Saturday, September 11, 2004


The Telegraph has some noteworthy things to say today.

I often think the Telegraph itself is complacent and inconsequential, but today they made two contributions that belied that judgement.

Charles Moore makes the case against fatalism and overconfidence regarding the terrorist threat. Essentially, our actions matter and 'they' can beat us.
-just look at Spain (which, of course, is just a step along the Jihadist road).

Meanwhile, on Europe they say what I've been thinking (they must be right)- Gordon Brown is playing rhetorical games while adjusting our economy to fit in with the Continent. I find his oleaginous duplicity (ok, a ridiculously long phrase to describe a greasy liar- but he's not quite as slippery or as deceitful as to be obvious about it, like, say, Mandelson has been.) sickening, and I just wish I thought he wasn't getting away with it.

Priceless clarity.

Insure this man's pen, tongue, typing fingers, whatever- no -insure his straight-talking. Steyn cleans up the Rather tawdry affair.

In Lawful Pursuit

When Dan Rather stood by his story it was like a city man taking a swing at a swarm of wasps.

Hugh Hewitt has a swarm of links and emails to add to the fray, including a fascinating exchange with a Professor of Computer Science very well up on typefaces and such.

Thomas Lifson calls it Rathergate.

The thing that strikes me is that the pioneering people at Powerline are all lawyers. So is Hugh Hewitt. Since Magna Carta the law has been subject to the intrusions of laypeople though something called a jury. The media world however has never had a comparable facility and the media hasn't had much power actually to enforce its will on others. I'd say over the last thirty years that situation has changed in Britain and America with the rise of the television/celebrity age, and this is the natural reaction: lawyers critiquing journalists, looking for standards of proof to be met. Good on them- it beats this sort of legal oversight of the media.

Friday, September 10, 2004

A Great Point Raised

Aside from all the schamozzle over forged documents, this former Kuwaiti minister make some excellent points about fatwas, the legal declarations taken so seriously in the Islamic world: Why a fatwa against Salman Rushie? Why no fatwa against Osama?

Following the Trail

Belmont Club was interested, not so much in the documents which were easily nitpicked into a laughing stock from all directions (I'd link to one if there were a definitive method), but in the power of the online world to hunt down the false and the hollow.

Hugh Hewitt, as part of a long, link-filled post, tracks the story and its reception in the big media.

It seems the Boston Globe, like the BBC, decided to run the story about Bush's failure to meet National Service requirements without any acknowledgement of the growing forgery storm. Since the BBC are so keen on updates it would seem odd they haven't bothered either to follow up or alter it. Odd too when there are authoritative media pursuing the forgery line in separate stories.

Willing Dupes

Why was our national broadcaster so keen to get taken in by a likely fraud? When and how will they begin to retract their unambiguous presentation of the story as hard news? Why did they imply at the beginning of their smearticle that the documents came from the Whitehouse ('The documents released by the White House show the suspension also resulted from his failure to take his annual medical test as required.') when the Whitehouse was just passing on what had been passed to them, as the Beeb smearticle notes in its third from last paragraph?

John Podhoretz explains the controversy and how the accusatory evidence against Bush is unravelling online, and suggests why certain people were such suckers for this one. I am reminded just how reluctant and slow the BBC were to report the SwiftVet allegations until long after it was being reported by 'respectable' (I use the term advisedly) outlets.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Chirac's Beauty Sleep

Of course there's nothing particularly attractive about the sleazy French Presidential incumbent, so he needs all the help he can get. The BBC report it, but it's curious how they miss out the interesting angles- such as why this Kyoto-loving US-basher was content to stream pollution across the European sky-line. Maybe the wind direction was easterly. Capt. Ed covers the hypocrisy question, and adds a spot of bad economic news for Kerry.

Belmont Club Takes Stock:

'If anyone is hoping Iraq will become an infamous, unmitigated catastrophe, don't hold your breath... If anyone is hoping that America will be able to leave Iraq in a couple of years to the tune of brass bands marching over a carpet of strewn flowers, don't hold your breath either.'

This BBC report is interesting and more or less confirms this 'between two extremes' analysis of Iraq. The women interviewed have mixed stories but on balance their lives have improved as a result of the Iraq war.

Meanwhile, this military crash in the Czech Republic is tragic, but if there can be one brighter thought it is that the number of reported British dead equals the number of reported British military deaths in Iraq over the last six calendar months. That kind of thing makes me livid with those British people, usually media, George Galloway or Tories on the make, who want to go on about failure in Iraq, impeaching Blair etc.

How's this for an opening line:

'‘He is sedated,’ said Bill Clinton’s heart surgeon on Tuesday. ‘But he is arousable.’ I’ve never doubted it.'

Is it just me, or is this the best article in Steyn's long illustrious collection.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

The Baath News

Via Powerline comes this disturbing tale of Baathist resurgence in the Sunni triangle. This confirms my view that as much as anything we are fighting ideologies in Iraq. Baathism is a descendant of National Socialism- every bit as vicious, with pseudo-spiritual leanings deriving from the ideology of Michel Aflaq, who pioneered Baathism in the the middle of the last century.

It's my view we should not be surprised or discouraged at the resilience of Baathism in Sunni parts of Iraq. Baathism is what made Iraq the place of despair that it was under Saddam, and we should see that Saddam was just the High Priest of Baathism in the latter era (Aflaq having blazed a trail earlier). The High Priest is merely the servant of something greater, a role similar to that claimed by the Pope- whose image we see so much but who would always claim merely to be an intercessor rather than a deity himself.

Part of the difficulty we've had over Iraq was defining our enemy. Understanding the true nature of Baathism and how it ties into other Arab/Islamic ideology helps explain what our enemy is.

I've found three useful links to understanding Aflaq. First, the encyclopedia entry, giving all the basic details (though take the notion that Aflaq was 'a staunch Christian' with pinch of salt). Second, an excellent article that appeared in the Weekly Standard several years ago entitled 'Saddam's Brain', which though excellent was probably a little too exotic for anyone to appreciate fully at the time (after all, we'd specialised in trying to ignore the world's despots since 1945 until Saddam rang our bell once too often). Third, and finally, and related to the KnightRidder article Powerline highlighted, here's a recent web posting from some Aflaq fanatic of the Saddamite resistance.

In the light of this, it's interesting to recall this speech from GWB which recognised the battle against Islamofascism (and, for all its secularist tendancies, Baathism really does lend itself to a partnership with a sacrificial kind of religious extremism) as part of the legacy of the 20th century's conflicts. What's needed it seems it to translate our understanding of these things into an urgency and seriousness on the ground which recognises the imperative of winning every battle there is to fight- rather than throwing the straws of military excursions into the winds of history.

With the serendipity which the blogosphere so often conjures, I found this article from Austin Bay useful to set alongside the thoughts above.

Oi, Carver- Noooo!

Not again please. Not content with his risible performances on Newsnight, Tom Carver is making errors galore as he attempts what presumably he considers sharp political analysis of the race for the Presidency.

When a journalist begins his article 'John Kerry had it all worked out. A decorated war hero against a Texan gunslinger who had bungled the first war he had chosen to fight. - apparently ignoring as though it didn't exist the invasion of Afghanistan- he has to be either foolish or incredibly sloppy in his thinking. Ok, perhaps Kerry is that sloppy, but it's too rich to have a BBC journalist aping him.

Carver specialises in sarcastic, colourful insults and slanders- which, on Newsnight, he delivers with such a motor-mouth it almost enters the mind subliminally.

Here though we get to take it in slowly as he calls the Bushies 'Yalie frat-boys' and characterises the Republican campaign as butchery. It seems to have, er, escaped his attention that Kerry has been re-christened the Kerrikazi candidate in recent days, being considered a craftsman of his own brand of self-slaughter by many. Kerry was 'lulled' into making his war service central to the Democrat convention, says Carver defensively.

Carver gets worse as he warms up. He says, wrapping two insults into one sentence, 'Americans, always keen to move on to the next thing, are running out of outrage over Iraq.'

So Americans have that famed 'short attention span', and are too shallow to care? This is supposed to be an analysis?

He says 'Iraq's currency as a political weapon is declining.' - something which is as crudely put as it could be. Did it occur to Carver to consider that Americans will warm towards candidates who do not use Iraq as a political weapon but as a solemn undertaking, and that this is really the Dems' problem? That the currency of Iraq will increase when the Democratic candidate shows incontrovertibly he is serious about it?

Carver is probably right when he says that Kerry needs to concentrate on attacking Bush's economic record, but there are several problems with this analysis too. No-one to my knowledge has really given Bush any credit for his management of a largely inherited recession, or made allowance for the massive blow that 9/11 struck to the US economy, or accepted the costs of homeland security and war with Iraq and Afghanistan as necessary evils, and then gone on to say what beyond those things Bush has done wrong. No-one has demonstrated that Kerry will be more fiscally prudent himself should he have the chance. Even where, who knows, the Dems may have a case, it seems like they haven't reached the starting blocks yet.

Coincidentally enough, it would seem, nor has Carver.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Melanie Phillips is back- and making excellent points.

There may be something faintly odd about the way she stands apart from her fellow journalists and lambasts their standards, but if she weren't making those points, from a British perspective who would be?

I love Melanie's attack on Sir Max Hastings. Barely tolerable when a successful, influential journalist in the early nineties, I've totally maxed-out on Hastings. His inability to articulate even basic distinctions in his blind criticism of Tony Blair and George Bush is combined with a sneering superior tone which makes him like a double migraine expressed in text.
Particularly ridiculous is his attack on Bush, who he says 'indulges both Ariel Sharon and Putin in any means they see fit, to suppress those who use terrorist methods, without heed to the need for diverse political responses, as well as sensitive military tactics'.

Lumping these two together is absurd. Sharon's policies have achieved some demonstrable success, and Sharon is a figure with both a strategy and unarguable democratic (as opposed to demagogic) credentials. Furthermore, Bush has limited influence over Putin, as the Russian opposition to the Iraq war showed. Oliver Kamm has amplified my views on Sharon's strategy (something I haven't pointed out till now). I'd characterise Sharon's plan as having a defence, an offence, and a whole game strategy- as an American sports coach might put it.

The main thing I agree with Melanie on however is that mindless attacks on public policy are effectively suicidal when all the time Jihadis are looking for how they can grab the initiative in enforcing fear and panic in the West. Hasting's Kerryesque mantra of using all the levers of politics and diplomacy, intelligence and special forces, is about as useful as taking nail-clippers to a tree infested with ivy. In fact you need secateurs- which combine raw power with a satisfying delicacy.

I think we need to support Putin in his attempt to build a political structure in Chechnya (after all, they just had a kind of election). How support can be given is another matter, but anything to increase the sense of hope of moderate Chechens. While Russia has been fairly criminally heavy-handed in Chechnya, they are facing problems that result from the diminution of post-Soviet Russian power, and the upsurge of potentially corrosive criminality, nationalism and religious fascism. that can't have been easy. All of these facts are evidenced by this Command Post article from Alan E. Brain (best to ignore the comments, I think).

The trouble with Chechnya, it seems, is that poverty and the desire for independence are not the only forces at work, and not the most coordinated. Islamism is the strongest force, because the best coordinated, and uses the others to rally its vicious ideology- because unlike the the first two it has a live ideology- unlike, say, poverty whose ideology, communism, is a fallen idol. Thus, according the Command Post and Dan Darling at Winds of Change (a post I linked to earlier, but a good one which really illuminates some things), the conflict has morphed gradually into a religious one- which suits Islam the religion of Jihad.

One thing I am sure of: Sir Max isn't helping.

Monday, September 06, 2004

[You'll have to forgive me, I seem to have done a lot of writing just recently]

Russian Lies (companion piece, I suppose to Truth and Russia)

An interesting article in the WaPo rounds up the lies that were told by Russian officials about the numbers of hostages being held at Breslan, and the way in which President Putin is distancing himself from the liars.

Greater honesty in Russian foreign and security policy would be a real step forward, and the overwhelming tragedy of Breslan might just focus their minds on being effective rather than pretentious. What would be really impressive next time round (which in itself is a dreadful thought) is if the Russians were to request the involvement of some of incredibly fine special forces that can be found in Britain, America, Israel or Australia.

Interestingly, Captain Ed reports an AP report that Russia has welcomed Israel's offer to share its experience in combatting terrorism.

Meanwhile, The Command Post reports on the Australian Intelligence links that have helped Russia to track down several al-Qaeda terrorists who have been liasing with Chechen rebels.

Let's hope that, rather than P.R. at a time of crisis, this represents a sea-change for Russian policy.

Although the terrorists made Breslan school a death trap, had the true numbers of children involved been known to the West a different outcome might have been foreseeable- assuming that honesty might lead to cooperation, which might have brought the world's finest anti-terror soldiers and theorists to Breslan. The tragic thing is that the Russians appeared so sensitive to criticism of heavy-handedness from previous incidents that they waited and dissembled for far too long, thinking they should spend quality time in talks with the killers- when all that did was give time for boobytapping to proceed apace, atrocities to multiply, and thirst to drive the whole collection of hostages and terrorists into a state of nervous breakdown, preparing the scene for its final stampede of death. I think they should have gone in within twelve hours- with of course the SAS at the fore.

Irony Bites.

Justin Webb of the BBC (a man, I should first of all point out, of some talent) tells us he has given an endorsement of George W. Bush, sort of.

He intended his remark to be patronising, but the Bush campaign thought it would play well amongst its base, so into the campaign literature it went:

"Nobody spends more time on his knees than George W Bush".

This highly amusing situation, given Webb's likely political persuasion, raises an interesting possibility: maybe the Bush campaign are taking the BBC's ludicrous cynicism and irony and getting their own small revenge by using it to help the President out. Or maybe the Bush campaign think BBC journalists might actually say something positive about W. with a straight face- unlikely I feel.

Perhaps it was out of irritation that Webb got all sulky his latest article.

Commenting on the indifference of New Yorkers to Bush's convention, he says

'And these folks, as the president would say, are the ones who are about to be incinerated if John Kerry gets in and the French take over the defence of the US. Such ungratefulness'

While mildly amusing, it has the fault of being utterly false in reflecting what 'the president would say'. Once more an obsession is revealed with pinning the criticisms of what they would call 'proxies' (in this case clearly the target would be Zell Miller) to Bush himself.

Webb goes on to demonstrate the Leftist's view of political campaigning from the Right.

He talks of 'the steely way in which the Republican party is capable of using anything to its advantage', and how 'Senator Kerry has discovered that words uttered in the past can be brought to life and used as the party sees fit.'

The first statement conjures something like a 'rat among the garbage' analogy. The trouble with the second statement (as everyone knows) is that it was the challenger who brought his previous sayings to life by deliberately playing on his service record and patriotism. He 'reported for duty' after thirty years, like those Japanese soldiers on Pacific Islands who refused to believe that World War Two was over.

The only thing the Republican party has going for it, according to Webb, is the will to win. He talks quite blithely about 'all that has gone wrong', without stating what those things might be- as though they were self-evident. However, to this reader it is only evident that Bush's 'mistakes'- whether you mean Iraq, the economy, or 'mis-speaks'- have no basis in any established consensus.

The undercurrent of Webb's dismissal of the Bush record is that the Repugs. will only win by playing dirty.

To underline this theme he closes with what seems a deeply questionable smear on the Bush campaign:

'At the beginning of the year, one of the president's backroom fixers is alleged to have muttered of John Kerry's military service: "By the time we've finished with him people won't know whose side he fought on."

At the time it seemed an implausible boast. But now, not so far-fetched.'

So, once more the BBC attempt to influence the public perception of criticism of Kerry (with a strong implication of nailing Bush to the SwiftVet masthead) when it's acknowledged by Webb himself that this assertion cannot be backed up. He is relying on some of those 'obvious facts' again. Webb could have redeemed himself somewhat by saying that holding that Senator Kerry was on both sides of the conflict in Vietnam is far from a ridiculous viewpoint, but he passes that opportunity in favour of still more crude propaganda.

The irony is that they seem unaware how their sneers and smears are helping President Bush's re-election campaign, even though in this case Webb is pointing out the unconscious help his mockery has given Bush already, not only politically, Webb insists, but to 'make a buck'- a reference to the DVDs which featured his remark.

The attempt to make evil incarnate appear in the image of GWB is truly like the labour of Sisyphus- it's tough, it's futile, and the more you do it and fail the more you are forced to try again.

At Biased-BBC earlier I noted that the BBC and New York Times seemed to have much in common. I wonder if we could say that the BBC too has fallen victim to the Times' patent conspiracy theory meltdown. (an excellent post from The American Thinker at this link)

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Update: I just had to insert, as Chrenkoff did in a similar post, this superb analysis of the Chechnyan terrorist situation from Dan Darling of Winds of Change. It really helps bring you up to speed on who is doing what and why in the region.

Cruel Philosophy

More from that Omar Bakri I mentioned yesterday (he probably feels set up but that is no excuse)- this time how British schoolchildren are fair game for terror.

Meanwhile, I'd been wondering how I would apportion blame for the Beslan school massacre. While I was wondering Mark Steyn was writing with typical clarity for The Australian:

'The Muslims have a better case in Chechnya than they do in the West Bank, Kashmir or any of the other troublespots where the Islamic world rubs up against the infidels. But that said, as elsewhere, whatever the theoretical merits of the cause, it's been rotted from within by the Islamist psychosis.'

Live-blogging Bush

I steered around talking about Bush's speech. It was very good, I thought, and more crafted than most I've heard from him. I thought it very skilfully put together. But anyway, enough of what I thought- I can't vote, I just admire the man and think the world can work with him to overcome its challenges.

What I think is that I've found two of the cleverest and most insightful live-blogs that were around last Thursday, and I gather them here for your reading pleasure (and mine).

Liberal Larry, you can imagine, gave a nuanced, Liberal's analysis of what was naturally a one-dimensioned and dogmatic speech.

The VodkaPundit, by contrast, made it a kind of liquid symposium between him and the President. In other words, he played a drinking game with GWB's speech. I tell you though I've seldom if ever read a better personal response to anything.

Both commentaries recommended for outsiders like me, and people without time to read the speech or play it back on video, and those who feel less serious about politics than the pundits are.

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