Wednesday, July 30, 2003

# Posted 2:05 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE BBC - NICE TO TYRANTS, NASTY TO DEMOCRATS: So, here's what Tony Blair said (as he responded to a question asking whether he would continue to serve as prime minister in a third Labour term in government): "There is a big job of work to do - my appetite for doing it is undiminished."

And here's what the BBC reported in its lede: "Mr Blair, who said his appetite for power remained 'undiminished'...."

And not to let a good distortion go, the website then links to the story thusly: "Tony Blair sidesteps questions on the David Kelly affair - but says his appetite for power is "undiminished"."

The Beeb: the (kind of) grown-up version of telephone.
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Tuesday, July 29, 2003

# Posted 6:14 PM by Patrick Belton  

BUT THEN AGAIN, the OED did take five years just to get to "ant".....
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# Posted 10:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OFFICIALLY ON VACATION: I ship out tonight for the West Coast, San Francisco to be exact. I've actually never been there before. While I may check in on OxBlog once in a while, my only substantive posts will address the subject of "medical" marijuana. Or if I happen to run into Mr. Schwarzenegger on the campaign trail, steroid abuse.

Hail and farewell! I'll be back on August 12th.
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Saturday, July 26, 2003

# Posted 5:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CAMELS THREATEN ISRAELIS: Hamas and Jihad may be biding their time, but camels are now taking Israeli lives as a result of their invisibility in nighttime traffic. While I do recognize the suffering inflicted on camels by such collisions, I nonetheless condemn the equation of dromedary with Israeli lives as a form of anti-Semitic moral relativism.
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# Posted 5:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SAO TOME UPDATE: The coup is over and the government has been restored. Yet as Adam Sullivan points out, we don't know what sort of deal the government cut with the mercenaries who temporarily seized power.

JAT adds that
You might want to notice that US mediators were apparently involved in the signing of an accord allowing the president of Sao Tome and Principe to be reinstated. So too were the UN and the African Union -- everyone appears to be trying to take some credit.
Finally, EC notes that the New Yorker published an in-depth look at Sao Tome last October. An in-depth look at Principle is expected to follow...
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# Posted 5:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ROCK THE CASBAH: I thought my brother was joking when he said that punk anthem "Rock the Casbah" was a protest against repression in the Muslim world. Turns out he's right.
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# Posted 9:04 AM by Patrick Belton  

TAILOR-MADE SPAM: My Nigerian spammer has taken to writing me with the subject line "SHALOM."

And they say you don't learn anything at conferences...
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# Posted 8:47 AM by Patrick Belton  

BOY DOES IT NOT SOUND LIKE FUN to be in a House minority. If this piece from the WaPo is accurate (and anyone from either side care to come up and testify?), then the House Republican leadership is as a matter of practice denying their chamber's Democrats the ability to offer motions or amendments on the chamber floor or in committee.

Granted, the House Democrats treated the GOP largely the same way before 1994 - but that doesn't make it right. And while you can't deny a majority party the ability within reason to use parliamentary tactics and rules to increase its power, to completely lock out the minority party - irrespective of which party that is - distorts the constitutional purpose of having an elected assembly in which all of the people's chosen representatives may sit, and, with comity and in an orderly fashion, debate. Mr. Hastert, the American political tradition expects much better of you than this.
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Friday, July 25, 2003

# Posted 6:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RELAXING NYC-STYLE: When I sat down at my desk last night, I intended to put up a light-hearted post about the simple pleasures of being back in NYC. Somehow, that post transformed itself in an autobiographical discussion of national identity. But this time, I mean business. No substance. Just fun.

So, the first thing I do when I come back to New York City is head straight for the legendary 2nd Ave. Deli. Within an hour of dropping off my luggage at home, I was out the door and on my way to enjoying the best chopped liver in town along with a mountainous center-cut tongue sandwich.

After dinner, I set about enjoying the finest entertainment that UPN has to offer: WWF Smackdown. Now, it actually isn't hard to find pro wrestling on television in the UK. But since it's on on Friday and Saturday nights, you have to give up either going out or getting adrenalized. But that's a little much, even for a Hulkamaniac like myself.

Often, those who know me can't figure out how a New York intellectual like myself can get so excited about watching muscle-bound, Speedo-clad warriors beat the living s*** out of each other. My answer: What's not to like?

If that's not a good enough answer for you, than you might find some consolation in the fact that once Smackdown ended I started going through back issues of the New Yorker so that I have a look at all the cartoons I missed. My favorite of the week has one sheep telling another that
"Sure, I follow the herd -- not out of brainless obedience, mind you, but out of a deep and abiding respect for the concept of community.
Heh. Like pro-wrestling, the New Yorker is also available in England. Once in a while, I would go to the college library to look at the cartoons. But how can you sit in a stiff wooden chair and read the New Yorker? What it's really all about is lying down on the couch after dinner and forgetting that there's any other way to spend your time.

Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.

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# Posted 1:39 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GOING DOWN: No, this isn't another post about erotica. It is a post about leaving Oxford, an act known in Oxonian parlance as "going down".

First and foremost, let me say this: Thank God I am home. It feels really damn good. Because it isn't just a visit. I am now back in the United States for good (unless Paul Bremer decides that OxDem ought to establish a chapter in Iraq ASAP).

For the first time in three years, I truly feel that I am where I belong. I am not a guest. I am not an observer. Three years ago, I did not fully understand what it meant to belong. Nor did I understand what it meant to be out of place.

Before coming to Oxford, I had visited foreign countries ranging from Canada to Germany to Hong Kong to Argentina. Perhaps because I never intended to live in any of those places for more than a matter of months, I never felt that I had overstayed my welcome. I never felt that I had to fit in.

But fitting in is the challenge laid before us at Oxford. We are warned that Britain has a very different culture from the United States in spite of having striking similarities. We are told that our response to this difference should not be to retreat into the protection of the American community, but to reach out and truly learn what it means to live in Britain.

Instead, I learned what it meant to live in America. The longer I spent in the UK, the more out of place I felt. This is not to say that all the differences are negative. Much of Britain is incomparably charming and civilized in a way that America simply cannot be. But I never felt that I was a part of that Britian either.

It was not a lack of British friends that made me feel separated. In fact, I had more British friends than many of the other American Scholars. But in the presence of every bus driver, every homeless man and countless other strangers, I preferred to put on my Australian accent.

Because every encoutner is an international relation. Because the curiosity, awe and resentment that American provokes transforms every encounter into a social experiment. Like it or not, every American has to stand in for America.

Not every. But enough that it begins to feel like every. It reminds me of the paranoia that our teachers so conscientiously instilled in us in our Jewish elementary school. Every time we stepped out of that building, we became representatives of the Jewish people. Our teachers told us that if we were loud or obnoxious that those around us would decide that the Jewish people are loud and obnoxious.

Interestingly, I don't remember ever being told that if we behaved as model citizens that those around us would come to see the Jewish people as model citizens. We had nothing to gain and everything to lose.

Looking back, it is painfully evident that we were being taught to systematically underestimate the intelligence and open-mindedness of our fellow Americans. In fact, it made it hard to even think of them as our fellow Americans. While no one questioned that 20th century America had been better to the Jews than any other time and place on earth, it was never thought of as a final destination.

Nor was Israel. It was uncivilized. It was dangerous. A nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there. The Israelis were far tougher than their American cousins and they wouldn't let you forget it. They had survived five wars and countless terrorists attacks but didn't have cable television. (That was in the 1980s.)

So perhaps I was being disingenuous when I wrote above that until now I did not understand what it meant to be out of place. Because I was never in it. Then in college, America became my unequivocal home. When making friends, it didn't matter what state we were from, how much our parents income was, or whether we were black, white, Hispanic or Asian. Of course those things mattered. But if you found out that you both liked skiing or history or Led Zeppelin, then those things started to matter a helluva lot less. It was precisely because Yale was so diverse that I was able to see how little one's identity mattered.

I felt in place because I no longer had to decide between being Jewish and being American. Yet at the same time, it was no longer apparent that I had to decide between being American and being anything else. In college, I spent two summers in Germany and never felt that being American was a bad thing at all.

After graduating from Yale, I spent a year working in Washington at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In the fall of 1999 and spring of 2000, globalization was everything. Hundreds of thousands of protesters were against it, even though most of us at Carnegie were for it.

But so what? On both sides, we were American. The question at hand was to what degree we should also be international or global. In that sense, being American was a good thing, since it meant being national.

As a pundit-in-training, I decided to write an op-ed about the protest movement. According to conventional wisdom, globalization bore more than a passing resemblance to Americanization. Therefore, protests against one were tantamount to protests against the other.

I disagreed. If the protesters were against American power, why were they more concerned with transparency at the IMF than with the fact that the United States had just bombed Milosevic into submission? Since the protesters were explicitly for human rights, they silently decided to recognize that the United States was fighting their battles for them.

Before sending my column off to the editors, I decided to run it by my supervisor, who happened to be Robert Kagan. While generally supportive of my writing projects, Bob thought that this one should go in the garbage. It was pretty clear that Bob was asking himself how someone relatively smart could have written something that was much more than relatively stupid.

The answer was naivete. I just didn't understand that the anti-globalization movement had within it the potential to become an anti-American movement just a few years later. Not that protesting against the war in Iraq was, in and of itself, anti-American. But the simplistic and cynical arguments made by so many of those protesters demonstrated that their opposition to the war was an extension of their anti-American worldview (and not vice versa).

While I had the good sense to throw my op-ed in the garbage after getting Bob's comments on it, I was still a long way from recognizing how wrong I was. Even September 11th was not enough to change that. After all, Le Monde's headline the next day was "Nous Sommes Tous Americaines". Who says one has to decide between being American and being anything else?

The attacks on New York and Washington coincided with the beginning of my thesis research. Thus, the growth of my own knowledge of American politics paralleled the growth of the anti-American hostility around me.

The political differences that divided Britian and America after September 11th helped me to place all sorts of other Anglo-American differences in context. For example, my occasional Australian accent was a product of my first, pre-Sept. 11 year at Oxford. But the anonymity it provided became something entirely different after the Towers fell.

The more I read about America, the more I identified with its historical sense of mission. I began to recognize that I had always had that sense of mission, but did not understand the degree to which it was part of my American heritage. Over the past two years, that degree became apparent precisely because there was no comparable sense of mission on the far side of the Atlantic.

Again, one cannot reduce the question of invading Iraq to cultural differences. But that was a part of it. Even before Sept. 11, I had begun to sense Britain's nation discomfort with the concept of a mission.

At Yale, the President and the Dean could not give a speech to any number of assembled undergraduates without waxing eloquent about their role as the leaders of the next generation and about their obligation to give back to the society that gave them so much. While the rhetoric was sometimes excessive or hollow, the students seemed to take for granted that it was the expression of a shared ideal.

In contrast, Oxford seemed to have no message for its undergraduates. When I told my British friends about Yale, they said that no one at Oxford would take that sort of rhetoric seriously. Oxford encouraged intellectual excellence. But the purpose of such excellence was not apparent. Personal fulfillment? Social sophistication? A job at an investment bank? I don't know. My friends didn't either.

I have come to believe that Americans' frenetic obsession with taking action is inextricably tied up with our sense of mission. We have to always be making everything better. It goes without saying that we often fail and that our obsessive activism is the cause of our failure. That might even turn out to be the case in Iraq. But without that activism and that sense of mission, we just wouldn't know what to do with ourselves.

God, I'm glad to be home.

[NB: This post could really use some editing, but I'm jet-lagged and losing it, so sleep is going to have to come first.]
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Thursday, July 24, 2003

# Posted 10:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS! In the aftermath of the Queen of Hearts' capture, Dr. Weevil tackles the deck from different perspectives. Highlight:
"Whoever decided to make serial rapist Uday Hussein the Ace of Hearts was either careless of secondary implications or had a sick sense of humor."
Rumor has it Gary Condit designed the deck...
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# Posted 8:49 PM by Patrick Belton  

WOOLSEY ON DEMOCRACY PROMOTION: Hey, it ain't erotica, but after all, I am a married man. This article by Jim Woolsey in Sunday's Observer (London) is a nice rendition of a speech he's been giving for some time. The final section is particularly worthy of applause, and even citing:
My most controversial point may be about what needs to be done to fight this war in the Middle East. We will have great difficulty bringing peace to the region without changing the nature of governments there - without bringing democracy.

If one starts out from the proposition that this is a task for America, Britain or others to accomplish principally with military forces, we will fail. We have to take a much longer view, and, for example, pay attention to the brave newspaper editors - such as one in Saudi Arabia who recently took on the religious police and got himself fired by the Interior Minister Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz. There are similar brave reformers in Egypt and other countries who are effectively the green shoots springing up through the pavement, indicative of a growing approach, a growing openness in much of the Muslim world to democracy and liberty.

Some people seem to think that this is a hopeless task. Two points: first, the substantial majority of the world's Muslims live in democracies - Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Turkey, Mali, the Balkans. They may not be perfect democracies but they are democracies nonetheless. I am the Chairman of Freedom House, the oldest human rights organisation in America. Freedom House says that there are a hundred and twenty one democracies, eighty nine of them free - that is, they have parliamentary elections plus the rule of law. Another thirty two are partly free, like Russia or Indonesia, say, with substantial difficulties with respect to the rule of law, but nonetheless regular elections.

In the eighty-nine years since the guns of August 1914, the world has gone from ten or twelve democracies to over a hundred and twenty, and those ten or twelve in 1914 were democracies only for the male portion of the populations. Nothing like that has happened within a single lifetime in world history before. Anyone eighty nine years old has seen democracies multiply tenfold.

Most of those came about not through military force, but in all sorts of ways. During and after the Cold War, for example, in Iberia, the role of the German Social Democrats was important in working with their socialist colleagues to steer Spain and Portugal away from communism and totalitarianism and towards democracy. In the Philippines, it was people power. In Mongolia, Mali and countries all over the world, democracy has become a way of life.

These are places where, year after year, the smart, self-appointed experts have said, 'X will never be a democracy'. They said that the Germans would never be able to run a democracy, the Japanese would not, Catholic countries would not - because in the 1970s, Iberia and Latin America were non-democratic. They said it about people from a Chinese cultural background, yet the Taiwanese seem to have figured it out; maybe China will too. They said it about the Russians; after all, they missed the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Enlightenment - how could they run a democracy? But they seem to be getting started.

All along, the smart money has been wrong on this subject. It is not that there are no retrograde steps. There are in Venezuela and elsewhere, and in the Arab world, a portion of the Muslim world, there are some two hundred-plus million Arabs who live without democracy. This is an area where the transition will be difficult for a series of historical, cultural and religious reasons, many to do with the influence of the Wahhabis.

Nonetheless, it is not hopeless. It is the best path to peace, since democracies do not fight one another. They fight dictatorships and dictatorships fight each other, and democracies sometimes preempt against dictatorships, but they do not fight one another.

If we want to be successful in this long war, we will have to take on this issue of democracy in the Arab world. We will have to take on the - and I would use the word 'racist' - view that Arabs cannot operate democracies. We will need to make some people uncomfortable.

As we undertake these efforts in the Middle East and elsewhere, occasionally by force of arms but generally not, generally by influence, by standing up for brave students in the streets of Tehran, we will hear people say, from President Hosni Mubarak's regime in Egypt or from the Saudi royal family, that we are making them very nervous. And our response should be, 'Good. We want you nervous. We want you to change, but realise that now, for the fourth time in a hundred years, the democracies are on the march. And we are on the side of those whom you most fear: your own people.'
Hear, hear!
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Wednesday, July 23, 2003

# Posted 7:14 PM by Patrick Belton  

A SAD DAY FOR NEW YORK: Councilman James E. Davis, a 41-year old non-profit founder and cop who joined the NYPD after being assaulted by two white police officers, was mowed down in the city council chamber this afternoon by one of his primary opponents. Ironically, Councilman Davis's murderer bypassed City Hall's metal detectors by entering the building as the guest of the man he would murder - like the U.S. Congress, City Hall had extended that privilege to legislators and their personal guests, as subjecting them to a metal detector was seen to be inimical to their dignity.

Councilman Davis sounds to have been an idealistic, energetic young politician, the likes of which his city could be proud. All New Yorkers everywhere will mourn the senseless cutting short of a promising career which would have done much good for the fellow residents of his district and his city. May he rest in peace.
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# Posted 7:09 PM by Patrick Belton  

SAFE TRAVELS, DAVID!!!! Oxford won't be the same without you.
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# Posted 6:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LEAVING, ON A JET PLANE: As Patrick has already mentioned in passing, I will be spending the next academic year in Cambridge, MA. And, yes, I will still be posting on OxBlog just as regularly as before.

There are two reasons I'm going to Harvard: library resources and stipend funding. In the UK, even at Oxford, it is extremely hard to write a document-based dissertation on modern American foreign policy. At Harvard, I will either find what I need in Widener Library or be close enough to travel to other archives.

Also, given that I am about to finish my third year as a Rhodes Scholar, I thought it best to turn elsewhere for funding. There is limited fourth-year funding available, but for various and sundry reasons, I decided not to apply for it.

Instead, I owe my thanks to Harvard's Olin Institute of Strategic Studies, where I will be in residence as a pre-doctoral fellow. Alongside the much more common "post-doc" fellowships, there are a number set aside at various institutes for advanced graduate students who would benefit from being in residence at a university other than their own.

While I recognize that Harvard is an utterly inferior university when compared to first-rate institutions such as Yale, I am still extremely excited about heading to Olin and believe that both the city of Cambridge and the university itself will be wonderful places to work. However, since the academic year doesn't begin until September, I will be spending most of August on vacation, some of it in New York and some of it in San Francisco. I actually depart Oxford for New York tomorrow morning. And, so, until I log on from the other side of the Atlantic, au revoir!
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# Posted 6:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TONGUE-IN-CHEEK VS. FOOT-IN-MOUTH: I had hoped for the former but wound up with the latter. Yesterday's post on the death of Saddam's sons was meant as a sarcastic swipe at the media's obsession with portraying the situation in Iraq as a Vietnam-era quagmire.

Notice that there is no explicit opinion given in yesterday's post. Each sentence consists of either a simple fact, or a vague statement which has critical connotations, but no explicit meaning with which one can disagree. For example,
Four American soldiers were injured in the battle, raising the already steep cost of the occupation in human terms.
The four injured soldiers are a matter of fact. But what counts as a "steep cost...in human terms"? Anything and everything. Still, the phrase suggests that too many soldiers have died, and for no good reason.

By relying on facts and cliches, the media can embed its prejudices in its published work while hiding behind a facade of objectivity. Sometimes this process is sub-conscious one. By imitating this practice in yesterday's post, I had hoped to suggest how even the post possible news can be presented as a failure.

FYI, in the first version of Josh's response to Matt Yglesias' post on the death of the Hussein brothers, Josh noted that I was "obviously joking". But then I asked Josh to phrase his comments in a way that wouldn't let the cat out of the bag. Hence:
Heaven knows I don't like to criticize the opinions of my co-bloggers, so, seeing as how Matt Yglesias seems to agree with David on the implications of Uday and Qusay Hussein's untimely demise, I'll criticize Matt instead....
That, too, was meant to be sarcastic. Spend some time in the OxBlog archives, and you'll get a sense of how much criticizing one's co-bloggers is part and parcel of being on OxBlog.

But that's enough navel-gazing for the moment. While I was hoping that my faux coverage of Uday and Qusay's deaths would resemble the actual coverage provided by the Guardian or the Independent, it turns out that even the most implacable critics of the US government have found it hard to see the demise of the Hussein boys as anything other than a major triumph for the United States. Even Robert Fisk began this morning's column by remarking that
So they are dead. Even Baghdad exploded in celebratory, deafening automatic rifle fire at the news, a delight of matchstick-snapping sound and red tracer bullets.
So perhaps I shouldn't be so critical of the professionals' work. Then again, nah....

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# Posted 8:32 AM by Patrick Belton  

MEMRI has a round-up of Iraqi editorials assessing the new governing council.
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# Posted 6:18 AM by Patrick Belton  

INTELLIGENCE REFORM FOR THE CURRENT STRATEGIC ENVIRONMENT: Nathan Hale's Justin Abold has some creative thoughts about restructuring intelligence to deal with the U.S. military's current needs. Definitely worth a read.

Incidentally, with the shuffling of OxBloggers to come at the end of this summer, look for the Nathan Hale foreign policy discussion society to sprout a chapter in Oxford, as someone else takes the helm in DC. Any readers up for starting more local chapters - say, in New York, or other cities? Let me know! (And note to David: Harvard could use some sound foreign policy discussions, for a change.....)
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# Posted 5:48 AM by Patrick Belton  

GOOD RIDDANCE: Feeling in need of a small indication of the sheer brutality of the tyrannical police state which, thanks to US action, is no more? Then read these profiles of Uday and Qusay. Here are excerpts:
As head of the paramilitary Fedayeen Saddam paramilitary unit, Uday helped his father eliminate opponents and exert iron-fisted control over Iraq's 25 million people.

Iraqi exiles say Uday murdered at will and tortured with zeal, and routinely ordered his guards to snatch young women off the street so he could rape them. The London-based human-rights group Indict said Uday ordered prisoners to be dropped into acid baths as punishment.

But his tendency toward erratic brutality even exasperated Saddam, who temporarily banished Uday to Switzerland after the younger Hussein killed one of his father's favorite bodyguards in 1988.

Uday beat Gegeo [the bodyguard] to death with a club in full view of guests at a high-society party, according to some reports. Other reports said Uday killed Gegeo with an electric carving knife.

The London-based human rights group Indict said [Uday's Olympic Committee] once made a group of track athletes crawl on newly poured asphalt while they were beaten and threw some of them off a bridge. One defector told Indict that jailed soccer players were forced to kick a concrete ball after failing to reach the 1994 World Cup finals. Another defector said athletes were dragged through a gravel pit and then dunked in a sewage tank so infection would set in.

Army officers also were fair game for Uday's outbursts of violence. In 1983, Uday reportedly bashed an army officer unconscious when the man refused to allow Uday to dance with his wife. The officer later died. Uday also shot an army officer who did not salute him.

Uday's obsession with sex was evident everywhere: The house was adorned with paintings of naked women and photographs of prostitutes taken off the Internet, complete with handwritten ratings of each.

And now his dearly departed brother Qusay:
...he was a leading figure of terror in the [1991] conflict's aftermath, using mass executions and torture to crush the Shiite Muslim uprising after that war.

Qusay also helped engineer the destruction of the southern marshes in the 1990s, an action aimed at Shiite "Marsh Arabs" living there.

The marshes -- roughly 3,200 square miles (8,200 square kilometers) -- had provided the necessities of life for tens of thousands of marsh dwellers for at least 1,000 years. The area was destroyed through a large-scale water diversion project intended to remove the ability of insurgents to hide there.

[As part of Qusay's program of "prison cleansing," which killed thousands of prisoners in the last several years of the regime,] prisoners were often eliminated with a bullet to the head, but one witness told the London-based human rights group Indict that inmates were sometimes murdered by being dropped into shredding machines. Some prisoners went in head first and died quickly, while others were put in feet first and died screaming. The witness said that on at least one occasion, Qusay supervised shredding-machine murders.

On another occasion, a witness said, an inmate's foot was cut off in a prison torture room while Qusay was present. "The amputation had been carried out with a power saw during his torture under the direct supervision of Qusay," the witness told Indict.

In requiem: Consider not that Allah is unaware of that which the wrongdoers do, but He gives them respite up to a Day when the eyes will stare in horror. And you will see the criminals that Day bound together in fetters. Their garments will be of pitch, and fire will cover their faces. (Qur'an, Surah Ibrahim)
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Tuesday, July 22, 2003

# Posted 8:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE DAILY SCAPEGOAT: Now that George Tenet has declined the honor, NSC #2 Stephen Hadley has become the administration's whipping boy du jour. According to today's WaPo,
Hadley, in a rare on-the-record session with reporters, said that he had received two memos from the CIA and a phone call from agency Director George Tenet last October raising objections to an allegation that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium ore from Africa to use in building nuclear weapons.

As a result, Hadley said the offending passage was excised from a speech on Iraq the president gave in Cincinnati last Oct. 7. But Hadley suggested that details from the memos and phone call had slipped from his attention as the State of the Union was being put together.
Once again, the administration's latest apology raises more questions then it answers. Did Hadley simply forget that Saddam hadn't sought to buy uranium from Niger? Or did the final draft of the SotU get okayed by the NSC without Hadley having read it?

In addition, the removal of the uranium allegation from the Oct. 7 speech suggests that Rice herself was aware of the CIA objections. Unless, that is, no one ever explained to Rice why such an important allegation was taken out of a nationally televised speech. Yet presuming Rice was aware, did she also "forget" about the CIA's objections when it came time to draft the SotU?

While I don't claim any special expertise on the inner working of the Bush White House, it sure as hell seems like everyone is trying very hard to protect Condi Rice from taking the fall for Uranium-gate. First of all, I seriously doubt that either Tenet or Hadley offered his apology without first informing the President of his intention to do so. And given that Condi had to publicly embarrass Tenet before he offered his apology, one gets the sense that Tenet was ordered to apologize rather offering to do so of his own free will.

Now, is it any more likely that Hadley offered to go public of his own free will? I doubt it. If he were really in the wrong, he should've said so up front and not let Rice force Tenet to talk the fall (albeit temporarily). According to White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett, the President
"has full confidence in his national security adviser, his deputy national security adviser and the director of central intelligence."
Translation: Hadley won't have to pay for his mistakes, Tenet will get away with withdrawing his apology, and no one expects Rice to apologize at all.

Also according to Bartlett, the 16 words survived the drafting process because "the process failed". Ah, yes, the passive voice. The last refuge of the scoundrel. Perhaps Bartlett will tell us next that "mistakes were made".

PLUS: Josh Marshall fisks Bill Kristol's defense of the adminstration. Marshall's criticism of Kristol is solid, but Kristol's attack on the Democratic response to Uranium-gate is also quite damning.
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# Posted 8:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE QUEEN'S ENGLISH: Earlier this evening, I had dinner with three fellow Americans. Two of them were my fellow OxBlog correspondents, Mr. Chafetz and Mr. Belton. The third was Mr. Sachs. As we walked down the street on our way out of the restaurant, we continued our animated conversation about the events of the day. Overhearing our distinct accents, a local resident decided to imitate them in a derisive and somewhat hostile manner.

Naturally, the four of us were taken aback. As we all know, our pidgin dialect lacks the elegance and grace of the Queen's English. Yet for the duration of our time at Oxford, we have sought to comport ourselves with dignity in spite of our inability to overcome the self-evident ridiculousness of our manner of speech. Even so, when confronted by the self-evident civility of the Queen's English, it is hard for us not to be ashamed of our backwater upringings.

However, on this particular night, none of the four of us felt particularly taken aback when said local resident decided to mock our dialect. We were not taken aback because we sensed that this particular local resident lacked the necessary credibility to comment on our lack of cultural sophistication. This absence of credibility stemmed from the fact that said local resident was in the process of urinating on a wall in broad daylight at the same time that he was busy offering his condescending rendition of the American voice.

Perhaps there is some larger message buried in this commonplace tale. Perhaps it is a metaphor for the irony of imperial decline and post-colonial jealously. On the other hand, one ought to recognize the recklessness of generalizing about a national state of affairs on the basis of a single individual's behavior. After all, how many Englishmen urinate on public walls in broad daylight? Having lived now for three years on this sceptered isle, I believe that I can say with considerable confidence that most Englishmen have the good sense to wait until after dark.
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# Posted 7:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE FRENCH CONNECTION: CalPundit has pictures of Paul Krugman on vacation in France. Strangely, Cal finds nothing suspicious about the fact that the objectively pro-French NYT columnist has chosen to spend his leisure hours in the embrace of Multilaterialist Marianne.
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# Posted 7:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SADDAM AT LARGE, QUAGMIRE DEEPENS: After a fierce gun battle in the northern city of Mosul, the US Army has confirmed the death of Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay.

Four American soldiers were injured in the battle, raising the already steep cost of the occupation in human terms. More importantly, Saddam himself was neither killed nor apprehended.

Further attacks on American soldiers are expected in coming days. Last week, high-ranking generals in the US Army acknowledged that the US is engaged in "classical guerrilla warfare" with Ba'athist forces. The conflict has already done serious damage to the morale of American soldiers in Iraq and forced the American public to confront unpleasant memories of prolonged guerilla warfare in Vietnam.
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# Posted 7:16 AM by Patrick Belton  

MILANI, DIAMOND, AND MCFAUL ON US IRAN POLICY: The three Hoover fellows have an interesting piece in the LA Times criticizing both poles of the current debate within the US over how to accelerate democratic reform in Iran (this via Priorities & Frivolities's Robert Tagorda, by email).

The summary bit:
Neither of these plans serves the long-term interests of the United States or the cause of Iranian democracy.

The first, confronting Iran, is an empty threat, since the U.S. does not have the military means and the American people do not have the will to invade Iran. The threat of American military intervention, therefore, only helps the conservative mullahs to rally people around the Iranian flag.

The second plan, engagement, might enhance U.S. security objectives in Iraq in the short run, but it would exacerbate an even greater threat to American security — an Islamic regime bent on obtaining nuclear weapons.

What are they asking for, then? Mainly, a major presidential speech on Iran, outlining a U.S. strategy "to provide moral and political assistance to the internal movement for democracy in Iran, not to anoint a future leader." Secondarily, that the US make clear it will only deal with a democratically elected regime, and (somewhat nebulously) that we accelerate the flow of accurate information and democratic ideas through broadcasting, confront the regime on its nuclear weapons program and violations of human rights, and support Iranian reformers "intellectually and practically." (Incidentally, on the broadcasting point, see this article on Cuba jamming the new daily Persian-language broadcasts of VOA and a private Iranian exile group in L.A..)

Sounds fine, but I'm not (yet) convinced that this isn't, in spite of itself, a call for extending the status quo of US policy, albeit perhaps with more administration attention. Which may be fine, but is markedly less ambitious than the wholesale new policy the authors promise at the outset.

UPDATE: Sounds, in fact, like they wanted something like this. (Statement by the President, July 12, 2002). Looks like Milani et al. get all their wishes, even before asking for them. Lucky them!
We have seen throughout history the power of one simple idea: when given a choice, people will choose freedom. As we have witnessed over the past few days, the people of Iran want the same freedoms, human rights, and opportunities as people around the world. Their government should listen to their hopes.

In the last two Iranian presidential elections and in nearly a dozen parliamentary and local elections, the vast majority of the Iranian people voted for political and economic reform. Yet their voices are not being listened to by the unelected people who are the real rulers of Iran. Uncompromising, destructive policies have persisted, and far too little has changed in the daily lives of the Iranian people. Iranian students, journalists and Parliamentarians are still arrested, intimidated, and abused for advocating reform or criticizing the ruling regime. Independent publications are suppressed. And talented students and professionals, faced with the dual specter of too few jobs and too many restrictions on their freedom, continue to seek opportunities abroad rather than help build Iran's future at home. Meanwhile, members of the ruling regime and their families continue to obstruct reform while reaping unfair benefits.

Iran is an ancient land, home to a proud culture with a rich heritage of learning and progress. The future of Iran will be decided by the people of Iran. Right now, the Iranian people are struggling with difficult questions about how to build a modern 21st century society that is at once Muslim, prosperous, and free. There is a long history of friendship between the American people and the people of Iran. As Iran's people move towards a future defined by greater freedom, greater tolerance, they will have no better friend than the United States of America.

(Courtesy of Mike Daley and Brothers Judd)
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# Posted 6:55 AM by Patrick Belton  

ARAB DIPLOMAT ON CRISIS OF LEADERSHIP IN THE REGION: An Arab diplomat writing anonymously in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London) has written a series of articles criticizing: the leaders of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, for sacrificing Palestinian volunteers recklessly and without any sense of political objective which would benefit the Palestinian people; current Arab governments, for using the Palestinian cause to divert public attention from their own corruption and the collapse of education and public services; and Arab intellectuals for not providing an adequate alternative vision to that of the "turbanned ones."

It is reassuring to know that Arab statesmen of the ilk of the pseudonymous "Abu Ahmad Mustafa" are willing to advance hard-hitting criticisms of the current governments of the region. It will be even more reassuring, of course, when the day wil come when they feel capable of doing so under their own names.
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Monday, July 21, 2003

# Posted 9:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PRAISING THE NYT: Mericless as I am when it comes to the men and women of 44th St., I don't hesitate to give credit where credit is due. And it is due once again because the NYT editorial board does understand certain fundamental things about the occupation of Iraq regardless of their terrible coverage of the subject. Today, the editors write that
This page opposed an invasion that lacked the endorsement of the United Nations Security Council, and it now seems clear the Bush administration exaggerated its central argument for the mission — the threat of Baghdad's unconventional weapons. Nevertheless, establishing a free and peaceful Iraq as a linchpin for progress throughout the Middle East is a goal worth struggling for, even at great costs. We are there now, and it is essential to stay the course. But if Washington is to retain the public support needed to see the job through, it can't pretend that everything is on track. The soldiers returning home every week in body bags make that plain.
There is what to criticize in such a statement, but it is more important to recognize the potential for a bipartisan consensus on the rebuilding and democratization of Iraq. The potential for such a consensus is one of the principal reasons that Josh and I founded OxDem. Even in the midst of the intense partisan debate now raging over WMD, it is clear that simple and shared American ideals are still capable of uniting both Republicans and Democrats behind very specific objectives, such as sharing with the people of Iraq our own inalienable rights. I am thankful for that.
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# Posted 9:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SIX DEGREES OF BLOGERATION: Two items of note today. First, AG's uncle-in-law Mort Abramowitz has an excellent op-ed on Aung San Suu Kyi in the WaPo. Uncle Mort says that the international community has to focus its pressure on Burma's allies in Beijing:
To hold China's feet to the fire, a U.N. Security Council resolution proposing a sanctions regime on Burma needs to be introduced. While China would almost certainly veto it, Beijing does not like to use its veto, and the prospect of exercising it might cause China, at least quietly, to urge the Burmese government to free Suu Kyi.
There you have it. Another good chance for the US and the UN to work together for a cause they both believe in. Besides, if Kofi Annan is willing to endorse Iraq's new Governing Council, it shouldn't be hard to get him behind a politically immaculate cause such as the protection of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Moving on, JAT reports that
Jonathan Mermin is the second cousin of my roommate, fellow Cornell math graduate student, and friend since 8th grade, Jeff Mermin. I've been over to eat dinner a couple of times at the house of Jonathan's father, recently retired Physics Professor David Mermin.
Sort of reminds me of that scene in Spaceballs which goes something like this...
DARK HELMET: Before you die there is something you should know about us, Lone Starr.
DARK HELMET: I am your father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate.
LONE STARR: What's that make us?
DARK HELMET: Absolutely nothing! Which is what you are about to become.
And while you're wasting time, make sure to check out this New Yorker article on the origins of the Six Degrees theory. Finally, expect a follow up post by Patrick, since his mother-in-law also published an article on the subject. Those Alaskans sure have a lot of time on their hands... ;)
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# Posted 9:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE SEARCH FOR JUSTICE: The torture described in this article will make you sick. But you should read it as a tribute to the courage of Jumana Michael Hanna, one of the first Iraqi women willing to come forward and identify those who tortured her on behalf of Uday and Saddam.

Harrowing as the article is, there is also great consolation in the commitment of American occupation officials to working with women like Hanna to help her find the men who tortured her and bring them to justice. I wish them well.
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# Posted 8:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SADDAM'S NEXT MOVE: This WaPo front pager begins by recycling the old news that, in October, the CIA said Saddam was most likely to launch chemical and biological attacks if the US invaded Iraq. However, buried toward the end of the article is the far more interesting and far more disturbing contention that a defeated Saddam may be reaching out to Al Qaeda and hoping to plan a joint chem-bio attack.

If such an attack were to take with it the lives of hundreds of American soldiers or civilians, it would provide considerable validation to the anti-war argument that an invasion of Iraq would undermine American security and set back the war on terror. But what is the chance of such an attack happening? Only God knows.

UPDATE: Pejman strongly disagrees. (Thanks to MD for pointing it out.)
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# Posted 11:02 AM by Patrick Belton  

WHY I LOVE THE LRB, NUMBER 28: So we've already established by judicious use of the empirical method that they have the best personals ads (to wit, this, scroll down to Wednesday at 1:19 pm).

But any periodical which writes back "It's a nice advert, so we'll run it for free," when I try to buy an ad seeking an old-fashioned Oxford-style bike for my wife....thereby races to the pinnacle of my mountain of newsprint favorites.

ME: Dear LRB Classifieds Office,
Hello, I would be very grateful if I could place the following advert. I enclose my credit card information at bottom. With many thanks, Patrick Belton
Wanted: old-fashioned, black bicycle, with basket and in good condition. For wife, who lost hers. Patrick.Belton@trinity.oxford.ac.uk

THEM: Thanks for your e-mail. It's a nice advert, so we'll run it for free. It will appear in the 7 Augsut edition. Let me know how you get on.
David Rose
Advertising Manager
London Review of Books

Classy act, that LRB.

P.S. Perhaps no more posting for me for the day. The Caffe Nero on the High, whose Airport base station I've been taking advantage of, has been gradually taken over by continentals, who have managed to smoke even former-Latin-America-and-mediterranean-resident-me out. Wow!
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# Posted 10:05 AM by Patrick Belton  

UPDATE ON NOAH FELDMAN PRESS SPREE: An anonymous mystery reader writes in to let us know that Noah Feldman will be speaking on WNYC, which is broadcast (and subsequently archived) online:
Noah Feldman will be on W-NYC, New York Public Radio, at 10 o’clock a.m. EST. (That would be 3 p.m. your time, I believe.) You can listen to the show in real time at www.wnyc.org. Just click on The Brian Lehrer Show under “On The Air Now” which is at the top right of the page. (Actually, the Brian Lehrer show will probably be displayed twice under “On the Air Now.” It doesn’t matter which one you click.)
Brian Lehrer’s show is two hours long. I think Professor Feldman is the first guest, so he may come on at 10:06 or so. (You know how NPR affiliates almost always have a six minute new roundup before a show starts.) If you miss the show, it will be archived much later today.

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# Posted 7:22 AM by Patrick Belton  

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Sunday, July 20, 2003

# Posted 9:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LA LUCHA CONTRA TERRORISMO: Randy Paul reports that Argentine President Nestor Kirchner is taking bold steps to solve the mystery of who bombed a Buenos Aires Jewish center in 1994, leaving scores dead. Kirchner is also aggressively moving to find and punish those responsible for the horrific human rights violations committed during the last Argentine dicatorship (1976-1982).
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# Posted 9:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REVISIONIST HISTORY?: The NYT has a long review of who knew what about WMD when. Basically, the article says that the administration seriously overstated the case for the existence of WMD. While one might criticize the article for not providing anything new, its greatest flaw is its systematic failure to mention any of the most compelling reasons to believe that Saddam had extensive stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

The hero of the NYT's story is, of course, Colin Powell, who often criticized administration hawks for wanting to show the public only that evidence which favored the administration's position. Fair enough. It is now apparent that the Pentagon often let its politics get the best of its intelligence.

More interestingly, the Times avoids praising Powell for his emphasis at the United Nations on intelligence profiling Saddam's comprehensive effort to prevent UN weapons inspectors from uncovering information relevant to his weapons programs. This evidence was and still remains unchallenged. Saddam was both hiding something and in clear violation of Resolution 1441. You remember 1441, don't you?

Another glaring oversight in the NYT article is the failure to mention (let alone explain) the fact that even the most prominent opponents of the war believed that Saddam had chemical and biological weapons. If, as the NYT suggests, the administration had to spin the intelligence to persuade the American public that Saddam had WMD, why did independent and skeptical figures such as Hans Blix come to the same conclusion?

In short, the NYT tries to leave the impression that the nation was misled into war. If not for the political connotations of the phrase, one might be tempted to say that the Times is in the process of writing "revisionist history".
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# Posted 1:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

QUAGMIRE! QUAGMIRE! QUAGMIRE! The NYT isn't letting up. Today's Week in Review section features a lengthy essay comparing the failures of the American occupation to the failures of its British predecessor 80 years ago.

The most glaring oversight in the NYT essay is its willful blindness on the question of democratization. The essay notes that in response to a violent rebellion in 1920, the British held a rigged plebiscite in which King Faisal got 96% of the votes. Impressive, huh? Just 4% short of Saddam's total in the most recent Iraqi election.

Unsurprisingly, the Iraqis didn't take well to the rigged plebiscite. Thus,
In response, the British turned to technology, with their air force commander, Arthur (Bomber) Harris, boasting that his biplanes had taught Iraqis that "within 45 minutes a full-sized village can be practically wiped out and a third of its inhabitants killed or wounded."
Hmmm. Carpet bombing of innocent civilians. That does remind me of American strategy in a certain war. Could it be...could it be...could it be...VIETNAM?

Now, if you're looking for realistic commentary on the situation in Iraq, the WaPo Outlook section has an excellent forum on the subject. First off, retired Army officer Ralph Peters reminds us that the situation in Germany in July 1945 was far worse that the situation in Iraq in July 2003. Peters then goes on to blast press coverage of the occupation, writing that
the breathless media reporting of each American casualty in Iraq implies that the occupation has failed.
Sounds like someone has been reading OxBlog...

But let's get off our high-horse for a moment. As one of my friends in the military shot back when I criticized the media's coverage of the occupation, the fact that Iraq isn't Vietnam hardly makes Iraq a success. Point taken. So what next for the occupation? Tom Carothers that the US has to keep hammering away at the restoration of basic services and the augmentation of state administrative capacity. Otherwise, elections will only raise expectations while providing a government incapable of meeting them. In short, "The engine of democracy is useless without the chassis of the state to put it in."

While Carothers is absolutely right, it is worth keeping in mind that Paul Bremer will get hit hard regardless of whether he speeds up or slows down the transition. I put the problem this way in a forthcoming report for OxDem:
Conflicting pressures to both accelerate and decelerate the transition to an elected government illustrate the fundamental paradox of occupation: satisfying immediate demands for autonomy may threaten the prospects for democratization in the long-term, while a refusal to satisfy such demands may provoke an immediate backlash against the democratization process. The best illustration of this paradox is the way in which Bremer initially suspended the transition process in response to widespread criticism of his predecessor’s efforts to rush it forward. After winning initial praise, Bremer came under fire for not pushing the process forward fast enough. And now that he has responded to that sort criticism by appointing a Governing Council, experts such as Carothers are dissatisfied with his efforts to rush the process too much.

In the short-term, the untying of this Gordian knot may depend on the occupation forces’ ability to ensure a rapid increase in the Iraqi standard of living, since material advances tend to increase public patience with the gradual pace of political reform. And given enough time, the new Iraqi state may be able to take advantage of its most important asset in the democratization process: the desire of its people to ensure that they will never suffer again as they once did under Saddam Hussein.
As such, it isn't particularly helpful when Kofi Annan demands a timetable for the American withdrawal. If the guerrilla war gets worse and fundamentalist Shi'ites show little respect for democratic norms, will Annan still insist on meeting the timetable's objectives? (Don't answer that question.)

Moving on, the last two articles in the WaPo forum each make one solid point and then take it to ridiculous extremes. Historian Niall Fergusion writes that American underfunding of the reconstruction effort is extremely perilous, because
Without jobs and wages, many of the young men of Iraq will find the temptations of violent crime and guerrilla warfare impossible to resist.
Mind you, Ferguson knows from personal experience that money talks. After all, that's why he left Oxford for NYU. But would Fergusion have become an academic guerrilla if he were unemployed? That, of course, it is an absurd question. But how much more likely is it that all Iraqi youths -- especially Shi'ites and Kurds -- will join the Ba'thist guerrillas is they lose their jobs? Still, crime is a serious problem, along with the general dicontent that comes with poverty. Ferguson is right that the US has to spend more and not wait for the Europeans to get on board.

Finally, we come to Lesley Abdela passionate argument that having just three women on Iraq's Interim Governing Council will help perpetuate the brutal variant of sexism that has already taken hold in Iraq. Abdela writes that
As someone who has worked with Kosovo Albanians, Sierra Leonians and Afghans in rebuilding democratic institutions after devastating wars, I have heard local men and the international community alike excuse the exclusion of women from political power with weak arguments about "cultural sensitivities" and "custom and tradition." And yet, the introduction of pluralistic democracy itself is a clear break with the past -- a break from systems in which rights over others are based on gender, class, tribal affiliation or heredity.
Exactly. Exactly. But does that mean that there should be 14 women on the Governing Council instead of 3, as Abdela suggests? I don't know. It was hard enough to find three prominent women in a male-dominated society. Seems to me the real issue is to ensure that the men in charge are sensitive to women's rights and concerns.

So, leaving all the rhetoric aside, where are we know? I have to admit that I just don't know. While things certainly are not as bad as the media make it seem, their misguided reporting has made it all but impossible to know what is actually happening on the ground.
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# Posted 8:36 AM by Patrick Belton  

ABU MAZEN AND THE NYT: Abu Mazen gives his first interview to a U.S. paper to the New York Times this week.
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# Posted 8:31 AM by Patrick Belton  

MUSICAL CHAIRS: So David's packing his bags and getting ready to head to Harvard, and Josh is off vacationing in Ireland (and getting ready to change his d.phil. topic to an exploration of Belton sociology)....which leaves me - can it be true? - the only OxBlogger actually in residence at Oxford. Whowouldathunk?
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# Posted 8:29 AM by Patrick Belton  

NOAH FELDMAN IN DC: Several friends have been kind enough to point this out to me: namely, on Tuesday Noah Feldman will be speaking in Washington at the New America Foundation. Given that he's just departed his position as the interim Iraqi government's chief constitution-drafter, and the event is marked on the record, we can perhaps assume that we'll be hearing strong remarks, and criticisms, about the process of building Iraqi democracy. Feldman's departure, it's said, wasn't under the happiest of circumstances, but he's a bright, idealistic young man (and a Yalie Oxonian), so his criticisms, even if laced with a touch of bitterness, will surely be much worth listening to.

The event will be at the New America Foundation at 12:15 pm this Tuesday, and the announcement says, significantly: "A special note to the media, Noah Feldman resigned his U.S. government position last week from his Baghdad position and has much to say on the subject of Iraq as well as on the very broad subject of Islam and constitutional democracy. THIS MEETING IS ON THE RECORD." I'd encourage any of our readers who can, to go, and report back what he has to say.
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# Posted 8:14 AM by Patrick Belton  

WAR AND LITERATURE: OxBlog Lower East Side correspondent Liz Goodman on why Vietnam is a recurring metaphor for war - partly, she says, because the literature that came out of Vietnam and seared it on our national consciousness was just so good:
It occurs to me suddenly that the reason that Vietnam gets brought up so often in conjunction with any kind of American military incursion is that the war stories field reporters told about their experiences and their mission in Vietnam were better and more compelling than any job-narratives since. I've just been rereading Dispatches, by Michael Herr, which John le Carre called "The best book I have ever read on men and war in our time."

"I see a road. It is full of ruts made by truck and jeep tires, but in the passing rains they never harden, and along the road there is a two-dollar piece of issue, a poncho, which had just been used to cover a dead Marine, a blood-puddled, mud-wet poncho going stiff in the wind. It has reared up there by the side of the road in a horrible, streaked ball. The wind doesn't move it, only setting the pools of water and blood in the dents shimmering. I'm walking along this road with two black grunts, and one of them gives the poncho a helpless, vicious kick. 'Go easy, man,' the other one says, nothing changing in his face, not even a look back. 'That's the American flag you getting' your foot into.'"

On the one hand, I think most reporters would love to have the sense of purpose and storytelling ability of a Michael Herr; I think the myth of Dispatches is that war correspondents were in the trenches desperately trying to tell the truth to a country that did not want to hear them. On the other hand, it's a brilliant, terrifying book. I try to reread Dispatches every time the Vietnam analogy comes up or American soldiers are at risk in some foreign place. I find that it greatly helps me to remember exactly what we mean by "quagmire."
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Saturday, July 19, 2003

# Posted 10:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RESISTING THE PA FROM WITHIN: Dan Drezner has an excellent post up on the Palestinian Authority's [literally] heavy-handed efforts to silence intellectuals who question its policies.
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# Posted 10:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ABUSING IMMIGRANTS: Dan Simon explores the implications of a French decision to ban foreign words that have made their way into the Fifth Republic.
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# Posted 10:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

URANIUM WATCH: Kevin Drum has the latest, plus an amusing photo of the President wearing glasses.
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# Posted 10:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MATT YGLESIAS IS BACK from his Italian adventure and seems to be in quite good spirits. In the past three days, he has linked to my posts twice, both times in agreement. Unheard of!

On the 17th, Matt gave his qualified endorsement to my argument that the American media has locked itself into a Vietnam mindset. While Matt refers to this argument as David's theory, I really shouldn't take all the credit. For those of you who have the time, check out the work of Jonathan Mermin, who studies media coverage of US military interventions.

While I haven't had a chance to read Prof. Mermin's book, his 1996 article [no permalink] in Political Communication makes a very detailed argument about the misleading comparisons between Vietnam, Panama and the First Gulf War which the media made in the early days of those conflicts. The main difference between myself and Mermin is that the good professor attributes a narrower scope to his argument. Rather than say that this sort of coverage is characteristic of a media establishment that came of age in Vietnam, he argues that it simply reflects the media's willingness to criticize even popular military endeavors (by comparing them to unpopular and unsuccessful ones).

A harsher critic might say that Mermin doesn't recognize the implications of his research because he can't see beyond the ivory tower belief that the American media has a strong pro-conservative bias. (Yes, you heard right. "Pro-conservative". Talk a look at either this textbook or this one to see what I mean.)

Getting back to Mermin, I think he is holding back in the article because he recognizes the sort of critical firestorm he'd bring down on himself if he contradicted the prevailing paradigm in his discipline. As a young professor with one book to his credit, I don't think he can afford to offend the top scholars in the field. But that's just my instinct. Perhaps after reading his book I'll know for sure.

Now, the second time Matt Yglesias had a kind word for OxBlog was when he wrote today that even though
"a lot of hawkish bloggers seem to have a real distaste for discussing domestic policy issues that can't be reduced to mocking radical academics...Though I note that OxHawk David Adesnik is getting pretty darn caustic on the subject of Bush's tax cuts. Maybe it's time to start liberating another country before the hawk crowd starts focusing it's mind on other issues."
I guess the question is whether Matt would still be praising my diverse interests if I were an ardent defender of Bush's tax cuts. Regardless, I think I'm going to have disappoint Matt and say that I know a lot less about taxes than I do about foreign policy. When I write about economics, I do so as a layman tackling issues with which he is unfamiliar. By putting my opinions out there, I hope to get responses that introduce me to the basic facts of political economy.

In contrast, when I write about foreign policy, I am testing myself to see if I can apply my academic knowledge and doctoral research to current events and issues. That's why most of my posts focus on foreign policy and why I'm willing to go to the mat (no pun intended) to defend my views on the subject. So, if you want to see more domestic policy posts on OxBlog, write in if I put up even a single post on the subject and you'll have my attention.
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# Posted 9:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A SOLDIER'S LIFE IN IRAQ: Chief Wiggles gives a detailed account of a day in the life, in his case dealing with Iraqi POWs. I don't think there's anyway not to be impressed with how hard the Chief is working, or for that matter how hard almost every soldier is working regardless of his or her specific task.

NB: One of the Chief's associates pointed out to me, the Chief does not GUARD the prisoners, as I wrote earlier. That kind of work is for "the average boot". The Chief is responsible for debriefing the POWs and other related tasks.
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Friday, July 18, 2003

# Posted 10:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OH, THE IRONY: Maureen Dowd writes that America is still afraid of intelligent women. Is that a subtle dig at the NYT for not having a serious female columnist? Or is MoDo trying to tell us that she's just been playing dumb?
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# Posted 10:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BRAVO, NYT: Kinds words for the NYT are not common on OxBlog, but today they are very much in order. On the op-ed page, the Times has published a column by Jordan's Prince Hassan which upraids the occupation forces in Iraq for their hypocritical rhetoric and cultural insensitivity. As Prince Hassan would have it,
The occupying coalition talks of transitional justice. But how can it explain the absence of an Iraqi court to deal with the affairs of its citizens? Other than a new, relatively powerless governing council, why are Iraq's people — inheritors of the cradle of human civilization itself and arguably some of the most sophisticated and advanced in the Arab world — having to watch while others impose their will and their plans on the country?

The people now in charge of Iraq, be they in Baghdad or Washington, seem to lack the cultural sensitivity and proper knowledge of Iraq and its neighbors, and to have little regard for the religious and spiritual values of the Iraqi people, lacking even an appreciation of Iraq's ecumenical and cosmopolitan past. Nor has the de facto authority shown any intention to put to use the intellectual and technical potential of the Iraqi people, causing even greater frustration, confusion and anger.
At this point you might be thinking to yourself, "So what? Trite anti-American banter is par for the course on the NYT op-ed page." But hold on just a second. What makes Prince Hassan's comments so delightful is that the Times has run his column side-by-side with this essay by Fawaz Gerges, in which the author blasts the monarchs and dictators of the Middle East for their shallow and hypocritical embrace of democratic rhetoric. I can only imagine the look on Hassan's face when he picked up his copy of the paper this morning...

Anyhow, Gerges main point (one that OxBlog made two months ago...) is that the emergence of democratic rhetoric in the Middle East is part and parcel of cynical strategy designed to placate the United States for long enough to ensure that the Bush Administration forgets its declared interest in promoting democracy in the region. Gerges observes that
Shamefully, President Bush and his senior aides spent most of their meeting last month with the leaders of Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia pressing them to fight terrorism. What they should have been talking about was the importance of promoting democracy and reform. This emphasis sends the wrong message to Arab rulers and citizens by reinforcing the widely held perception that the United States uses democracy as a whip to punish its enemies, like Iraq, while doing business as usual with its autocratic allies.

Moreover, it is shortsighted. If America wants to end terrorism, it needs to understand that ultimately, democracy and respect for human rights and the rule of law are the most effective way to undermine extremism. That change will come about only when the United States begins exerting pressure on its allies, not just its foes.
Even I have to admit that Gerges is going a little too far. There is no question that the President and his senior advisors had to focus on terrorism in their meetings with Middle Eastern heads of state. But what Bush and his advisors apparently failed to do was make it clear to those heads of state that (as Gerges says) promoting democracy and fighting terror are all part of the same war.

While that sort of rhetoric may sound nice on a website or on the NYT op-ed page, if the President of the United States is willing to make the exact same point in closed door meetings with Middle Eastern heads of state, it can have a tremendous impact. Much as the people of the Middle East seem to want greater freedom, their governments will not give it to them unless they have no other choice.
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# Posted 9:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MONEY, MEET MOUTH: Leading Shi'ite cleric Moqtada Sadr has denounced the new Iraqi Governing Council and called for the creation of an independent Islamic army.

Am I concerned? Yes. Not because Sadr has the necessary legitimacy within the Shi'ite community to effective challenge its pro-Council leadership. (He doesn't). But because this is the moment the skeptics have been waiting for. The people of Iraq have finally been called to the banner of anti-American fundamentalism.

Will they rush to it, or will they prefer to focus on "democracy, security, services and food on their plates" (as one Shi'ite cleric on the Governing Council put it)? I know what my answer to that question is. So now it's time for OxBlog to put its money where its mouth is.
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# Posted 9:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

POLITICAL CALCULUS: My erstwhile NYC neighbor AG writes in with some further thoughts about partisan politics and free trade:
Here's an alternative hypothesis. The Bush II administration's objective function has one and only one domestic argument -- the average marginal tax rate on the 1,000 wealthiest taxpayers -- and the first and second derivatives of this function in this arguement are large and negative. They'll adopt whatever other policies it takes to decrease the expected future value of this variable through all time. Trade? Who cares as long as we can get tax cut votes out of the Missouri and Michigan delegations. Farm subsidies that keep Africans impoverished? Who cares as long as get concurrence from the Iowa and Nebraska delegations. Free abortion on demand? Maybe, if we really have a chance of getting Hilary and Chuck to help eliminate estate taxes.

This is extreme. But I haven't seen any evidence that would lead me to refute this hypothesis.
Nor have I, nor have I.
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# Posted 8:43 AM by Patrick Belton  

A NEW SPEECH attributed to bin Laden is making the rounds in the Islamist press, courtesy of MEMRI.
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Thursday, July 17, 2003

# Posted 8:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEMOCRACY IN A SMALL PLACE: It isn't easy for countries like Sao Tome to make the headlines, even when the military overthrows its elected president. Thus Bill Hobbs and Adam Sullivan deserve considerable credit for bringing this issue to the blogosphere's attention. Given's Sao Tome's size, it shouldn't be all that hard for joint US-European pressure to restore the elected government, as it did once before in 1995. The question is, with so many other issues on the agenda, will the Bush administration be paying attention?
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# Posted 7:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FREE TRADE BUSHWHACKED? The always thoughtful JAT isn't satisfied with my assertion that
"...we now inhabit a strange world where the Democratic Party has
become the most credible advocate of free trade and balanced budgets, i.e. economic conservatism."

No. As I'll explain below, it is paradoxically because the Democratic
Party is less a party of free trade that Democratic *Presidents* (as
opposed to Congressmen) have stronger political incentives to be free

First off, your comment seems absurd to someone who lives in North
Carolina, and witnessed the Elizabeth Dole- Erskine Bowles Senate race in
2002. Almost every Bowles ad contained some criticism of cheap Mexican
goods flooding into the US, and cheap Chinese goods flooding into the US
through Mexico. (Complete with scary maps and red arrows.) Elizabeth
Dole generally tried to avoid the issue, but made a defense of free trade.

The same was true of Rep. Robin Hayes's (R-NC) race. (Rep. Hayes was one of the final "Yes" votes for fast track authority.) His Democratic
opponent ran nothing but anti-free trade ads in 2002. Everywhere in North Carolina, every legislative race I've ever seen, the Republican candidate is more free trade than the Democratic one. This is repeated throughout
the state and the country-- relatively protectionist Republicans represent
protectionist districts (heavily union, especially) where the Democrats
who run against them are even more protectionist. Free trading Democrats represent very pro-free trade districts.

In the larger picture, remember that even during the Clinton
Administration, a majority of the Republicans in the House and Senate
voted for fast track trade authority, while a much smaller fraction of the
Democrats. (Under a Republican president, Bush, more Republicans and
fewer Democrats voted for fast track.)

Remember Gephardt and most of the rest of the Congressional Democrat
leadership saying that the steel tariffs didn't go far enough.

The Republicans have a much, much larger free trade bloc than the
Democrats, and have a much more naturally free trade constituency. The
legislative votes reflect this.

However, this does peversely mean that Democratic *executives* can
sometimes be more free trade, in an "only Nixon can go to China" sense.
When a Democratic President advocates free trade, he upsets his union and left wing base, but reaches out to moderates and Republican supporters. A sitting Democratic President doesn't have to fear an attack from the left
as much, and can broaden his support by supporting free trade. His base
may be upset, but he can use other issues to placate them.

A Republican President faces exactly the reverse dilemma. Caving on free
trade upsets mostly Republican voters (and moderate Democrats), but is an attempt to appeal to large Democratic constituencies that are open to
Republicans on other issues-- but are very protectionist. (Unions,
especially.) Again, it's an attempt to broaden support at the expense of
upsetting the base.
I have to admit, JAT's logic is pretty solid. I'm not sure, though, that there is such a clear incentive for Presidents to offend their base in the process of reaching out to the center. After all, it is the base that votes in the primaries and sends in donations. As such, I think it is still fair to say that Clinton had a real commitment to free trade while Bush simply doesn't.
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# Posted 7:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GRAN'PA IN BAGHDAD: How many blogs out there are written by American army officers charged with guarding captured Iraqi generals? As you might guess, Chief Wiggles (I presume that is not his real name) is a little older than your average soldier. And definitely a little wiser. He is a father and a grandfather as well as an officer, not to mention a former missionary. Interesting reading to say the least.
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# Posted 6:40 PM by Patrick Belton  

MAIL BAG: Our readers do some pretty neat things. And occasionally, they let us know about them, which is the absolute best. So without further ado, a few interesting things OxBlog readers have recently brought to our attention:

The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness, a group of former OMB officials, has a white paper out on the fradulent diversion of pharmaceutical drugs from their intended recipients - a problem they find to be large, growing, and troubling.

Brian Ulrich has posted some interesting thoughts on Afghan-Pakistani relations.

And our friends at MEMRI note Al Hayat's coverage of Iraqi intelligence's plan for insurgence operations in the event of the fall of the Iraqi regime, recently unearthed in the Mukhabarat's former building. (Here's the original Arabic, for those of you who can use the practice).
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# Posted 6:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEMOCRACORPS: Boomshock has claimed christening rights for OxBlog's new nation-building corps. Meanwhile, Reihan Salam points out that Donald Rumsfeld came up with a surprisingly similar idea (but has no idea how to implement).
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# Posted 6:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HONOR AMONG THIEVES: Attend the 3rd Annual Nigerian E-mail conference!
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# Posted 6:28 PM by Patrick Belton  

TONY BLAIR IN CONGRESS: "There never has been a time when the power of America has been so necessary or misunderstood." text, MSNBC, CNN.
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# Posted 3:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CLINTONIZING BUSH: I've already put in my two cents about the significance of Uranium-gate. But what matters far more is the significance that the President's antagonists want to give it. What they want is nothing less than to discredit the President permanently in the way that Lewinsky-gate discredited President Clinton.

According to Maureen Dowd,
More and more, with Bush administration pronouncements about the Iraq war, it depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is.
Josh Marshall is taking the slightly different tack of posting Bush's best-known attacks on Clinton's credibility side-by-side with the embarrassing excuses now being offered for the infamous 16 words. For example:
"I will bring honor to the process and honor to the office I seek. I will remind Al Gore that Americans do not want a White House where there is 'no controlling legal authority.' I will repair the broken bonds of trust between Americans and their government."

-- George W. Bush
March 7th, 2000

Quote number two ...
"It didn't rise to the standard of a presidential speech, but it's not known, for example, that it was inaccurate. In fact, people think it was technically accurate."

-- Donald Rumsfeld
July 13th, 2003
For the moment, I still think it's extremely premature to compare the White House spin on Uranium-gate to Clinton's outright lies regarding his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. (No, I don't think anyone should ask the President about his sex life. But if he is testifying about it in court, then a lie is a lie is a lie.)

Even so, the Administration's inability to get its foot out of its collective mouth is making it harder and harder not to ask just what the White House has to hide. Just a few days ago, George Tenet took the fall for the administration after Condi Rice insisted that the CIA was responsible for letting the '16 words' into the State of the Union.

Now Tenet says his staff never asked him to evaluate the 16 before they went into the President's speech. Not only does that contradict Tenet's good soldier act from earlier in the week, but it seems implausible given yesterday's NYT report that Tenet called Stephen Hadley before the President's October speech in Cincinnati and insisted that he take the uranium-from-Niger story out of the text.

What this sort of Cabinet-level chaos calls to mind is not the mendacity of our 42nd President but the incompetence of our 40th. Throughout the 2000 campaign, the Republican line was that Bush would surround himself with experts on foreign affairs. But now he seems unable to control his cabinet.

By the same token, the much-lauded White House press machine has been unable to offer any sort of convincing explanation of what exactly went on in the days leading up to the SotU.

Ideally, this will all come to end when the President decides that the excuses being offered in his name are doing far more damage to his reputation than the truth itself. But I'm beginning to wonder, does Bush even know what happened? What I fear is that Bush will have to come before the nation and declare in a Reagan-esque manner that he has no recollection of how policy was made in his own White House.

I hope I'm wrong. Not because I have an interest in protecting the President's reputation. But because I don't want to believe that no one is in charge in the White House.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Andrew Sullivan and the WSJ have cited last October's National Intelligence Estimate for Iraq in order to show that the CIA had, at one time, considered the Niger story to be thoroughly reliable. But if the NYT report I mentioned above is to be believed, George Tenet explicitly told Stephen Hadley not to believe those sections of the NIE dealing with the uranium from Niger. Both Andrew and the WSJ also point out that the British are still standing by the uranium story. Yet given that the UK has excellent intelligent services, why doesn't anyone in the White House want to defend the actual content of the 16 words?
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# Posted 2:46 AM by Patrick Belton  

BLIND CENSORS AND NABOKOV IN PERSIAN: TNR'S Cynthia Ozick offers a beautiful review of Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Iran. A favorite excerpt:
One of Nafisi's recurrent "jokes"--not unlike the joke about the Rule of the Bus--is her account of the official censor, whose job it was to guard against insult to religion in film, theater, and television. What made him highly suitable as a judge of the visual arts was that he could not see what he condemned--he was virtually blind. The sightless censor is Nafisi's metaphor for the Islamic Republic: it declined to see, and in not seeing, it was unable to feel. This blind callousness--Nafisi rightly terms it solipsism--ruled every cranny of the nation's existence. The answer to governmental solipsism, Nafisi determined, was insubordination through clinging to what the regime could neither see nor feel: the sympathies and openness of humane art, art freed from political manipulation--the inchoate glimmerings of Fitzgerald's green light, Nabokov's "world of tenderness, brightness and beauty," James's "Feel, feel, I say--feel for all you're worth."

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# Posted 1:29 AM by Patrick Belton  

AND WHO SAYS NOTHING GOOD COMES OUT OF CONGRESS????? The Senate passed, with a lone dissenting vote, a measure backed by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) to ban the importation of goods from Burma, freeze the junta's assets in the United States, expand the ban on visas for Burmese junta officials and codify the current ban on US support for assistance to the Burmese government by international financial institutions. The House passed the same measure by a 418-2 vote the day before (who votes against this kind of stuff?). Happily, the administration has greeted the move with support.

Just look at that - Congress passing a measure imposing tough sanctions on a regime brutally abusing human rights, and a Bush administration is backing rather than vetoing the move. Perhaps we've come a long way, baby, since Tiananmen.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2003

# Posted 9:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT THE INDEPENDENT'S DAY:First it recycled Palestinian lies about an alleged massacre in Jenin. Now's it printing groundless stories about Dick Cheney on the brink of getting fired. Well, what do you expect from a newspaper whose top foreign correspondent is Robert Fisk?
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# Posted 8:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YOUCH! Anne Applebaum writes:
Nearly all of the arguments about multilateralism, unilateralism and whether the United States should have allies need to be framed differently. For we do have allies -- it's just that they're allies who want America to fight the war on terrorism while their citizens, simultaneously, denounce the United States for fighting the war on terrorism. What we have, at the moment, is not a coalition of the willing, in other words, but a coalition that dare not speak its name.
You know, you'd think I'd feel better about having a moderate WaPo columnist say exactly what I want to hear. But now I'm so paranoid about the media, that if it says what I want, then I think I must be wrong!
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# Posted 8:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WEAPONS OF MASS DISTRACTION: Jim Hoagland perfectly captures my take on uranium-gate; it's a minor flap handledly so incompetently by the Administration that it's opening bush up to well-deserved partisan ridicule while distracting both the policymakers and the public from more important issues.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall gives reason to think that Hoagland is hardly an impartial judge when it comes to the intel wars.
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# Posted 7:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANTI-SEMITISM VS. ANTI-AMERICANISM: There is something amusing about French anti-Americanism. It is a strange sort of faith that considers certain carbonated beverages, hamburger franchises and animated children's films to be its mortal enemies. In political terms, this sort of anti-Americanism is little more than an adjunct to the longstanding nationalist pride that is responsible for France's periodic efforts to step on the toes of the American colossus. No wonder that the American response to such sentiments consists of patently ridiculous initiatives such as the liberation of French fries.

But French anti-Semitisim is deadly serious. The incidents described in today's WaPo are both so brazen and so violent that it is almost beyond belief. In one instance
A gang of 15 North African teenagers, some of them wielding broom handles, had invaded the grounds of a Jewish day school on Avenue de Flandre in northeast Paris the previous evening. They punched and kicked teachers and students, yelled epithets and set off firecrackers in the courtyard before fleeing.
In broad daylight in the heart of Europe. Unthinkable. Or rather, in the United States such behavior would be unthinkable. I myself am the graduate of a Jewish day school in Manhattan. If this sort of violent attack took place at my school or at any other day school in New York, it would become the focus of all student activity for months, if not years, to come. Hundreds of thousands of Jews would march on the Capitol and demand an end to anti-Semitism and all other forms of primitive racism.

But what if this sort of attack were not an isolated incident, but rather part of a disturbing pattern. Would American Jews be able to mobilize the same anger if they knew that this sort of attack were inevitable? Consider the following:
Police forensic experts in Lyon, France, investigated an attack on a synagogue in March 2002, in which assailants used a car outfitted with battering rams to smash the doors and then set fire to the building.
The degree of calculated malice involved in that sort of attack is absolutely shocking. It is an act of war. At minimum, there is something comprehensible about the decision of 15 North African teenagers to overrun a Jewish school. Their behavior bears some sort of resemblance to the Crown Heights riots of a decade ago, during which an outraged mob vented its anger on innocent Jews.

But to outfit a car with battering rams? That is not aggravated assault. It is premeditated murder. Perhaps because of such shocking events, the French authorities have begun to take anti-Semitism more seriously. Better late than never. I am afraid, however, that no amount of law enforcement can prevent such motivated criminals from doing their worst. What must ultimately change is the mindset of the Muslim communities from which the attackers come.

In the WaPo article mentioned above, the leader of a Muslim organizaton in Paris attributes the attacks to the disaffection of young Muslims and the influence of television.
"For these kids, television is enormous," he says. "It conditions their minds. Before, they had respect for their parents and their roots. Now with this new generation, the respect is gone. The roots are cut."
I don't buy that for a second. I simply do not believe that either rising unemployment or news broadcasts could provoke anti-Semitic attacks if the teenage assailants were not brought up on a steady diet of anti-Semitism at home and at school.

While anti-Semitic attacks do rise and fall in response to the temperature of politics in the Middle East, one still has to ask why young French Muslims respond to events in the Middle East by terrorizing Jews rather than participating in the French tradition of strikes and protests. Thus, the WaPo was right to headline its report "For Jews in France, a 'Kind of Intifada'". The same inbred, inter-generational hatred that motivagtes suicide bombings in the Middle East has begun to rear its head on the European continent.
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