Sunday, December 24, 2006

Why presume to know Iraqi politics?

Clearly the US leadership has no idea what is going on politically in Iraq. Heck, the leading senator on the intelligence committee didn't even know that Hezbollah was Shiite and Iranian-backed, while Al Qaeda is a fundamentalist Sunni Muslim group. That would be like someone having tried to broker a ceasefire in Ireland without knowing the difference between Catholic and Protestant.

The question I have, given the obvious ignorance of our leadership, is why do they continue to try to formulate their own solutions for the problems of Iraqis? The latest bad idea involved a really strange mix of secular Sunni Iraqis, fundamentalist Iranian-backed Shia, and Kurds. Basically, the three groups in Iraq most at odds with each other. The whole idea was to isolate Muqtada al Sadr, a nationalist local Shiite leader, who is a "cause" of some of the problems in Iraq. The plan was submitted to the leading Shiite leader, the Ayatollah Sistani, and Sistani rejected it flat out; not so surprising: Link.

There was an opportunity after the invasion to get things rolling in the right direction. That opportunity has long since been missed by our leadership (including "the greatest secretary of defense in American history", according to Dick Cheney). I said it recently, and I'll say it again. There is no putting a lid on this violence. Bush can send all the troops he wants; every faction in Iraq now knows that America's days in Iraq our numbered - till 2008 at most; I can pretty much guarentee nobody is going to fold to our bluff.

America cannot stabilize Iraq - only Iraqis can do that. At this point, we better start deciding who our real enemies are, and pick our allies accordingly. Our two main enemies are Al Qaeda, first and foremost, and Iranian-backed Shia fundamentalists (SCIRI/Badr), to a slightly lesser extent. We should be backing the secular Sunnis, as they oppose both of these. And we should be backing Al Sadr. He isn't our enemy, he is a nationalist. He opposes America because we occupy his country, not because of who we are. He would fight Iran just as quickly, had they occupied his country.

I am many things; a pessimist is not one of them. But the new path that we have chosen in Iraq, is not going to work.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Oops, did I say cold war?

Juan Cole seems to think it will be a hot one. Hes probably right. The proxy will start in Iraq, but might take a more destructive turn soon after. Heres hoping neither nation is nuclear armed when that happens.

Look for an Israel/Arab peace in the near future. The Sunni Arabs seem to think their real enemies are Iranians and Shiites; Israel is a powerful ally to gain in that battle.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Betrayal is hard to forget.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani condemned the report by the Iraq Study Group released by the US government:

"We can smell the attitude of James Baker in 1991 when he liberated Kuwait but left Saddam in power."

Then, Bush Senior had encouraged Iraqis to rise up against Saddam, which they did. The rebelling Shias and Kurds took over 14 or so of 17 provinces. And then the good Saudi King called up Bush and expressed 'concerns' with having a Shia-Muslim dominated neighbor. So instead of supporting Shia and Kurdish rebels against Saddam's tanks and helicopters, Bush did nothing. And the rebels were massacred, hundreds of thousands of them. It would have been like stopping at the borders of Germany in 1945 instead of finishing the job.

Who knows; maybe Bush was right not to get involved. Maybe there was no exit strategy. Regardless, if nothing else we should at least guarentee the Kurds that we will see them through to the end; that they will either have a stable Iraq or an independent Kurdistan. And as I've said before, we haven't won but neither has anyone else. We need a change of strategy, as the mass occupation isn't working, but that doesn't mean we should leave the country altogether or give up on the whole thing.

Link to all of Talabani's statements.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A New Cold War

A Saudi advisor writes:

"because King Abdullah...gave President Bush his word that he wouldn't meddle in Iraq, these requests (to intervene against Iranian influence) have all been refused. They will, however, be heeded if American troops begin a phased withdrawal from Iraq. As the economic powerhouse of the Middle East, the birthplace of Islam and the de facto leader of the world's Sunni community (which comprises 85 percent of all Muslims), Saudi Arabia has both the means and the religious responsibility to intervene."

I'd write more but my life is absolutely god aweful right now.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Sucks to be al-Maliki. And, why Iraq is completely unlike Vietnam.

I suppose simply being an Iraqi politician sucks, since no matter which side you're on there are at least a few million people that want you dead. But Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has it bad even among this unfortunate bunch, because arguably his two most powerful supporters are demanding opposite things from him.

President Bush is planning on meeting with Maliki in four days. However, Muqtada al Sadr has just demanded that Maliki refuse to see Bush. Al Sadr commands one of the most powerful militias in Iraq, and his faction controls a huge number of Maliki's parliament seats. So if al-Maliki meets with Bush, al Sadr quits the government and the whole thing collapses. Alternatively, if al-Maliki refuses to meet with Bush, then US support will rightfully be removed and the government will collapse that way.

It seems to me that al Sadr is doing this intentionally. These actions will have no other effect than to bring down the current government. And ultimately that may not be a bad thing, as it clearly isn't working or even improving. We must not be quick to condemn al Sadr, though. His goals are a strong independent Iraq, free from Iranian domination, and he has in the past been willing to ally with Sunnis. He will be a natural ally in the future. Allow me to explain.

There are more battles going on in Iraq than just Sunnis vs Shiites. Within the Sunni community, the secular faction (former Baathists) are fighting the fundamentalists (Al Qaeda). In the Shiite community, al Sadr's group is fighting the Iranian backed Badr militia. These intra-sectarian battles aren't the major source of fighting at this time, but they would be as soon as US forces left the main part of the country.

With these differences in mind, the US should withdraw to Kurdistan and from there seek to accomplish four goals:

1. Negotiate a peace between the Kurds and Turkey, which would include getting the Kurds to reign in the PKK terrorist group that is acting in Turkey.

2. Supporting secular Sunnis against their fundamentalist enemies (Al Qaeda). This will be easy, since the secular Sunnis are already winning hands down from what I've been reading.

3. Be prepared to support al Sadr's nationalist Shiite movement against the Iranian-backed SCIRI and their Badr military wing. The Badr might accurately be thought of as an Iraqi version of Hezbollah.

4. Negotiate an alliance between these three national Iraqi groups (the Kurds, secular Sunnis, and nationalist Shiites). This would involve resolving points of dispute, such as the current Sunni-Kurd battle over Kirkuk. With some real diplomacy, I think these differences could be hashed out. And with American military power preventing a complete takeover by one side, I think it might even be possible to entice these sides to come to agree on a democratic government.

Regardless of what people are saying, Iraq is not Vietnam. In Vietnam, we were fighting a single powerful, well organized, and well funded adversary - the communists. When we withdrew from Vietnam, the communists immediately took over. But in Iraq, we aren't fighting one faction. We're fighting many factions that are roughly equally matched. We won the conventional battle of Iraq, but now we see that doesn't mean we won the war. Now some people are saying just because we're losing the battle to stabilize Iraq and establish an independent democratic government, we've lost that war.

They're wrong. America hasn't won, but neither has anyone else. This thing is far from over.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Putin murders former spy?

Here is the end of a letter written by the spy after he was poisoned:

"But as I lie here I can distinctly hear the beating of wings of the angel of death. I may be able to give him the slip but I have to say my legs do not run as fast as I would like. I think, therefore, that this may be the time to say one or two things to the person responsible for my present condition.

"You may succeed in silencing me but that silence comes at a price. You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most hostile critics have claimed.

"You have shown yourself to have no respect for life, liberty or any civilised value.

"You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office, to be unworthy of the trust of civilised men and women.

"You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life. May God forgive you for what you have done, not only to me but to beloved Russia and its people."

I really thought Russia had moved on from this kind of thing. Clearly, not. The Economist had an article on Russia about a month ago; here are the last two paragraphs:

Russia's huge size and troubled history make any comparisons risky. Yet some see historical parallels in present trends. Yegor Gaidar, a former prime minister, draws an analogy with inter-war Germany, which like post-Soviet Russia experienced economic chaos, then a period of stabilisation in which post-imperial nostalgia took hold. Vladimir Ryzhkov, one of the few remaining independent parliamentarians, worries that Mr Putin seems to be switching from an imperial idea of Russia towards one more resembling a “Reich”.

History also offers a term to describe the direction in which Russia sometimes seems to be heading: a word that captures the paranoia and self-confidence, lawlessness and authoritarianism, populism and intolerance, and economic and political nationalism that now characterise Mr Putin's administration. It is an over-used word, and a controversial one, especially in Russia. It is not there yet, but Russia sometimes seems to be heading towards fascism.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hey, assholes:

Your leaders tried to exterminate several racial groups, and started the most destructive war in human history. Our leaders were in charge of a handful of soldiers who made jailed insurgents form naked human pyramids, not unlike pledges in a particularly nasty fraternity.

That means just because we got to try and convict your leaders, you dont necessarily get to do the same to ours.

I don't like Rumsfeld. In fact, there isn't another politician that I dislike more. We should investigate his staggering level of incompetence, and he should be held accountable for his authorizations of torture or any other wrongdoings.

However, I'd prefer it if interpreting American laws was left to American judges, thank you very much. Here in the USA, we are perfectly capable of monitoring and punishing leaders who overstep their bounds. And unlike the Germans, we always have been.


Darfur is getting worse. It would be nice if Germans spent their time going after real war criminals (hint: they are hiding in Khartoum) instead of making political points. It isn't America's job to police the entire world, and we're busy right now. It makes me angry to see the Europeans doing absolutely nothing to solve the problems that they created.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Dey tuke ur johb!

While there is some debate, the evidence strongly suggests that economic liberalization and the removal of barriers to free trade is beneficial in the long term. However, the adjustment process and short-term damage of free trade is far more visible. Seeing jobs sent overseas is painful to watch, but ultimately it is for the better.

The debate typically stops there, however. The rallying cry is to always protect American workers. I think we might do well to remember two other benefits in particular:

1. Sending jobs overseas provides a source of income for the world's poorest people. Is their life less important because they are not American?

2. Fewer barriers to trade means more trade. And nothing stops conflict and war like economic ties. The more we trade with Africa and the Middle East, the more our interests become their interests.

A final quote from Winston Churchill:

"The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery."

Friday, November 10, 2006

I always get my way.

In the last few weeks, the world has been very kind to me. Almost every single important issue up for decision has gone my way. I'm getting spoiled!

-The efforts of Hugo Chavez to secure a UN Security Council seat for Venezuela have failed miserably. We haven't heard from him since.

-Kim Jong Il has agreed to restart negotiations on its nuclear program. I'm optimistic about the final result.

-The Democrats took both the House and Senate. Not that I'm thrilled about Democratic leadership; its just that I'm resigned into accepting that all of our leaders are worthless at this point. The best we can hope for is a divided government.

-Joe Lieberman won back his seat from Ned Lamont. Screw you, left wing activists. With the balance of power in the Senate so close, Lieberman is stronger than ever. That is a good thing, because he is a moderate with a proven record of bipartisanship.

-Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death by hanging. Putting someone to death in Iraq doesn't take as long as it does in the USA. Saddam will be dead in a matter of months.

-A right wing evangelical nutjob (Haggard) was humiliated and exposed for being the hypocritical and deceitful fraud that he is. What a scumbag.

-Don Rumsfeld lost his job. FINALLY.

-And, the most recent news, John Bolton is going to lose is job as Ambassador to the UN! That couldn't have happened soon enough...

I should go play the lottery.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

What we missed during the election.

I had written a post a while back about nuclear proliferation. It can be found here (it is the second half of that post). In that post, I go into great detail as to why we should be particularly concerned with the prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons, and why that reality would greatly increase the risk of nuclear war.

Here are some particularly relevant excerpts from that post:

"When one nation acquires nuclear weapons, then its major rival(s) feel extreme amounts of pressure to do so as well. Otherwise the balance of power is extremely upset in the favor of the nuclear armed nation. The result is a nuclear arms race; such a race greatly increase the probability of nuclear war. So when the US got nuclear weapons, you can bet that Stalin had his scientists working overtime to catch up. And they did, quickly."

This same phenomenon explains why Pakistan rushed to develop nukes, once the Indians had acquired theirs. How does this apply to Iran? Another excerpt:

"So why is Iran such a problem? Iran is a problem because Iran has a LOT of rivals. For starters, every Arabic country in the Middle East, save Syria (which has a temporary alliance of convenience with Iran). Keep in mind that Arabic countries are Arab Sunni Muslim dominated, while the Iranians are Shias and Persian. They dont get along. Heck, even Sunni Arabs and Shia Arabs dont get along; look at Iraq."

And now the news. According to the UK Times, six Arab states have declared that they intend to pursue nuclear technology. These nations include Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, UAE, and Saudi Arabia. Let me repeat that. Six Arab Muslim states are going to pursue nuclear technology.

Of course, these six nations officially say they just want nuclear technology to generate electricity. Thats a laugh. Saudi Arabia has a population of 25 million people, and is sitting on enough oil to power the world for about 80 years. They must be dying for more energy. I'm sure some people still believe Iran doesn't want nukes, either.

I hope our new Democrat-led Congress has noticed this. This is what our government needs to address, right now. Nevermind global warming. Nevermind AIDs, birdflu, or terrorism. This is, hands down, the most serious challenge to world prosperity, possibly ever. We must stop Iran from developing their nuclear program; only then could the other nations be convinced to abandon their nuclear ambitions.

There could be, in a matter of decades, 8 countries in the Middle East with nuclear weapons. Six Arab nations, Iran, and Israel. That wouldn't make nuclear war likely. It would make it a virtual certainty.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Making excuses.

We are not losing Iraq because "Arabs are incapable of democracy". That is a racist and empirically untrue excuse. Besides, there is nothing that Arabs have done that Europeans haven't done worse. Ethnic violence? Civil war? Religious extremism? Genocide? Please. Iraqis are amateurs compared to the Europeans. Now the Europeans have taken a break for what, one generation in two millenia? And suddenly they are the pinnacle of human existence?

Moderating and democratizing the Middle East is going to take less time than the Cold War. That is my prediction; one that I unfortunately dont have time to explain right now. Just figured I'd say something optimistic for once.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Human shields.

This is the chosen tactic of Hezbollah and Hamas. It is disgusting, pathetic, and cowardly. Those things aside, the use of this tactic confirms a suspicion that I've had for some time now. These militants clearly hate Israel more than they love their own people. Perhaps this is something that we should always keep in the back of our mind when the complexities of the Middle East puzzle us in the future.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Its time.

The United States isn't going to stop the violence in Iraq, but that was never really a debate. The hope was that eventually the Iraqi government would be strong enough to take control of the country. It is clear now that the Iraqi government isn't going to be able to control Iraq in the far distant future, if ever. It is more fractured by the day, and its constituents are at each other's throats. There is even Shia-Shia infighting, with Al Sadr's militia fighting the Iranian-backed Badr Brigade (who have infested the police force).

What now? A complete withdrawal is a bad idea, because it is almost sure to drag Iraq's neighbors into a regional conflict (ie, quite literally WW3). Partition is a bad idea, because huge areas of the country are mixed in population; ethnic cleansing would certainly follow. The best idea is to withdraw to friendly Kurdistan, and let the Sunni and Shia Arabs fight it out. It would be important for us to negotiate a peace between the Kurds and the Turks. Further, our presence in the north would prevent Iraq's neighbors from getting involved. Finally, even though we won't physically be occupying Baghdad and other places, we'll still have an enormous amount of diplomatic leverage. We can use that power to try to negotiate a peace between the warring Arab factions.

It is mind boggling, the sheer stupidity of this entire adventure. Why the Bush administration found that a secular Arab dictator who was at odds with both Al Qaeda and Iran was an enemy worth removing is beyond me. In four years, Rumsfeld has failed to make any progress in Iraq, yet Bush still thinks he is doing a good job. We should drop them both in the middle of Baghdad, and be on our way.

But I might settle for impeachment.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Venezuela will not give up!

I dont consider myself to be a spiteful person. But I wanted sooo badly to see two people in particular fail at their endeavors. One of my wishes has been granted. When voting at the UN was in deadlock only a short while ago, Hugo Chavez had this to say:

"Venezuela doesn't give up. I say it here to the whole world, Venezuela will continue waging this battle."

And as of today, here is a BBC headline:

"Venezuela and Guatemala have withdrawn their rival bids for a UN Security Council seat from Latin America, diplomats have said."

Eat it, Chavez.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

For the record.

I am a moderate libertarian, according to the World's Smallest Political Quiz.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Not that I particularly enjoy linking Michelle Malkin, but this is really nasty.

In short: the NY Times revealed a secret program that monitored bank transactions to track terrorists. The program was not being abused, nor was it illegal. The editor admits this much. Now, the program is no longer useful for monitoring terrorists...since they know about it.

I'm all about whistleblowers when the government is breaking the law. I dont want to see our civil liberties removed in the name of finding terrorists. I don't want to hear about secret prisons, or having people thrown in jail indefinitely. I don't want our government to officially sanction torture and throw out the Geneva Conventions.

But there a line that distinguishes between noble and courageous journalism, and politically-motivated pestering. At some point, no matter whether you support Bush or hate him, Americans need to recognize that we are fighting some sort of a war here. It was bullshit that the NY Times was so eager to throw something anti-Bush out there that they recklessly exposed this secret. I mean, Bush messes up enough as it is; its not like there is a shortage of things to call him out on. So why go with something that was clearly borderline at the time, and in retrospect was outright wrong?

It was partisanship that drove someone in the Bush administation to oust Valerie Plame as a spy, which weakened America's intelligence gathering capabilities. It was also partisanship that motivated the NY Times to jump the gun in this instance. It seems that political victory is most important to some...perhaps for many. Whether we actually stop the extremists must be of lesser importance.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Iran threatens Europe.

The Iranian President has been out of the news lately, no doubt judging the international response to North Korea's nuclear test. Marking 'Jerusalem Day', which is apparently some sort of 'Death to America and Israel' type celebration, he had some words for Europeans:

"It is in your own interest to distance yourself from these criminals (Israelis). This is an ultimatum. Don't complain tomorrow. The Americans are far away, but you are the neighbours of the nations in this region. We inform you that the nations are like an ocean that is welling up, and if a storm begins, the dimensions will not stay limited to Palestine, and you may get hurt."

Evidently Americans, being so far away, are no longer a target of Iranian fury. Thats nice to know. Ahmadinejad reiterated previous positions that Israel has no right to exist, and that its Jewish inhabitants should go back to the countries from whence they came. I'm sure that would go over well.

Sarcasm aside, his words are obviously designed to widen the trans-Atlantic rift. A united West is something that has proven resilient to the threats and actions of such men throughout the course of history. Free and democratic societies, when they band together against authoritarian and genocidal regimes, have proven to be an unstoppable force. It isn't surprising at all that the Mullahs would try to divide the West with such language.

The unsettling thing is that as I sit here, there is a debate in my mind as to whether or not such threats might work against the Europeans.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Time for talks.

Negotiations failed once in Munich many years ago. That does not mean negotiating with an authoritarian regime is forever destined to be a horrible mistake. The time is right to negotiate. Why? Because we are in a position of great strength, and NK is in a position of great weakness. We can get the best deal if we negotiate now.

Yes, Kim Jong Il is on the defensive now. He sees the world allying against him, and his rhetoric is becoming more heated, and more desperate. I mean, the guy is talking about going to war with the United States. That indicates one of two things. Either he is insane, which I dont believe he is. Or he realizes that he is in a position of great weakness right now, and he is trying to appear strong. I'm quite sure that he has read his Sun Tzu. Given that even China and Russia are lining up against him, I'd say it is very likely that Kim is quite nervous right now, and if he hasn't already, he will soon realize he's made a big mistake.

And that is our great opportunity. Someone that is on the defensive simply will not come out and ask for reconciliation. They would fear making obvious the true weakness of their position. However, someone on the defensive will eagerly take an outstretched hand. We need to offer Kim an honorable out from this crisis. We need to give him a way to stand down without looking weak. We should negotiate, because we're in about as strong of a position now as we ever will be - the entire world behind us. We have all the cards. We should play them.

And if Kim slaps our hand away, or if he does turn out to be insane, and picks a fight with the United States, what have we lost? Only the moral low ground.

Friday, October 06, 2006

This is our ambassador to the UN?

"We interpret it very simply. They popped off, we stood up, and they backed down." - John Bolton, US ambassador to the United Nations.

His words were in response to recent diplomatic activity by Sudan. The original position held by the Sudanese was that the pledging of troops by UN member states for a Darfur mission would be considered a hostile act (a "prelude to invasion"). Sudan then apparently reversed its position. Link here.

I've always despised this guy. Maybe its because he looks like a moron with his massive moustache. Honestly though, he couldn't have been less eloquent. No wonder world opinion has turned so strongly against us. Our diplomats are loud-mouthed uneducated assholes. We couldn't find someone else to better represent the US in the most important world body?

Equally disturbing is that the UN is still paralyzed, too intimidated to act against genocide. That is a tragedy. Perhaps it is a good thing that someone finally spoke with strong words towards the Sudanese government? No, its not. Unfortunately, the US isn't in a position to resolve that conflict unilaterally. We're already busy occupying one oil-rich Arab nation. If anything is going to happen in Sudan, its going to be through the UN. And so it doesn't help matters to be so abrasive, as Bolton did.

If however we weren't in Iraq, I'd be all about the quick and violent destruction of that genocidal regime in Khartoum. Never again.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The appropriate time for fighting words

is not now.

Fighting words should be reserved for those rarest of situations, when we are about ready to strike with military force. For such a situation to materialize, two conditions both have been met. The first condition is that the crisis is so grave that an armed response is absolutely necessary. The second is that we are capable of dealing with the full repercussions of our attack and are prepared to follow it out to an appropriate conclusion.

In other words, a nation must never attack unless it has no other option, and a nation must never attack if it doesn't know it can win the ensuing conflict - and pyrrhic victories are not satisfactory conclusions.

"North Korea must choose either to have a future or to have nuclear weapons "but it cannot have them both", top US negotiator Christopher Hill said." (BBC)

I'm really not thrilled that North Korea is going to test a nuke. But it doesn't make any sense to speak in threatening language. Consider the two possible scenarios:

1) The US is prepared to launch a military strike, and this is our warning.
This is stupid. We're going to go and attack a nuclear armed nation? Smart. And then what, when the North Koreans retaliate (hopefully in a conventional way)? Escalate the war? Invade? Nuke? Get out of here, these are all shitty options. America should not be responsible for starting a war.

2) The US is not going to launch a military strike, but is rattling its sabers.
Then why the fighting words? Hey, I don't know if anyone noticed, but Kim is one of those leaders that doesn't seem to care about the welfare of his people. He isn't going to back down to US military threats. So making such threats only makes negotiation with him (which is hard enough) even more difficult.

Everyone needs to relax. At the end of the day, we all knew North Korea had nukes. And North Korea is still more rational / deterrable / negotiable than the Iranians are. If North Korea tests its nukes, all its going to do is strengthen our diplomatic position and weaken NK's. If we attack them, the opposite is true. Let Kim test his nuke, and then watch the world stand with America in its strategy of containment, isolation, and sanctions. Eventually NK will crumble. Its a proven strategy. Look at the Soviet Union - did we ever attack them?

And, god forbid, if North Korea ever uses its weapons...nobody can say we didn't try. We can unleash everything we have and ensure the complete destruction of the North Korean government, and we'll have the moral high ground and the backing of the world in doing so.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Another catastrophic failure.

North Korea has announced that it will conduct its first nuclear test, although it has not specified when it will take place. Of course, this is a major setback and serious diplomatic efforts should be made to prevent this test. North Korea's acquisition of nuclear arms is another product of Bush's horrid foreign policy strategies.

We need a diplomatic president in office at a time like this, not a sniveling coward that masquerades as a tough guy.

Historical details of the North Korean diplomatic situation can be found here. A must read.

Monday, October 02, 2006

gogo Independents

Senator Lieberman explains why independents are the fastest growing category of voters.

His multi-millionaire challenger, Ned Lamont, is an opportunist; nothing more. A Lieberman victory is going to be a strong statement against petty partisan stunts.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Trent Lott:

"It's hard for Americans, all of us, including me, to understand what's wrong with these people," he said. "Why do they kill people of other religions because of religion? Why do they hate the Israelis and despise their right to exist? Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me."

I wouldn't consider those to be stupid questions if they were asked by my 11 year old sister, to be fair. Is this US Senator really so clueless about world history that he would ask why people kill in the name of religion? Why is he in office?

Here was the first part of that same press release:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush barely mentioned the war in Iraq when he met with Republican senators behind closed doors in the Capitol Thursday morning and was not asked about the course of the war, Sen. Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, said.

"No, none of that," Lott told reporters after the session when asked if the Iraq war was discussed. "You're the only ones who obsess on that. We don't and the real people out in the real world don't for the most part."

Maybe we wouldn't be losing Iraq if our leadership did obsess over it? Isn't that their fucking job? He went on to assert that real people in the real world didn't care about Iraq. Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. We will be greeted as liberators. There is no insurgency. The insurgency is in its last throes. And now, the result in Iraq doesn't matter. Just the latest in a depressing series of profound miscalculations.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


ter·ror·ism (tr-rzm)
The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.

Our government is about to pass a law that will suspend Habeas Corpus. It also has an illegal wiretapping program, and officially tortures captured enemy fighters.

Oh, we citizens should not be surprised. It was fear that led us to support a bogus war against a false threat. We showed how scared we were last fall, we didn't stand up for our freedom of speech when it was being challenged by threats of violence. And even now, we pre-censor artistic expression because of threats that have yet to even materialize!

So why shouldn't the government suspend Habeas Corpus? The citizens of this country have shown that they don't care about their rights anyways. The government might as well get rid of them and make the job of fighting terrorists a little bit easier. Screw the moral high ground.

We are a bunch of scared, intimidated sheep. Embarrassing.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

My, how things change.

Iraqis want us to stay.

It isn't a surprise that the Kurds want us to remain in Iraq. US forces have essentially given the Kurds their own country for the last 15 years. Without US troops, Kurds would be vulnerable to subjugation by Turkey, Iran, or Arab Iraqis. Further, the Kurds were worst off under Saddam's rule, so they were most excited to see us invade in the first place.

The interesting change is that now Sunni Arab Iraqis want US troops to hang around. Only a year or two ago, Sunni Arabs were in full revolt against the US occupation. They claimed that the insurgency was soley designed to get the "occupier" out of Iraq. Obviously that was BS; they wanted us out of Iraq so they could take over again. Now that the Shias have gained power, the Sunnis realize they can't win a civil war and aren't so quick to see us leave them to the mercy of the vengeful Shia death squads.

You'll notice that the Shia want us around still, too; otherwise their PM would have asked us to leave. All three groups want us to stay around; the reason is because no group in Iraq has a winning hand yet. If one thought they had the power to take over the rest, they'd be trying to get us to leave.

This is a potentially very dangerous situation, but there is an opportunity here. There are three apparently equally matched competitors; that would make for a really nasty civil war (worse than whats going on now, anyway). Alternatively, it also means that the US has some enormous diplomatic leverage since it could easily tip the balance and determine the winner. Why aren't we using that leverage to broker a peace?

And there is a reason I havent posted much. Medschool is a pain in the ass. But I'm enjoying it.

Monday, September 11, 2006

No censorship!

The founder of Wikipedia (my favorite website) is my hero. He has refused to censor politically sensitive articles at request of the Chinese government. This man has stood for what is right where others have sold out (Google being the largest example).

We should make it as difficult as possible for governments to control what their people see and hear...that is our best hope for the future. Hats off to Jimmy Wales for making the world a better place.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Lieberman is no longer a Democrat. Get over it. And, why Iran cant have nukes.

There are all sorts of liberals that are whining that Joe Lieberman "betrayed" the party. They complain that he won't campaign for any of them, endorse any of them, et cetera, and therefore he is disloyal and selfish. Who betrayed who? Those on the left turned on Lieberman because he wouldn't march foot in step with the rest of the party? Because he thought for himself instead of having someone else think for him?

Well, how are they surprised that he won't help Dems now? Lieberman is an Independent, not a Democrat; he owes Dems nothing. How ironic that the people that are making the loudest noise about Joe's "betrayal" are the same ones that catalyzed his primary defeat to an opportunist millionaire.

And it is equally funny to watch leftists scream and yell that the Republicans aren't supporting their candidate in Connecticut. Of course they arent! He sucks! The Republicans realize that their man has no chance of getting elected, and that Lieberman is far better than Lamont. So they figure if all of the republicans vote or Joe, plus moderates, plus some Dems who will still respect the name, Lieberman has a great shot at winning the general election. I really really hope he does win =).


There is something else that is on my mind. It is simply mind boggling that people can be in a panic about looming threats such as global warming, and yet be totally ambivalent about the prospect of Iran getting nuclear weapons. I even feel like some (on the left) would actually prefer it if Iran got nukes. This thinking is so dangerous and so stupid, it is mind boggling.

In essence, we are dealing with a game of probabilities here. Nobody knows for sure whether global warming will be no problem, a small problem, or a big problem. However, it would be reasonable to place statistics on such scenarios. Some claim that even if Iran got nukes, it would never use them. Perhaps; but we can again look at statistics and claim that if Iran gets nukes, the probability of a nuclear war increases in the near future. How much of an increase are we prepared to accept? How much of an increase (in the chance of war) will there be? Consider:

-When one nation acquires nuclear weapons, then its major rival(s) feel extreme amounts of pressure to do so as well. Otherwise the balance of power is extremely upset in the favor of the nuclear armed nation. The result is a nuclear arms race; such a race greatly increase the probability of nuclear war. So when the US got nuclear weapons, you can bet that Stalin had his scientists working overtime to catch up. And they did, quickly.

Britain, being another rival of the Soviets, gained their nuclear weapons. The Chinese were rivals to both the US and USSR (in fact, China and the Soviets almost went to war); they acquired their nuclear weapons. And the French got them too, because they are French and wanted to feel significant.

But after all of the members of the UN security council had nukes, they agreed to try to stop their spread through the non-proliferation treaty. It should be very obvious - the more countries that have nukes, the greater the probability of accidental or intentional nuclear war. The world recognized this, and so most countries agreed and signed the treaty. Including other powerful nations, like Japan and Germany. The second and third largest economies in the world have decided to sign away their right to nuclear weapons because it was the right thing to do.

Look what happened after India tested its first nuke in 74. Its main rival, Pakistan, developed one as well. The probability of nuclear war drastically increased because there was a new arms race between two new nuclear armed nations. These two nations had already fought multiple conventional wars against each other...will a nuclear war be next? Probably not. Given that both of these nations are at least fairly stable, we can *hope* that MAD prevents a war from breaking out. But the thought of a nuclear armed India and Pakistan still makes me nervous. What happens if the Pakistani government is overthrown? What happens if rogue elements in the government steal a nuke? It is obvious; the probability of a nuclear war has greatly increased due to this extra proliferation.

So I am about to write about Iran, knowing that North Korea probably has nukes. Why am I not as concerned with North Korea? The main reason is because North Korea has no real rivals. Nobody is about to engage in a conventional war with the North. Think of it another way: essentially nobody in the world likes North Korea, not even China really, so their rivals are everyone, but nobody in particular. So a nuclear armed North Korea isn't something I like, but theres nothing we can do about it at this point, and it isnt going to start an arms race. Its more of a localized, one-time issue.

So why is Iran such a problem? Iran is a problem because Iran has a LOT of rivals. For starters, every Arabic country in the Middle East, save Syria (which has a temporary alliance of convenience with Iran). Keep in mind that Arabic countries are Arab Sunni Muslim dominated, while the Iranians are Shias and Persian. They dont get along. Heck, even Sunni Arabs and Shia Arabs dont get along; look at Iraq. And now add the ethnic variable to the equation, and they're (Iran/Arabs) about as opposite as anyone can be.

Dont believe me? Think back to when the war between Hezbollah and Israel broke out. What was the initial response from Arabic countries, such as Saudi Arabia? It was to condemn Hezbollah. Thats right, the Saudis and some other Arabic countries condemned a Muslim Arabic militia (granted, a Shiite one) instead of condemning Israel. That is absolutely unprecedented.

Of course, they had to backtrack eventually because their populations got so pissed off at Israel. But the lesson is clear. Arab Sunnis are very nervous about Iran. If Iran gets nukes, it will very possibly start an arms race in the Middle East. The Saudis will want them. The Egyptians will, too. You can bet if Israel has them, it will make it known (as to deter Iranian attack) and build a hell of a lot more of them. Then Syria might want them if Israel shows they have them. God knows what Iraq will be doing. I'm sorry, but does anyone think an arms race in the middle east is a good idea?

Arms race aside, there is also the risk of Iran directly arming a group like Hezbollah with a nuclear warhead. They've given Hezbollah thousands of missiles. The Iranian leadership believes the apocalypse is coming soon; they've openly called for Israel to be wiped off the map. Why wouldn't they pass off nukes to terrorists?

The probability of a nuclear war breaking out amongst stable nations that are permanent members of the UN security council is low, but not low enough. Those odds have greatly gone up since India and Pakistan have both become nuclear armed. If Iran gets nukes, and sparks an arms race in the middle east, the probability of a nuclear war happening in the near future is good.

Those on the far left will scream and yell about the off chance that global warming could cause some flooding and droughts a century from now, when there might be an exponentially greater chance of a nuclear war a decade from now. Its absolutely nuts. Its nuts that the left, including the homosexual community, would not see the danger in a nation like Iran, who just a year ago publicly hung two gay teenagers for being such. Opposition to Bush no matter what is the message here. Its a common theme in this country, that frankly I am sick and tired of. I'm tired of ideology and party loyalty over common sense. This applies to everyone, but I personally think those on the left are more guilty of it, because theoretically they should know better.

Bah. Now I'm all riled up...I'm never going to get to sleep.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Only two more years!

If anyone wants a strong dose of optimism for the day, here it is.

I am not going to come out and say that I believe anything this guy says. However, I havent come to the realization that it is time to throw in the towel yet, either. The violence in Iraq is horrid, to be sure. But it isnt capable of bringing down the government, or even coming close. Granted, thats because the US military is still there (notice you dont hear anyone asking us to leave anymore?). But in a couple more years, I would imagine that the government could stand on its own two feet. There would still be violence for a while; but as long as no strongman attempts a coup d'etat, who knows...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Just a link

Nasrallah lives within me.

And the offical news from the Iranians: they're ready for serious talks. Oh well. I've had a night to sleep on it, and I'm not so pissed off anymore. Now I'll just psychologically prepare myself for the next big war that will be coming.


Monday, August 21, 2006

Taking matters into our own hands

The word on the street is that the Iranians will pursue their nuclear ambitions, according to their supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. This really comes as no surprise. Iran is confident that the Bush administration will be powerless to stop their program, either by military or diplomatic means. They are pretty much correct. Bush can do nothing right now.

The military option should be out of the question. The fact that the Bush administration would even consider it shows how weak our hand really is. Given that the Iranian facilities are so spread out and hidden, its doubtful that airstrikes would work well. Even *if* they were successful, it would only be a temporary solution to a long term problem. Not only that, but there are plenty of places the Iranians could retaliate; Iraq being the most obvious.

There will be no strong UN Security Council resolution. At best, there will be a slap on Iran's wrists, but even that would surprise me. The UN will be again paralyzed into inaction due to Russian and Chinese vetos. They have their own economic and energy interests at stake, and have no desire to anger a large oil supplier in the form of Iran. Besides, Iran and its proxies aren't threatening Russia or China, so they aren't worried.

The Bush administration won't be able to convince the Russians or the Chinese to do the right thing, but I bet the American people could. We Americans could wield our most powerful weapon against Russia and China - our power as consumers. If the Russians and Chinese refuse to back strict sanctions against Iran, then the American people should boycott as many of their goods as possible. They would quickly learn where their economic interests lie.

A strong Security Council resolution and sanctions is the only way that we can effectively deal with the Iranian government. The world - not just America, must diplomatically and economically squeeze Iran until it collapses. We must force the Iranian government to waste its resources on military equipment while denying it a strong economy that would also allow it to keep its population happy. We must continue to confront and isolate its allies, for instance ensuring that the UN follow through on its commitments and completely disarm Hezbollah. Finally we should increase support for Iran's enemies, both internal and external. Eventually, change will come from within; perhaps even before Iran is able to acquire nukes. This is the same strategy that defeated the Soviet Union in the Cold War, without a shot fired. It can defeat Iran as well.

This is the only option that I can see. If we stand and do nothing, and allow the Bush administration to try to resolve the problem, we might end up in another war:

Mark Fitzpatrick, senior fellow in non-proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said: "This won't drag on for years. There are two deadlines of sorts at the end of 2008. That is the earliest date by which some people think Iran could acquire a nuclear weapon. I think the date is more like 2010.

"And on November 2008, there is the US presidential election. President Bush will be inclined not to let this problem be passed on. There will be a growing mood in the US administration to take other action."

Asked if Israel's problems in disarming Hezbollah showed the limitations of air power and might therefore make an attack on Iran less likely, he replied: "Israel's actions make an attack on Iran more likely as it removes one of Iran's retaliatory tools, an attack on Israel by Hezbollah. This has now been pre-empted."

Hmph. If we were going to bomb Iran, we shouldn't even consider bombing their nuclear facilities. We should bomb all of their oil pipelines, and blockade the Persian Gulf. Sink every Iranian oil tanker that we see. They can't make nuclear weapons if they don't have any oil revenue. And that way, nobody could accuse us of going to war for oil.

...not that I'm confident that Americans would prefer 5$/gallon gas at the pumps to World War 3. But hey, I can dream.

*** Update ***

I've decided that I'm searching desperately for a good solution to this problem, when one probably doesn't exist. Nobody is going to boycott anyone, Iran isn't going to stop their program, and Bush isn't going to leave office with this problem unaddressed. Sigh.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A 'hero and victor'

As would be expected, Palestinians are celebrating Nasrallah (the leader of Hezbollah) as a new hero. Its a shame that the Israelis didn't manage to kill him. I highly doubt that the international community will force Hezbollah to disarm; this new ceasefire probably wont last.

The following is a summary of Arab military efforts by a reporter in northern Israel. Its completely true, and pathetically so. The rest can be read here.

“Hassan Nasrallah declared victory today,” I said. “What do you think about that?”

He laughed. And of course he would laugh. Everyone in the world knew Nasrallah would declare victory no matter what if he was not in a cage and if he still had a pulse. The Arab bar for military victory is set pathetically low. All you have to do is survive. You “win” even if your country is torn to pieces. The very idea of a Pyrrhic victory doesn’t occur to people who start unwinnable wars with the state of Israel.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lieberman falls to a bum

Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut was beat in the primaries by millionaire Ned Lamont. There was a grassrootes left-wing movement to oust Joe, mainly because of his support of the war in Iraq. Lamont, of course, calls for an immediate pull-out of our troops from Iraq.

Daily Kos summarizes by saying "Democrats are united on the war. Lieberman is no longer a democrat..."

The funny thing, is that Dems are in fact not united on the war. Bill Clinton, the most popular Democrat in the country, gave a speech in which he stated that it was important for us to remain in Iraq for some time longer. Reasonable democrats will rise above partisanship and realize what is in the best interest of the country, and the world.

Austin Bay blog elaborates on my dream ticket: McCain/Lieberman 08.

More good news; Cynthia McKinney, a congresswoman from Georgia, was beaten in the primaries. Do we all remember her? She was the one who punched a police officer in Washington. Here is another 'great' quote by her:

We know there were numerous warnings of the events to come on September 11... Those engaged in unusual stock trades immediately before September 11 knew enough to make millions of dollars from United and American airlines, certain insurance and brokerage firms' stocks. What did the Administration know, and when did it know it about the events of September 11? Who else knew and why did they not warn the innocent people of New York who were needlessly murdered?

She will not be missed.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Morally suspect, strategically stupid.

Charles Krauthammer blogs on the current situation between Israel and Lebanon. Here is a historical analogy he makes, attempting to argue that Israel's attacks on Lebanon are morally justified.

When the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor, it did not respond with a parallel "proportionate" attack on a Japanese naval base. It launched a four-year campaign that killed millions of Japanese, reduced Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki to cinders, and turned the Japanese home islands into rubble and ruin.

Disproportionate? No. When one is wantonly attacked by an aggressor, one has every right -- legal and moral -- to carry the fight until the aggressor is disarmed and so disabled that it cannot threaten one's security again. That's what it took with Japan.

Is the state of Israel morally justified in this crisis? Even though they were clearly attacked first (kidnapping of two soldiers), I would say no; they do not have the moral high ground. Charles' analogy above is flawed, because the state of Lebanon did not launch an unprovoked act of war against Israel like the Japanese had against the US. It was a rogue element within Lebanon that started this crisis.

Hezbollah is not Lebanon. In fact, I'd say that Hezbollah is more Syria and Iran than it is Lebanon. Hezbollah should have been disarmed, according to UN resolution 1559, but was not. The international community lacked the foresight and the resolve to enforce this UN resolution (strange). Additionally, the Lebanese government didnt have the power to disarm Hezbollah itself. That is because Hezbollah is more powerful than the Lebanese Army, thanks to generous Iranian arms support.

So yes, Israel was attacked first. But by the Lebanese state? No. The Lebanese aren't responsible for Hezbollah's actions. If we want someone to blame, we can look to the UN, Iran, or Syria. Meanwhile hundreds of Lebanese civilians are dead, hundreds of thousands are displaced, and billions of dollars of damage has been done to Lebanese infrastructure. All of this has happened to these people, and they really had no control over it.

The only moral argument Israel has going for it is that perhaps 40% of Lebanese are Shiite Muslim and so they "support Hezbollah", therefore their action is justified. Well, Hezbollah may be popular, but if I had to put money on it, I'd wager that the vast majority of those Shiite Muslims want peace. I'm sorry, wanted peace.

Morality aside, in my last post I pointed out that Israel's actions were strategically stupid. I stand by that. It should be well known to Israelis of all people that their policy in the middle east is inexorably tied to our own. Right now, we the USA are tied up in Iraq, and are still in Afghanistan. The Israelis themselves were/are fighting Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza. We're also trying to contain Iran. We were fighting on four fronts between the two of us. Why would Israel go and open up a 5th front in Lebanon? Do we really need to galvanize worldwide opinion against us at such a crucial time? Did our troops in Iraq really need the majority Shiites all riled up because of what was happening in Lebanon? And what have we learned about unilateral over-reactions in response to terrorists? Apparently, nothing.

And so here we are. Israel certainly doesnt have the moral high ground; its neutral if anything. Strategically, this was the biggest mistake since Iraq. And these are things I would think while assuming Israel would still accomplish its main goal of severely crippling Hezbollah. It is not clear at all right now whether that will even happen. A stalemate here would be a victory for Hezbollah and a defeat for Israel. That would be the worst foreign policy disaster...possibly in Israeli history. Certainly, the peace least what was left of it, was set back 1-2 decades.

Perhaps the Americans and Israelis should stop electing leaders that lack military experience yet are overly enthusiastic about using their nation's military to solve problems. General Powell was the only man in the Bush administration that knew anything about war, and he was against the invasion of Iraq. If only Ariel Sharon wasn't in a coma, Israel wouldn't be in their predicament, either.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Israelis should learn from the Indians

The Indians have done things right. In response to the terrorist attacks, which were horrific, they didn't immediately condemn Pakistan and start bombing it. That would have made matters worse, and in fact erased all of the hard earned peace advances that had been made between the two nations. Additionally, this strategy gives India considerable moral credibility. To be attacked in such a violent manner, only to turn the other cheek, is quite commendable. Certainly, such restraint will garnish enormous respect from more moderate Muslims in both Pakistan and India.

When you consider that the Pakistani government doesn't have complete control of all of the Islamists, India's response looks even more intelligent. And yet the situation is very similar in the Middle East. The Lebanese State certainly doesn't have complete control over its more extreme elements. The Israeli over-reaction to a terrorists' groups provokation is a huge mistake. They should have done nothing, instead turning to the international community and said "See, look what Hizbullah has done? We are the victim!".

The Israeli reaction recently to Palestinian provokation has also been too elaborate. When Palestinians fire Qassam rockets into Israel, the Israelis should respond by targeting the launch site with heavy artillery bombardment, nothing more, nothing less. Sending tanks, airstrikes, etc is simply an over-reaction.

And now, the Israelis have painted themselves to the world as the aggressor. There is a time and a place for massive military action; a knee jerk response to extremists is not that time. If nothing else, Israel should have issued Lebanon an ultimatum demanding the return of their soldiers.

These recent weeks, the Israelis have lost much of the moral credibility that they had gained recently in my eyes. It was exactly the same with the USA. After 9/11, the USA was the victim; Afghanistan was justified. Iraq was an over-reaction, and thus the USA became the aggressor. If there is anything the West needs to learn in fighting terrorism, it is the folly of an over-reaction in response.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A partner for negotiation?

According to this article by Al Jazeera, there are 11 insurgency groups that are willing to negotiate with the new Iraqi government. I don't know ultimately what their intentions are, but it is a relief of sorts to see that the insurgency has some order and structure to it. You couldn't hope for much improvement if the insurgency was just hundreds of tiny cells working independently; but larger groups (possibly only 20 or so) can be negotiated with.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Going on vacation

I'm going to be travelling around Europe for 6 weeks or so. You can read about the journey here. I'll likely keep updating this blog while I'm there. Maybe I'll get a new perspective on things from my travels.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Before the War

After Afghanistan, the winds of war were beginning to blow through Iraq. What were my thoughts before the invasion? I just stumbled across something I'd written on October 8th, 2002.

"Bush and his cronies are exaggerating the threat that Saddam poses. The international community isnt buying it, and thats why none of them, save Canada and Britain (?) have joined our little coalition. Rumsfeld claimed that Turkey was already signed up, but thats not true. Turkey is only going with us if the UN says its cool.

Bush also has been manipulating things, when he's been saying that bin Laden and friends are working with Saddam. (There was) a senior Al Qaeda (operative) in Baghdad but there is NO evidence that he was there to meet with Saddam, only convienient speculation.

Killing more Muslims and renewing the hatred that Middle Eastern peoples feel towards America is just going to create a new generation of terrorists; ones that will have ready access to weapons of mass destruction."

To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure I would today draw those same conclusions. I was slanted towards isolationism back then, but I've since become an ardent interventionalist.

Regardless, at the end of the day the question of "yes" or "no" concerning the war was irrelevant; nothing is so black and white. True in those days I was against the war. However, I recognized that there were some legitimately good reasons to invade. To put numbers on it, I used to say that I was 55% against the war, 45% for it.

Perhaps the one thing that nobody anticipated would be the incompetence of the Bush administration in the handling of the war. Clearly Bush and the right was determined to go to war with Iraq. Its a shame, being forced to that end, that we couldn't have at least done the job right.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Goal! World Cup 1; Sharia 0.

In Somalia, the US has been (probably) financing a group of warlords that call themselves the secular anti-terrorism alliance for peace, or some bs title along those lines. These men are criminals and thugs, nothing more. In fact, we fought against some of them before (Black Hawk Down). But now we have bigger fish to fry. The reason we are backing these secular warlords is so they can fight against another group of warlords calling themselves the Islamic Courts. The Islamists want to impose Sharia (Islamic Law) on Somalia, Taliban style.

First I'd like to say that I don't support our government in the funding of these secular warlords. The people of Somalia have had it extremely bad for the last couple decades. Who are we to forment more civil unrest and more war? I don't want another Taliban government popping up again, but the West hasn't been able to offer the Somalis anything better. I think it would be best if the Somalis at least gained peace under the Islamic Courts, and the US applied pressure to the Islamists so that they wouldn't shelter terrorists. It isn't unrealistic to think they'd cooperate with us - they saw what happened to the Taliban.

Now it seems that the Islamic Courts are winning the war anyways. A week or so ago, they captured Mogadishu. Predictably, the Islamic Courts militias imposed Islamic Law on the people there. Among the many things that are banned, Western television is right at the top of the list. So when a bunch of Somalis were watching the World Cup, the militiamen cut the power to the TVs. Riots ensued. How incredible is the power of the World Cup? "Repress our freedom of speech! Force us to grow beards! Turn our women into domestic slaves! But god damnit, when you prevent us from watching the World Cup, you crossed the line!"

By now this is old news, but Zarqawi was killed. The morning that the news story broke, I remember walking to lab and thinking that the world physically felt like a better place. I can begin to understand what Americans, Brits, and Russians must have felt like when they received word of Hitler's demise. Men like Zarqawi put a permanent aura of hopelessness and evil over the world. Things simply cannot be right in the world with men like that still alive. So congratulations to the US military for doing humanity a big favor. Unfortunately, it won't do much to the insurgency from a logistics point of view. Al Qaeda was already pretty alienated in Iraq; the majority of the insurgents are secular Sunni Iraqis. It is however, a symbolic blow to insurgents and terrorists. Simultaneously it is a morale boost - one that Americans and Iraqis needed very badly. I certainly did.

Finally, the Iraqi Prime Minister named his picks for the Ministries of Interior and Defense. This is a very big deal, because a big complaint of the insurgents is that the Shiite Interior Minister is running death squads (which they are) targeting Sunnis. The new Interior minister is a Shiite again, but was in Saddams army and evidently is somewhat trusted by Sunnis. The Ministry of Defense (army) was given to a Sunni, which will hopefully make the alienated Sunni insurgents feel like they are a part of the new government. Only time will tell if these two appointees can reduce the violence, which is the #1 goal in Iraq right now.

Its a shame that the Iraqis don't have a World Cup team. I honestly believe if an Iraqi soccer team was able to win the World Cup, the entire country would unite overnight.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Unilaterally setting borders.

From Al Jazeera:

On Tuesday, the White House signalled a policy shift by giving unexpected backing to Israel's plan to unilaterally set its borders with the Palestinians should their new Hamas leaders refuse to disarm and renounce their call for Israel's destruction.

The PA is on the verge of financial collapse. The Palestinians are on the brink of a civil war. The people are suffering. Israel is planning to unilaterally set their final borders. And still, Hamas clings to their despicable and violent ways. You can't really blame Israel for this action, should they take it. There is no partner with which to forward the piece process.

But still, I feel great pity for the Palestinian people, who have been manipulated all along. It is they who will continue to suffer because their leaders refuse to let go of their hate. Neighboring governments won't be much help either; they of course have always known that the Palestinians are more useful if they are suffering. It makes for a convenient scapegoat with which to distract their populations from their own failures.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What does this accomplish?

Juan Cole's Critique of US Policy in Iraq. First, some of my own thoughts on some selected portions.

Bush Administration policies in Iraq have largely been a failure. It has created a failed state in that country, which is in flames and seething with new religious and ethnic nationalist passions of a sort never before seen on this scale in modern Iraqi history. The severe instability in Iraq threatens the peace and security of the entire region, and could easily ignite a regional guerrilla war that might well affect petroleum exports from the Oil Gulf and hence the health of the world economy.

The rivalries between Shia and Sunni Iraqis are not new. In fact, a civil war was bound to happen in that country. Saddam was going to die someday, and the Baath Party's iron grip on power was going to weaken eventually, just like Stalin's did. The US has done a lot of things, but don't pretend we created the rivalry between Sunnis and Shiites.

The inauguration of a new Iraqi government was marred by the enormous amount of time it took to form it (5 months!), by open US imperial intervention in the choice of prime minister and in other negotiations...

Wow, you mean to tell me that a brand new democracy, in a country that was previously run by a Stalinist dictator, that is on the verge of a civil war, had some problems negotiating?? You dont say! True, the US ambassador urged the Iraqis to pick a new PM to get the ball rolling; to move the political process forward. Call it imperialist, but thats really an unwarranted abuse of a stigmatized word.

The new parliament is virtually hung, and Prime Minister al-Maliki governs as a minority prime minister, being able to count on less than 115 MPs from his own party, in a parliament with 275 members. He is therefore hostage to the Kurds, who want to move Iraq in the direction of having a very weak central government, a degree of provincial autonomy unknown in any other country in the world, and who want to unilaterally annex a fourth province, oil-rich Kirkuk, to their regional confederacy, despite the violent opposition of Kirkuk's Turkmen and Arab populations to being Kurdicized.

Maybe the Kurds living in Kirkuk had opposition to being kicked out of their city and forced to flee to the north during the 1980s under Saddam's plan to Arabize Kurdistan? What I don't understand is how Juan Cole can be so adamant about giving the Palestinians back the land that the Israelis 'stole' 40 years ago, and could care less about giving back to the Kurds land that was stolen only 20 years ago.

The main US military tactic still appears to be search and destroy, a way of proceeding guaranteed to extend the scope and popularity of the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement. The guerrillas appear more well-organized, determined, and effective than ever, and no lasting and effective progress appears to have been made in counter-insurgency anywhere in the Sunni Arab heartland. The human toll of the war has been deeply depressing. The number of Iraqi dead in the war and its aftermath (killed in political violence by any side) cannot be estimated, but certainly is over 100,000 and could easily be more. The 30,000 figure often cited comes from counts of reports of deaths in Western wire services, which are demonstrably a fraction of the true total. None of the nearly 1,000 Iraqis assassinated in Basra during the past month, possibly with police involvement, appears in such statistics.

The human toll of Saddam's rule was deeply depressing. Hundreds of thousands of Shia and Kurds murdered. 1.5 million dead, including 500 thousand children, over the course of 10 years because Saddam refused to cooperate with the UN.

Despite what Juan says, progress has been made. The Iraqi Army is ever more capable of fighting the insurgency; even captured memos written by insurgents reveal this. The insurgents complain that they are unable to actually hold any territory. They are only capable of causing local violence; kidnapping and blowing things up. A big deal, but not a threat to the existence of the government. The US needs to remain in Iraq, to give the Iraqi government a chance to sort things out for themselves.

The prospect lies before us of years, perhaps decades of instability in the Gulf and eastern reaches of the Middle East. There is a danger of it doubling and tripling our gasoline prices. There is a danger of it forming a matrix and a school for anti-US terrorism for years to come. Are people in Fallujah, Tal Afar and Ramadi really ever going to forgive us?

Sure, Iraq was stable before. Tends to happen when you have one of the most brutally repressive dictators in history in charge of things. And the people in Fallujah, Tal Afar, and Ramadi didn't have to choose violence. There are peaceful ways to fight an occupation Juan - don't pretend there aren't.

The Bush administration has pushed us all out onto a tightrope in Iraq, 60 feet up and without a net.

Congratulations Juan. You've restated one of the most obvious facts about the world today - that the Bush administration has messed up royally in Iraq. Nobody denies that anymore. This is what I don't understand about people in this country that are obviously biased to the left. What do you think you are proving by stating the obvious? Are you just sticking out your tongue at the right and saying "nah nah nah I told you so?"?

I was against the war in Iraq. I thought the invasion was a very bad idea, for various reasons. I think Bush is a complete moron. Despite all of these things, I don't want to see the Iraqi government fail (which would be equivalent to a US failure). I don't want to abandon all hope of victory just because things are looking grim. You know, at the end of the day, the vast majority of the things Juan has said in his post are right. But so what? They dont help a damn thing. He doesn't offer any suggestions as to how we could improve our strategy - he just points out when we make mistakes; a habit not uncommon among the left in this country. They just knock everything we've done, even the little bit that is undeniably good, and hope enough of us buy into their pessimistic view that we pack up and leave Iraq. Just in time so that the left can rally us to send our forces to restore order in another oil rich Muslim nation - Sudan. The concept must not be such a bad one, so long as Bush can never get the credit for it.

Juan may be proven right. The Iraqi government may fail to produce any positive change. The US would eventually be forced to withdraw, and Iraq might then collapse into civil war. And then years from now, we would all know that Bush's adventure was 100% a mistake; and Juan can finally sit back and say "I told you so".

But things are still up in the air, whether or not liberals might admit it. There is still great hope that the Iraqi government could advance the political process enough to at least be in a position where it can control the country on its own, and slowly but surely improve the situation from there. For that government to even have a snowball's chance in hell of accomplishing its monumental task, its going to need America's help for a couple more years.

Juan wonders whether or not the people in a few particularly violent cities will ever forgive us for what we've done. The vast majority of Iraqis have embraced America's democratic project. I am more concerned with whether *they* will ever forgive us, were we abandon them to jihadists and years of bloody civil war, if we could have prevented such an outcome.

MAD worked once; we might have gotten lucky.

Many people are saying that the potential Iranian nuclear threat is exaggerated. These people have suggested that even if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, they could never use them because of the MAD (mutually assured destruction) principle. They couldn't be more wrong. Obviously, it is unlikely that the Iranians would fire nuclear-tipped missiles directly from Iran at targets in Israel or the US. However, there are two very realistic scenarios in which a nuclear war could still be started.

The scenario probably on most Americans' minds is one in which the Iranians pass off nuclear weapons to terrorists. In one scenario, the fanatical Iranian leadership could directly arm Hezbollah or some other group. Alternatively, a group of senior Iranian military commanders might act unilaterally to steal a nuclear weapon and pass it off to a terrorist group. The terrorists then float the nuclear weapon into Tel Aviv harbor, detonate, and kill hundreds of thousands of people. Nuclear-armed Israel responds. WW3 begins.

Even if you believe that the Iranian government wouldn't be so foolish as to pass off nukes to terrorists, or that nukes are impossible to steal, there is still serious risk of nuclear war if Iran gets nuclear weapons. That risk comes from the potential failure of MAD to deter a nuclear war. It is true that MAD saved us from war with the Soviet Union. Two points are noteworthy here.

1) To function properly, MAD requires that both sides of the prospective war be rational and deterrable. Can we expect a fanatical theocratic government to behave as rationally as an atheistic communist government?

2) MAD almost failed to prevent war between the US and USSR on multiple occasions. Read about Stanislav Petrov and Vasili Arkhipov. Both of these men were Soviet military commanders that single-handedly prevented WW3. Now imagine a hypothetical scenario. Replace both of these men with highly religious Iranian commanders. Instead of the USA being the enemy, make it Israel. Do you still have faith that MAD will work to prevent nuclear war?

As I recently wrote, military force against Iran still is not a good option. However, people need to recognize the Iranian threat and take it very seriously. We must not fall into the trap of thinking that just because the Iraqi threat was exaggerated, the Iranian one is too. Iran needs to be internationally isolated and closely watched until it gives up its nuclear ambitions.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Surprise, Al Qaeda is beaten.

An internal Al Qaeda document was captured in Iraq. It is translated and analyzed here. The situation for Al Qaeda in Iraq is fairly desperate.

And yet, that has been obvious for months. Just because Al Qaeda is beaten in Iraq doesn't mean our mission is accomplished. There is still a powerful insurgency comprised of native Sunni Arabs. There remains a high risk of outright civil war. This battle hasn't been won yet. So while I certainly loath those Americans who would portray the cause as lost and futile, some on the right who are trumpeting Al Qaeda's defeat as being equivalent to our victory are equally wrong.

It will all come down to the new Iraqi government. If they can negotiate compromises, and continue to draw Sunnis into the government, then this thing will work (albeit with violence continuing for years). Alternatively, failure of the Iraqi government to move forward could spell disaster for the entire mission.

One final point. I keep hearing people (from the anti-war left) claiming that the presence of American troops is driving the insurgency. This convenient position has no basis in reality. If the insurgents were really interested in removing foreign troops, they could do it politically, and they know it. They're fighting because they (Sunni Arabs) don't want to share power with the Shia or Kurds.

Right now, with 150,000 American troops and an ever stronger Iraqi military, the insurgents know they cannot win. They are hoping that the removal of the main power in Iraq (US troops) will give them their chance to take over. If American troops were to pull out, the sides would become fairly balanced; the fragile Iraqi government and military on one side, and the well trained and well armed Sunni insurgents on the other. That is a real civil war.

Now isn't the time to surrender. We need to give the new Iraqi government time to negotiate and work things out. If it fails, we bounce. But as long as it continues to move forward, we should be there to back it up.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Some good news.

From Aljazeera:

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met with the reps of seven insurgent groups. He seems optimistic that he will be able to broker a deal to draw them away from the armed resistance. There are probably dozens of insurgent groups; still, if this turns out well, it may serve as an example for other groups to follow. Unfortunately, some groups will never bargain; see Al Qaeda and Saddam's ex henchmen. Those are problems that the Iraqi military will have to deal with for years.

A decent Frenchman.

"In the two months after 9/11, the phobias and fallacies of traditional anti-Americanism massively intensified. The clumsiest of them was an attempt to justify Islamist terrorism by claiming that America has long been hostile to Islam. The United States' actions historically have been far less damaging to Muslims than those of Britain, France, or Russia. These European powers have conquered Muslim countries, occupied and indeed oppressed them over decades and even centuries. Americans have never colonized a Muslim nation. Americans evince no hostility toward Islam as such today; on the contrary, their interventions in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, as well as the pressure exerted on the Macedonian government, were designed to defend Muslim minorities. And the U.S.-led coalition that removed the Iraqi army from Kuwait during the first Gulf War acted to defend a small Muslim country against a secular dictator who had used chemical weapons against Muslim Shiites in the south and Muslim Kurds in the north."

Very long, very interesting piece on European anti-Americanism. And I've had my own in the works for some time now...more later.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Happy belated Earth Day!

Here is your gift, Mother Earth. Bush has called for the Environmental Protection Agency to waive gasoling clean-burning regulations for the summer driving season. This would lower gas prices, as dirty-burning gas is cheaper to produce. Of course, cars would pollute more; as if the air in the summer doesn't get bad enough.

I have a better idea. How about people just don't drive as much this summer? Or maybe take public transit? Or ride bikes? How about we keep jacking up gas prices so we can stimulate alternative energy research? Temporarily keeping gas prices low only delays the inevitable.

Zarqawi resurfaces.

The criminal has released a new tape, on which he vows to bring down the new Iraqi government. This government, however, is far different than the previous government led by Allawi. That government was appointed by Americans, and was condemned and attacked by Zarqawi as a collaborationist farce. Which was more or less true.

The new Iraqi government is based on an Iraqi-authored constitution. Its members were elected directly by the Iraqis. This government represents the Iraqis; Zarqawi's vow in essence is to bring down the will of the people. The Iraqis, if nothing else, have shown that they don't take very kindly to foreigners telling them their business. Look how they have responded to the American occupation. Zarqawi will be seen no differently - if not far worse. Additionally, Zarqawi has been killing family members of leading Sunni Arab politicians.

I would posit that assassinating relatives of influential Sunnis is probably the worst way to stay alive in Iraq.

Monday, April 24, 2006

No good news

Sometimes one feels like the world is on a downward spiral. I'm usually pretty optimistic, but not right now. Here are some reasons why I'm feeling pessimistic.

Israel/Palestine: A suicide bomber attacks Israel; Hamas refuses to condemn the attack. It also refuses to try to stop more bombers from striking. It refuses to change its charter, and so is on the brink of financial collapse as aid money is held by the West. Naturally, Bin Laden is using the West's economic warfare as a rallying cry.

Iraq: Sectarian bombings continue to kill scores of people. The spineless George Bush refuses to fire Rumsfeld, who is more than anyone responsible for the mess in Iraq. This President's incompetence is worthy of impeachment. I really hope the Dems take congress in 2006 so they can oust this pathetic weakling of a President. One tidbit of good news from Iraq, though. The political deadlock is over, and Prime Minister Jafaari has been replaced by Jawad al-Maliki. Whether this makes any difference remains to be seen.

Sudan: Bin Laden has called on holy warriors to attack any UN peacekeepers that set foot in Sudan. Already 200,000 civilians dead and 1 million displaced in the worst genocide since Rwanda. The UN will do nothing to stop this; certainly not in the face of Islamic terrorists. And people around the world will continue to rationalize our inaction with silence. You can almost hear them thinking, "we shouldn't be meddling in Arab countries." Bin Laden must be proud.

Iran: More belligerence, more enrichment, more anti-Israel rhetoric. It never gets old, does it? As much as I'd like to see it done, the US absolutely should not bomb Iran unilaterally. And yet, there is this really unsettling feeling in my stomach that our retarded cowboy-president has already decided to do just that. Maybe he thinks "bold" action will bring up his poll ratings. I could mention that I might support UN-sanctioned airstrikes on Iran. But lets be serious. The UN could never pass such a resolution; not with China, Russia, and France sitting on the security council.

World Economy: A worldwide economic collapse may be imminent (within 5 years) as oil prices continue to rise. Iran could make this happen a lot faster, if it was so inclined. I get the feeling that they will be soon.

I'll post good news if I can find it.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Put your money where your mouth is!

The West (US, EU, Israel) has suspended its almost 1 billion/year of aid to the PA, and Hamas is going broke. Hamas doesn't seem to care; it says it won't sacrifice its claims for a "handful of American dollars". The party is calling on Arab states to honor their promise to provide aid money; to replace the money that the West is no longer giving. Iran has promised a meager 50 million. And Saudi Arabia, the most oil-rich nation on earth, has promised only 20 million.

Hmm...all of Hamas' "friends" aren't willing to financially match a handful of American dollars? I begin to wonder whether these governments (Iran, Saudi Arabia) really care about the Palestinians, as they endlessly claim. They'll certainly have to do a lot better, if they are to avert a Hamas financial collapse.

The other Palestinian political party, Fatah, is loving the pressure that Hamas is facing. Fatah still refuses to form a coalition government with Hamas, since Hamas doesn't acknowledge all of the agreements that Fatah and Israel have made over the years. Fatah knows that under Hamas, the peace process will go absolutely nowhere - it doesn't want to be a part of failure.

The West should continue isolating Hamas, economically and politically. There should be no dialogue until Hamas 1) recognizes Israel, and 2) renounces violence. All of this drama, for two simple requests. You wouldn't think it is too much to ask.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Updates, and Libya

****Update for my Update****

Turns out, the censored segment that I linked below is a fake. A minor point. It also turns out that the Execs at Comedy Central censored the episode not out of tolerance, but out of fear. Pathetic.


Here is a clip of the relevant parts of the censored South Park episode. Kyle ends up giving a long speech about why the network president should not censor the cartoon. Watch it, its not long. And then here is the tiny segment that was censored.

Meanwhile, Aljazeera reports that Libya is being kept on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Really. Libya's government still may be questionable, but it is dramatically improving and is more than deserving of a few carrots. Following 9/11, Qaddafi "made one of the first, and firmest, denunciations of the Al-Qaida bombers by any Muslim leader" (Wikipedia). He has pledged to fight Al Qaeda. Most significantly, Qaddafi came clean with the West regarding Libya's WMD program. He agreed to stop the program, and to allow his existing weapons to be dismantled.

George Bush never realized that it isn't enough to defeat our enemies. We also need to build and strengthen friendships. After decades of isolation and sanctions, you could consider Libya beaten (incidentally, a good model for how we should be dealing with Iran?). Now that Qaddafi is making overtures to the West, though, we should be reciprocating them with earnest. We should be removing Libya from the list of state sponsors of terror, and forming stronger diplomatic ties. Further, we should be pouring aid money into Libya. We should work to visibly improve the quality of life for Libya's citizens; the people should learn that peaceful coexistence with the West is in their best interests too.

As of now, we're doing nothing. I really hope Qaddafi or the people of Libya don't conclude that being friendly with America has no benefits. We have a golden opportunity to win the 'hearts and minds' of an entire nation, and Bush is throwing it away.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The execs at comedy central are cowards.

First it was the Scientologists, who got the episode "Trapped in the Closet" pulled. They cited the shows offensive nature; also, high powered Scientologist Tom Cruise threatened to not promote MI3. Since Viacom owns both Paramount and Comedy Central, the threat worked.

After the Scientologists' success, the Catholics decided to try their hand. Catholic groups complained about the Virgin Mary episode. The episode was eventually pulled as well.

Censorship has become so routine for Comedy Central that Muslims didn't even need to utter a word order to get the newest episode of South Park edited. Even though Muhammad has visually appeared on South Park before with no outrage, they wouldn't allow him to appear on the newest episode.

What do we have a first amendment for, anyways? You don't need to have a law guarenteeing the freedom of speech if you aren't going to say anything controversial.

Meanwhile, now we have one less means to mock such blatent and transparent hoaxes as the Scientology "religion". Really, it was founded by a science fiction writer! And now we have opened the floodgates; Christians everywhere can throw a fit any time someone mocks or insults their religion (I wonder if teaching evolution will apply?) and have them censored. And, if any fanatical Muslims in the Middle East were wondering whether terrorism works, the answer is yes. We are scared, and we are very intimidated.

Not that it matters, but I'm definitely boycotting Viacom and all of their holdings. Paramount Pictures, Comedy Central, MTV, VHI, Showtime, Movie Channel. I definitely won't see Mission Impossible 3; I refuse to ever support Tom Cruise.

And for those indispensables like the Daily Show, there is always the internet.

Monday, April 10, 2006


Some heated responses to Israel's decision to sever all ties with the PA. From Aljazeera:

1) Hamas described Israel's action as a declaration of war.

2) The PA has said that Israel's actions are in violation of previous agreements between the Palestinians and Israelis.

3) Mahmoud Abbas said that "we are a peaceful nation but we want our rights".

4) Hamas has accused America and the EU of blackmailing the PA, as the West has decided not to continue giving aid money to the Palestinian government.

My thoughts on these accusations:

1) Hamas' charter states their intention to destroy Israel through violent means. Is that not a de facto declaration of war in itself?

2) Hamas does not recognize the previous agreements signed between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Why should the Israelis continue to do so?

3) Prove it. Force Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel. Why is that asking too much?

4) The West has the interests of peace and stability in Palestine. It thus makes sense for the West to provide financial assistance to those seen as furthering those aims. It conversely does not make sense for the West to aid a government that remains committed to violence. The West does not owe financial aid to everyone; its our business who we fund and who we don't. Not funding a terrorist organization is not blackmail, its common sense.

I also find it ironic that before the Palestinian elections, Hamas brought up the fact that Fatah had received American money. They acted like Fatah had sold out for taking Western money. Now they turn around and accuse us of blackmail?

What is Hamas so worried about? Since other Middle Eastern governments are so concerned about the plight of the Palestinians, I'm sure they'll have no problem replacing Western money (insert heavy sarcasm).

Incidentally, its important that the West provide direct aid. We want to make life difficult for Hamas; not for the Palestinian people. Let them see that Hamas is incapable of furthering the peace process, but also that the West does care about their situation; then perhaps next time around the elections will turn out better.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The War Revisited - Inside the Box

From the Economist, March 18th:

"When the American army overran Iraq three years ago, it was famously short of military policemen, Arabic-speakers and good ideas for putting the country back together again. But the army's historians have since then made the most of a unique opportunity: the chance to question Saddam Hussein's top generals and advisers about what happened inside the regime before and during the war. The findings are to be published next month in a book-length report. But its authors have published a preview on the website of the New York-based journal, Foreign Affairs. It contains some riveting findings.

One of these, based mainly on the testimony of Tariq Aziz, Saddam's deputy prime minister, is that right up to the last moment the dictator did not expect America to attack, because of the faith he had in pressure from Russia and France in the UN Security Council. Mr. Aziz told his interrogators that the two countries had received millions of dollars of trade and service contracts with Iraq, "with the implied understanding that their political posture...would be pro-Iraqi". Even after the invasion, Saddam did not expect the Americans to fight all the way to Baghdad-a delusion that prevented him from torching his oilfields or opening the dams to flood southern Iraq. Fixated at first on internal threats, instead of the advancing American army, Saddam later came to believe that Iraq was winning, and continued to think so until American tanks reached Baghdad. His own generals were far too scared of him to risk breaking the bad news.

As for those weapons of mass destruction (WMD), it seems that some senior members of the ruling circle never stopped believing, even after the war, that Iraq had these, even though Saddam himself knew otherwise. When he revealed the truth to members of his Revolutionary Command Council not long before the war, their morale slumped. But he refused a suggestion to make the truth clear to the wider world on the ground that his presumed possession of WMD was a form of deterrence, and that coming clean might encourage an attack by Israel. Instead, of course, the dictator's non-existent WMD became one reason America gave for its decision to topple him. This was, without doubt, the mother of all ironies."

Reproducing this article isn't to suggest that the war was justified. I believe, as I always have, that the war was a mistake. However, I don't agree with those that claim the Bush administration purposefully lied about the WMD to drag us into a war. Clearly, Saddam Hussein wanted us to think he had WMD. Is it any surprise that he convinced us? The only discrepancy here is that Saddam was misguided about the potential consequences of that belief. He thought it was a deterrent; it was the opposite.

Things never change. The French and the Russians undermining America's effort to oust Saddam...for what? A principled stand against the US, justified by reason, would certainly have been acceptable. Saddam wasn't a threat; Saddam was containable; Saddam wasn't friendly with Al Qaeda. But the Russians and French stood against us because of some contracts; and certainly because of the satisfaction in thwarting the only remaining superpower.

And today, we find the Russians (and Chinese) doing the same thing in the case of Iran. It will come back to bite them in the ass, the next time they need American support. A nuclear armed Iran is a greater threat to France and Russia than it is to us.