in the sky) and Dave Eggers (for shameless shamefulness). But since he gives the game away so baldly, maybe that's his intent.