Ok, today it looks like I'm in a punning mood, but here are two interesting things from the MEMRI website:
Firstly, what will we do about this lot of loons who want to celebrate the anniversary of 9/11 in London? I think someone oughtn't to be allowed to live here, Mr Omar Bakri.
Secondly, Amir Taheri addresses an Arab audience on security in Iraq:
'"The truth is that Iraq did not enjoy security under Saddam Hussein either. This is because while there can be no freedom without security, there is also no security without freedom.
"Were the Juburi tribes secure under Saddam when he sent his special units to massacre them as an act of political revenge? How much security did the Shammar tribes enjoy when Saddam seized two-thirds of their land to distribute among his henchmen? And was it to give them security that Saddam transferred thousands of families from Mosul and Kirkuk in the north to central and southern Iraq? And these were all Sunni Muslims who were supposed to provide the principal base of his regime. As for the Shi'ites and the Kurds, the security they enjoyed under Saddam Hussein is symbolized by the mass graves that dot the Iraqi countryside, and the corpses strewn in the streets of Halabja after a chemical attack. And was it because they did not like security that almost four million Iraqis fled into exile during the Baathist rule?"
Saturday, September 04, 2004
Posted by ed thomas at 4:41 PM
A Good Standard
A number of good articles in the Weekly Standard at the moment.
Gerard Baker reflects on the cravenness of Michael Howard in attacking Blair over Iraq. He calls it worthy of John Kerry- and he's right. Neither of these two men have realised that the present time is one of those times when a Government of national unity is what the public really want. The public think they're sure there is a challenge to rise to, and they're concerned to see their politicians rise to it (and events seem to confirm this view). To do that it's necessary to recognise some baseline rules, including the one that a real leader must disavow short term gains in the interests of solidarity against gathering threats.
Kerry's attempts to treat national security as a matter of presentation- in his case of presenting his Vietnam credentials hopelessly one-sidedly- and Howard's attempts to play poll-chasing with Blair's justifications for the Iraq war, both trivialise the nature of the debate, and leave people angry.
Both Kerry and Howard want to freeze public opinion in a mode of scepticism about the Iraq war, but the Islamic threat which emanates from the Middle East keeps on morphing. Fortunately its ability to morph from that region is limited by our presence on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite the aggravation this involves people are finding it comforting to have our foot poised beside the umbilical cords of terrorism. So Kerry and Howard need to change tack- are morally obliged to change tack- but they are mesmerised by the 'silver bullet' of Stop the War populism.
David Gelernter makes a bold assertion of Bush's place in history. In a skilfully crafted article (i.e. special post-convention delivery) he makes a powerful case that Bush has grasped the force of change that's making history today. [slightly edited]
It was Bismarck who said
"A statesman...must wait until he hears the steps of God sounding through events, then leap up and grasp the hem of His garment."
Gelernter says this about the President's opponents:
'Reactionary liberals want everything to stay just the same. All trends must continue just as they have been. (Judges must continue to subvert democracy; Congress must continue to create new entitlements.) We must treat the new totalitarians just the same as we once were forced to treat the Soviets--gingerly. Our goal must be not to liberate their victims, not to defeat and disarm their military machines, but to arrange détente with their dictators--just as we once did. (Détente with Saddam was French and Russian policy until we screwed things up.) Our antiquated pre-cell phone, pre-microchip laws and regulations must stay just the same (kill the Patriot Act!), and we must sit still and wait politely for the next terrorist outrage, just as we always have.'
Posted by ed thomas at 2:07 PM
Friday, September 03, 2004
Truth and Russia
I'm sure most of us were steeled to find out the facts about the violent conclusion to the hostages situation in an Ossetian school. The tragedy seemed inevitable, and although there were pictures of a number of children milling around outside the school compound there were never enough of them to make me really optimistic. One crucial thing that the BBC to their credit reports bluntly- nine of the terrorists (I'll call them that) were reportedly Arabs.
Unfortunately, those Russian dolls that are so available to tourists have a prophetic quality about them. Just when you think you've arrived at the real thing you shake it and realise there's another reality concealed beneath. Russia (and district- a 'difficult' thing to define) may have changed a lot since 1989, but unfortunately the culture where life is clumsily lost runs very deep. That's sad for us all as we have to watch little moppets suffer at the hands of self-proclaimed martyrs.
Update (10pm BST): I thought it would happen that the BBC report would be updated to indicate a growing knowledge of the casualties involved. When I posted it said 'at least 150' killed. Now it says 200- and leads us to expect it will need to be updated again.
The Command Post has some more telling details. Maybe I should forget about any clumsiness on the part of the authorities considering the nature of the injuries.
Posted by ed thomas at 6:55 PM
Taking Stock of al-Sadr
After al-Sadr's withdrawal from Najaf, the Coalition forces and Iraqi forces have been taking stock of what the young criminal got up to while he organised a sadistic three week party in what he no doubt considers his father's house- the Imam Ali Mosque.
The American Thinker reports from sources describing the corpses that resulted from a killing spree Sadr and chums embarked on amongst local people while holed-up there. There are mixed reports of up to 200 deaths and foul methods of torture used before or during execution.
IraqtheModel reported some of these things at the time of the uprising (I wish you luck in finding them, but I distinctly recall being shocked while reading about them there), when there was virtual silence about them in the media here.
What this highlights is the kind of man Sadr is- a spoilt brat who takes pleasure in bestial killing in enforcing his will. Although the numbers of his victims may be unclear, his thuggishness is not. He reminds me of a religious version of Uday Hussein- and when you think about it both had powerful fathers on different sides of a traumatised society.
These are not the kind of people the US or the West can allow to dominate in Iraq. Like Uday Hussein, there's little indication that al-Sadr has popular support, and who could blame the people for that? What I hope these reports will help do is continue to discredit al-Sadr in Iraq and in the media. I'd be very sanguine should he meet with an accident, happier still to see him appear in a dock, but it's enough if people like al-Sadr are excluded from significant positions in Iraq's future.
Posted by ed thomas at 6:10 PM
Cribbing from a man of letters.
Yes, once again I'm reduced to lifting bits for Mark Steyn's letters page that are especially fine.
Once again I find a viewpoint I've expressed here expressed there, and I'm led to think once again that a drinks party with Steyn and co. would be a perfect night out.
Update: Powerline have a really good take on why Vietnam isn't put to rest in Kerry's candidacy (aside from the fact that Kerry lit the blue touchpaper himself).
Posted by ed thomas at 5:53 PM
Thursday, September 02, 2004
It was one heck of a speech- best if you get to see it on video, but powerful on the written page.
The BBC trashed it as 'nasty', but they've never seen all the many expressions of Democratic 'righteous anger' against Bush- such as that from Al Gore- as 'nasty', so I don't see why they should start now with Miller's indignation against Kerry.
As a Brit I'm just glad that there are people in the US like Zell Miller prepared to stand up aganst the odds and put their experience and their hearts into dealing with the problems facing the West.
If Zell was motivated by anger at the past, as he hinted, that's a lot better than looking for future political/monetary advantage- though whether a man in his early 70's can be all that concerned about his future career is debatable. Ask Bobby. Or to be fair, Rummy.
All in all I can't think of a better person to have been endorsing Bush last night.
The BBC sneered that he looked bad compared to Barak Obama's speech. Oh really? If it was Barak endorsing Bush the only questions on the lips of journalists would have been how much he was paid or what he would be getting. The fact that it seems absurd to ask that question of Miller speaks volumes for how good it was to have him there. He didn't renege on his Democratic roots; he just endorsed Bush (which is of course, really nasty).
The BBC later reported what will doubtless be the standard Democrat line, that it was "a night of angry old men". That's not really so clever coming from the camp of the botoxified Brahmin in his sixties running on the strength of his 'long political experience' and his time in Vietnam.
Update: Michael Barone has an excellent and thoughtful take on why Miller's (but also Cheney's) speech hit the mark. If it seems like it was o.t.t. to you, this is a good one to read.
Posted by ed thomas at 7:27 PM
Wretchard's Great Lines.
Admittedly they're not all Wretchard's, but he certainly has some profound and true words to say regarding the current wave of terror that's battering the psyches of both the Russian and the French peoples.
I've only scratched the surface of the French existentialists, but Wretchard's quote from Camus helps me appreciate why people delve deeper:
"on the day when crime dons the apparel of innocence -- through a curious transposition peculiar to our times -- it is innocence that is called upon to justify itself."
Or, as Wretchard puts it, 'tranferrence of guilt is terrorism's greatest lie'.
Going from the negative to the positive, he says 'Civilization cannot hang back but must step forward, if not for love then for survival.'
These are great lines, worth mulling over.
At the sharp end, meanwhile, here's the latest from the BBC on the Russian crisis and the French hostage situation. Listening to Caroline Hawley earlier it sounded as if the BBC were gearing up to ask why the French were so much better at dealing with terrorism. The only response I could think of was 'we'll see'.
Posted by ed thomas at 6:51 PM
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
New Links- as the Frenchman does the rounds.
I've put a lot of new links in the sidebar- and taken a couple out which seem to be obsolete (they'll go straight back if matters alter).
One of them is No Pasaran, stomping ground of the inimitable W who previously highlighted the merde in France. As you can imagine it's a good place for a forthright look at the French hostage crisis.
The BBC are reporting Barnier's vist to Al Jazeera in Qatar- which says much of what you need to know about the contacts Al Jazeera fosters. They're also reporting the Pope's intervention, so it can be seen that all the world and his wife are butting in on the situation. I don't think I've mentioned how sickening it is when so much energy can be expended for the sake of two journalists (much as I wish their safety), but so little ado was made for the 12 Nepalese that were murdered recently. Still, I suppose the same could be said about the traumas of Sudan- maybe the rebels in Darfur need to get hold of a couple of French journalists (not that I'd wish their harm).
Posted by ed thomas at 6:04 PM
Public opinion rests like an unbroken egg on a kitchen work surface- tilt the surface just a little and you can watch the egg slide and ultimately break.
That's what politicians try to do, and the media are in an irresistible position to join in.
Those are the premises I start with when I look for media bias.
This BBC information piece has been edited as many times as you could conceive of- earlier it juxtaposed Arnie's praise for Bush's singlemindedness with the claim that Bush had contradicted himself over winning the war on terror. Currently it majors on arrests outside the RNC, and the accompanying 'tense atmosphere'. In either case it sows a real doubt in the mind.
[I'm re-reading it, later on, and it has really cleaned up quite a bit. It now strikes me as not unbalanced, although there are little tweaks of weirdness and repetition by which the BBC often means to unsettle or turn-off readers. This raises an interesting point: the online media is more like television that it is like the print media. How many tens of thousands may have read the earlier versions? Yet what we have been left with is better than what many/most people will have read- rather like the way TV news sometimes cleans up a story as they go from the early morning hours to peak-time.]
The BBC opinion piece I pointed out earlier may seem friendly enough, but in fact it highlights the stereoptyped Arnie over the real one. It highlights the stage management of the Republicans over their message, and it makes the RNC look like a simple PR exercise. Of course there are elements of that in all political campaigning- but there's a trade-off between looking good and being good. I think the Republicans would readily admit there is no point looking good if you can't be good when it counts, yet this aspect of their platform is dismissed as window dressing.
By way of contrast, here is a news piece about John Edwards' speech in July. There's only one negative comment in its entirety, and even that is very much of the 'that was the bad news, here is the good' variety.
Posted by ed thomas at 10:47 AM
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Update: Here's another article - I think, on balance- to add to the BBC's negativity cache, this time about Arnold and co., that displays an obsession with 'packaging' and an interesting definition of 'moderate'.
Sour taste to BBC's Convention cocktail.
I'm going to try and put together a post on BBC bias against the Republican convention- assuming I continue to detect it- at BiasedBBC.
In the meantime a couple of observations.
Even Kos thought that Rudi's speech was the highlight of last night's events, yet the BBC never featured it prominently- and certainly never pinpointed any of the good lines. They preferred to concentrate on John McCain because of the political intrigue (negative) they could squeeze from it.
One picture of Guiliani came in this most slanted of opinion pieces from Rob Watson. Guiliani is introduced through a prism of negativity-
'They came here to see the other side get bashed, and tonight John Kerry got a good bashing.
And he got that bashing from a man seen as a moderate Republican, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani.'.
Although the excellent convention bloggers at Powerline lend that analysis some modest support, they make it clear that was only a part of Rudi's charm, and a much more rational critique than 'bashing' could ever be (note the threefold repetition in the BBC article).
This was a good speech , with much that was moderate about it in the best sense, which deserved better than it got from the BBC.
Posted by ed thomas at 7:02 PM
I know I'm following the Instapundit in linking to the Belmont Club's commentary on the French crusade to find someone to bribe in the Middle East who will then release their journalists, but I did post on this earlier. Wretchard shines an interesting sidelight on the BBC's coverage.
My money's still on the French being able to find a way out of this: the Egyptians and co. have got to be able to show that their friendship is worth something. Another thing is that watching the videotape of the Frenchmen expressing their wish for their country to back down on the question of headscarves, I was surprised how relaxed they seemed, as though they were fairly sure of their position as political pawns. On the other hand, the group apparently holding them has a grisly record. I hope I'm right for their sakes.
I was very interested to read Prime Minister Allawi's comments- very much saying the kind of thing we can't say at this moment. This will be a part of the diplomatic dance too.
The J.P. has an editorial on the subject which says effectively that solidarity among the French is admirable, but where's their solidarity with all countries facing terrorism? Quite a pointed message, coming today.
Here's another tragedy I should have mentioned- one which doesn't make the French hostages prospects look any better.
Posted by ed thomas at 6:39 PM
Monday, August 30, 2004
Move Along Folks, nothing to see here.
BBC covers MTV awards, and it's the kind of article I scan for names I might feel the need to have heard of at some future point. It's oh so forgettable, and in case we might seek compensation by looking for signs of controversy, Auntie helpfully concludes:
'Last year's MTV Awards attracted controversy after Madonna and Britney Spears shared a kiss onstage - however this year's show was broadcast with a time delay of several seconds to avoid further controversy.'
So there, young man! That'll teach you to go looking for titbits where you oughtn't!
But woah there, Beeboids, for heark! Do I hear the mirthful sound of Kerrys being booed?
Update: Bush daughters got booed too, but since they sensibly taped their piece in advance it was less noticeable. Still, I thought the Kerrys were supposed to be the cool ones?
Posted by ed thomas at 7:19 PM
Mumbling MP and uber-pundit Boris Johnson, has, surprise, surprise, written a book. Well, a pot-boiler actually- which Boris is hawking to the public using his long connection with the high-circulation Daily Telegraph, where an extract appeared today.
What can I say from the extract?
It's so Boris you'll never be able to tell which character is talking. The two characters featured significantly are the Terrorist (clever Boris) and the President (bumbling Boris). The terrorist has to come from Wales because while Boris is happy with depicting a British person embroiled in Islamofascism, he can't stretch culturally to depicting the typical terrorist from Saudi or Egypt. The President meanwhile reminded me of Boris's own self-parody on HIGNFY, with a Texan accent.
Perhaps I'm out of condition when it comes to reading our latter-day pulp fiction, but I kind of considered that an author should make the effort to take us beyond his own mannerisms and narrow experiences, and into the world beyond. The excerpt I read sounded for all the world like the author was a bit too lazy to take me anywhere but Parody-Central.
Or maybe it's just that I'm out of charity because Boris has been doing idiotic things like supporting Gilligan and advocating Blair's 'impeachment'.
Posted by ed thomas at 6:18 PM
Sunday, August 29, 2004
Don't hurt us- we're good.
Back to the French again- this time because of a situation that's been forced on them: the two French journalists abducted in Iraq.
The thing that's interesting me is the grandstanding of Chirac and De Villepin.
Chirac says "The whole nation is gathered together because what's at stake is the lives of two French people, the defense of freedom of expression, and also the values of our Republic,"
De Villepin says "France is the country of the French revolution, of human rights," ... "France has never stopped fighting for the freedom of all, for tolerance and the respect of the human being."
When in a tight corner, the French politicians appear to hide behind abstract notions that are highly arguable in the circumstances. Being 'Land of the Free' did not save America from 9/11. Will the French be able to hide behind self-congratulatory rhetoric? What will they give to get their journalists back in one piece? What will Foreign Minister Michel Barnier's approach be as he heads to the region? Apparently he is going to 'coordinate' efforts to secure their release, which presumably means talk to their friends the Syrians and Palestinians, and who knows who else- calling in favours, that kind of thing.
This American Thinker article gives some idea of the state of Franco-Syrian relations, and makes that point that 'France always boasts about being the country of the Human Rights'- a claim the magazine criticises in the Syrian context.
The Islamic group claiming responsibility for this latest abduction calls for a reversal of the headscarf ban due for implementation next week. Will the French stand firm in the light of the fate of Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni, apparently in the same hands, or will they back down on their firm domestic policy? Or will a third thing happen, courtesy of France's entente with Araby?
This seems like quite a big deal to me, at least potentially.
Posted by ed thomas at 6:59 PM