My colleague Patrick Lasswell and I interviewed on camera Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga Colonel Salahdin Ahmad Ameen in his office in Suleimaniya, Kurdistan, Northern Iraq.
Colonel Salahdin spoke to us about his experience as an anti-Baathist guerilla fighter during Saddam Hussein's genocidal Anfal Campaign -- when 200,000 people were killed and more than 5,000 villages were destroyed. In one fight he recounts for us, 300 Peshmerga beat an entire Iraqi brigade of slave soldiers in battle and suffered only one casualty.
He also told us about the notorious Abu Ghraib prison -- where he was beaten and tortured by the agents of Saddam's regime -- about the Peshmerga's doctrine of human rights during war time, Henry Kissinger's betrayal in 1974, why the Kurds have not yet declared independence from Baghdad, and what may happen if the United States withdraws its armed forces from his country.
The Acorn has been a supporter of the India-US nuclear deal as concluded between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George Bush in March 2006. It has argued that for India, the benefits of the deal are worth making some difficult concessions---separating civilian nuclear facilities from military ones, and accepting constraints on the amount of fissile material India needs to produce nuclear weapons. The agreement allows India to retain a dynamic credible nuclear deterrent---although the contours of the deterrence need to change---while ending its costly isolation from the international nuclear power industry. The deal, moreover, is also part of a strategic transformation of relations with the United States mandated by convergence of interests in the geopolitics of the twenty-first century.
The Hyde Act, passed by the US Congress last year, introduced a qualitative change in the letter and spirit of the agreement that negotiators worked so hard to achieve. It has raised several contentious issues, but the most significant one involves linking America's keeping its end of the deal (to supply nuclear technology and fuel for India's civilian nuclear power industry) to India's non-testing of nuclear weapons.
This is over and above India agreeing to isolate its civilian facilities from the weapons programmes, and agreeing to safeguards to ensure that there is no illegal transfer from one to the other. [Read what prominent Indian strategic analysts have to say]
By insisting that in the event of an Indian nuclear test, the United States can not only suspend fuel supplies, but seek possession of material already supplied, the Hyde Act seeks to ban India from further testing. In other words, it seeks to turn India's unilateral moratorium on further testing into a bilateral legality. The United States is also pressing other members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group to insist on the same conditions. [Related Posts: Cynical Nerd & Maverick]
By evoking memories of past letdowns, the Hyde Act has already undermined the benefits that might have accrued to the American nuclear power industry. Even if India were to accept the terms of the Hyde Act in totality, it would hedge its risks by not relying on nuclear energy as much as it would have without the onerous conditions. That would make the market for nuclear energy smaller that it would otherwise have been. And it would be even smaller for American suppliers, as India would move to ensure greater supply diversity. In other words, India would minimize reliance on nuclear energy and American suppliers in order to minimize the costs of testing nuclear weapons should the need arise.
Moreover, other than pure dogma, it is unclear how America stands to benefit preventing India from conducting another nuclear test. Moratorium or not, no government in India would be foolish enough to attract international opprobrium by conducting unilateral tests again. India is only likely to test should other nuclear powers begin to do so again. Indeed, the United States can use the possibility of an Indian test to discourage other nuclear powers from testing. That possibility would vanish if India is legally bound not to test.
The negotiations on the "123 agreement" are far from over, and the deal is far from dead. It is a deal that is worth having, both for its own sake and for the sake of the broader bilateral relationship. So a degree of mutual compromise is in order, even if the terms of the 123 agreement are in variance with what was agreed between Prime Minister Singh and President Bush. This does not, however, mean that the deal is worth having at all costs. Even if historical and current context were to be ignored, there is no question of India accepting a formal legal restraint on its nuclear options. America is constrained by its laws. But India cannot allow those laws to circumscribe its strategic independence. If diplomacy fails to address its concerns, India should be prepared to walk away from the deal.
A lot is being made of Rick Moran's excellent series of posts on Iraq over at Right Wing Nuthouse.
Sample reaction, from Newshogger:
The big news over on the rightwing blogs today is Rick Moran, of Right Wing Nut House, recanting his support for Bush's occupation of Iraq. Rick blames the incompetence of Bush's policy and its execution saying that waning US support for that incompetence "will ultimately doom our efforts to take any military success achieved via the surge and turn it into progress on the political front." Perhaps with another dozen or so Fiedmans, Rick says, Bush's failings could be turned into success, but those Friedmans will not now be allowed by the American people.
If you actually read Rick's post, it's far from clear that he's sitting and supping with Dennis Kucinich just yet. Actually, he's come to pretty much the same conclusion I have - that the war is likely to fail because we can't maintain the political consensus necessary to stick it out.
If we had 3 or 4 years and the political will to maintain troop levels where they are now, then we would have a real chance to make the difference. But our commitment to the military aspects of the surge will be measured in months, not years. By early fall, the race for President will be in full swing and the obvious lack of political progress in Iraq will increase calls for some kind of redeployment - probably from even some Republicans.
He has no useful prescription, except that the political forces here in the U.S. need to play together better (note that I don't either...).
For now, the imperative is preventing unmitigated disaster. It may involve giving in to the Democrats and withdrawing some of our troops and redeploying some others. Is the President a big enough man to do this? Or is he more in love with his legacy and would therefore resist changing course to reflect the reality of what is happening on the ground and in the councils of government in Iraq?
Yeah, that's just fricking great. We'll come up with a solution that mollifies the warring political parties here while ignoring the realities of the real warring parties in Iraq. Maybe not.
Rick's not wrong about his analysis. But his prescription is pure poison.
"It was supposed to be a routine security patrol in Mosul, Iraq, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, 2005. Army Pfc. Stephen Sanford and his fellow soldiers of the Company C, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, from Fort Wainwright, Alaska, planned to arrest suspected insurgents, take them back to the detention center and "relax, stretch out a bit." Instead, squad members would find themselves in an intense firefight.
"There was just this massive explosion," Sanford said. "You could see flashes and automatic weapons fire. It was sensory overload. It was incredibly loud. You could smell the gunpowder and the blood and the dust and dirt. My weapon started getting warm because I was firing so much. I mean, I still didn’t know what was going on." Meanwhile, nine members of a lead team that had gone inside a home ahead of Sanford were pinned down by enemy fire and trapped inside the kitchen. Sanford’s team evacuated the first unit, but the last soldier out of the house had been shot and lay helpless on the exposed street.
“I tried to stop his bleeding,” Sanford said. “I didn’t notice at the time I had run into a perfect line of sight for one of their snipers, and I was taking hits, and there were rounds bouncing off the pavement. I got hit, and I started bleeding out pretty bad.”
Nonetheless, Sanford continued trying to revive his fellow soldier, returned fire, shooting and killing an enemy, and continued CPR until he passed out from his own blood loss."
Just one story of several. Including... yep, someone shot in the butt-tocks.
Stop thinking that the best way for progressive activists to help the progressive movement is for those activists to live in poverty. You can't do your best work when you struggle to pay your bills. When it comes to blogging, you can't do your best work on a dial-up modem in a studio apartment, a ten-year-old computer chair and a five-year-old cell phone. If you want to keep the best and most effective progressive activists in the field of activism rather than the private sector, don't tell them they need to live like monks.
In one of my very first major posts on MyDD--a post which I paid $25 to write at a Kinkos in Modesto, California as there was no other way for me to get online--I posited the political blogosphere as the avant-garde of political and opinion journalism. Considering that it is now quite old in blogosphere terms, and the conditions under which I wrote it, I am surprised at how well it still stands up. Here is an excerpt (emphasis in original):While the poetic and artistic avant-garde sought to relocate the primary purpose of art away from the aesthetic function, I had a very difficult time figuring out what the Blogosphere sought to do differently than the Political Opinion Complex. However, at long last I think I have it.Three years later, I no longer agree with some of the specifics of that formulation, but I still subscribe to the general sentiment (for example, I wrote something similar in an article for the BBC last October).
While the corporate funded Political Opinion Complex seeks to distribute information primarily for the purpose of consumption, the primary goal of the Blogosphere is to distribute political information for the purpose of agitation / direct action. The POC only wants you to consume what it produces. The Blogosphere seeks for its consumer to act after, or even as a result of, consumption of its product. To put it another way, The Blogosphere is a counter-institutional formation that seeks to relocate the primary purpose of political and opinion journalism in agitation toward action rather than in profit-based consumption.
I'll skip over the lame 'vanguard' trope, which was fresh back in 1902.
It reminds me of all my artist and writer friends who are frustrated that they can't make a living doing their art. But they, at least, lack the arrogance to presume that they are owed a living.
And I'll suggest to Chris that he flat misses the point of the modern political & advertising message machine - it is exactly to get people to act. What's different about the Internet is that the space for action and nature of the action desired changes, and the expectation is that because you're a customer, you're also a part of my marketing team.
Now, one of the things I do is to help companies do this. It's rapidly becoming a platitude among people who are knowledgeable in marketing.
The difference between Chris and I is that I acknowledge that it's a living - an interesting and lucrative one - and he purports that what he's doing is, in essence, art.
Bowers' defense will doubtless be that his 'cause' differentiates us.
I've got a 'cause' for Chris. It's defending the ideal of America against a faux political avant-garde that's in it for the money. You're no different than James Carville - except that he's won some elections, he gets paid more, and he's a better writer.
I have met cigarette lobbyists, who are supported by the cigarette industry, and who have come to believe honestly that cigarettes are merely a safe form of adult recreation, that cigarettes are not addicting and that the cigarette industry is really trying to persuade children not to smoke. These people are fooling themselves (or fooling us into believing that they are fooling themselves) just as Jimmy Carter is fooling himself (or persuading us to believe that he is fooling himself).
"Up to that point, the day had been very successful. In fact, after carving down a couple of runs on my snowboard, my oldest son made it a point to send an approving nod my way. Don’t envision a "tight dude stickin' turns, huckin' jumps and stylin' huge air," because that wouldn’t be me, but I don’t biff (crash) too often, either. So what went wrong? Since taking up snowboarding, I’ve been forced to take a fresh look at a few of life’s little lessons..."
George W. Bush is prejudiced against Wicca, and this has had a bad policy implication for some of America's war dead. It meant they could not be buried in military cemeteries with the symbol of their Wiccan faith, the pentacle. The problem did not begin with George W. Bush, as this is a nine years old dispute, but his influence has been all to the bad. That is not a pleasant story for those of us who admire George W. Bush personally, but the facts support it.
This long struggle for religious fairness for those who have died defending America has now reached a satisfactory end, mostly because George W. Bush shot his mouth off too much, and consequently it was better for the US Department of Veterans Affairs to settle, with a non-disclosure agreement, than to defend a weak case in court.
I can't compete with Jason Pitzl-Waters' brilliant, link-rich posts at The Wild Hunt Blog (link) to back all this up, so I'm simply going to point to them:
Bush Administration Approves Pentacle (link)
Dare We Call It Conspiracy? (link)
More Veteran Pentacle Fallout (link)
Religious freedom is among the most important rights and as such worth fighting for, and religious freedom is for everybody (lacking extraordinary evidence that some religion is dangerous in a practical sense). I've always thought that, morally and practically, the best way get freedom, protection and respect for your own religion is to support others boldly practicing their religion, such as Christianity.
I think "pagan" should not mean "crybaby". I am against lawsuits and finger-pointing as the model for pagan pride. I abhor the kind of attitude that leads to people hassling Christians over creches at Christmas, and that spurred the ACLU to threaten to sue a Christian cross off the seal of the County of Los Angeles California. (While leaving an image of the goddess Pomona in place, which was sure to be noted with justifiable snark by even the most fair-minded Christian.)
Pomona Versus Jesus? (link)
I continue to think this is morally the right approach, but the facts do not support that position as being practical. It was taking the graves problem to court that did the job.
The efficacy of the courts to get important things like this done, when prejudice has meant that appealing to goodwill was futile, creates perverse incentives to seek grievances and sue over them rather than playing nice.
Nothing about worshiping Isis or Odin means that you've got to be litigious or politically liberal. But most people like results.
Since pagans are few and politically unimportant, this means nothing in a practical sense. But if, down the road, pagans get lawsuit-happy, I'm going to point to this as the explanation.
Senator Biden [D-DE] took some deserved heat the other day for saying something really stupid, not exactly an uncommon occurrence for a politician. What is uncommon is an effort by a politician that actually makes a difference on the ground, and fulfills a moral calling. Which Senator Biden has also done recently... and so I'd like to cover that road less traveled, instead.
What he has done is going to save a number of lives, on the front lines, in both of CENTCOM's theaters of war. It's late, the reasons why it's late have shocked me, and this isn't where I expected help to come from. The bottom line remains, however: at long last, a festering issue is being addressed - and Sen. Biden deserves genuine, sincere credit and appreciation for helping to make this so.
Defense Industry Daily has been covering the issues with Hummers for years, noting the platform's inadequacy for its role in a theater where IED land mines are threat #1, and covering the global availability and procurement of better alternatives. (Hey, if you call them IEDs, people might think they're new - and not criticize you for lack of preparedness or wartime response against a staple of war for the last 600 years.) In March 2006 my frustration meter overloaded, and I stepped out of my understated DID editor role over here with a detailed "let me tell you what I really think, and why" piece called "Hummer Deathtraps Suck."
I assumed that the professionals in the US military were covering this issue in briefings and committee hearings, and that Senators, Congressman, et. al. were being told of the Humvee's basic flaws and the availability of alternatives by returning troops, or by their military-specialist staff aides after attending yet another local funeral.
Assume. Ass-u-me. Yeah, I know....
What I'm finding instead, as I speak to members on both sides of the aisle, is a fuzzy level of awareness and understanding even after the issue has hit the floor in the latest supplemental - and when there are fully switched-on exceptions, they seem to be born of unplanned encounters in theater, or a chance briefing by someone outside the entire system. Rep. Gene Taylor [D-MS] has been a consistent supporter of the war and the troops, and is a Democrat I respect for a number of other reasons as well. Over 2 years before he became Chair of the House Armed Services Seapower and Expeditionary Forces subcommittee, he had this to say to SecDef Rumsfeld about inadequately armored vehicles back in May 2004:
"As far as IEDs, it was conversations with troops in the field that told me that that was their biggest fear, not a hearing in this room, not a statement from the secretary. It was troops in the field that told me that that's what they were afraid of and they didn't think the proper measures were being taken to protect them.
And lastly, it was a National Guard unit from home, shortly before Christmas, that showed me proudly their efforts to make their own up-armored Humvee, because apparently no one above was bothering to tell Congress, which writes the checks for these things, that they needed to be protected.
You're obviously a smart man. I mean, you're probably one of the smartest people I know... And what's troubling is how someone who is so smart and so detail-oriented, why does it take from January to May for this committee now to find out about this in the wake of all those other things that this committee should have known about?
I sent those kids off to get killed. I share in that responsibility. I also share in the responsibility to fix these things, but we can't fix these things if we're not told about them."
Which seems to be the story of this entire issue, over and over again. It wasn't until 2006 that a retired Colonel explained the last piece of the puzzle to Rep. Taylor: that up-armoring wasn't enough, and that a Humvee taking a blast versus a v-hull vehicle taking one is like a flat-bottomed boat hitting a wave at speed versus a v-hull boat. State of Mississippi, remember - his light finally went all the way on. For Sen. Biden, it was an encounter in Anbar province, Iraq during the summer of 2006.
To Biden's credit, he began talking to colleagues about getting more vehicles like the one he saw into theater - and met a surprising amount of dismissiveness and resistance. His staff have told me that they, and he, have been somewhat bemused and a bit troubled by the fact that here they were, of all people, leading a charge on this issue in the Senate, at this late date. You can add me to that list of the bemused and troubled. But the bottom line is, they did lead it.
Meanwhile, commanders on the ground were finally beginning to request mine-protected vehicles, and some were included in the budget. The requirement grew from 185 vehicles in May 2006; to 1,185 vehicles on December 2006, to be formally requested in the supplemental funding bill by the military; to a contract for up to 4,100 vehicles issued on January 27, 2007, total dollar amount unspecified. A total of 9 contractors have been invited to submit qualifying MRAP (Mine-Resistant, Ambush Protected) Category 1 patrol vehicles and larger MRAP Category 2 squad vehicles for testing and procurement:
Of course, talk in the Senate is cheap. But this wasn't. Nor were the efforts behind the scenes before this speech was made - even though none of the manufacturers involved are located in his home state of Delaware:
WASHINGTON, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28, 2007
Vol. 153 No. 54 Senate S4033-4034
Mr. BIDEN: Madam President, I wish to begin by stating very simply that this amendment is literally, not figuratively, a matter of life and death. I have been here for many years. I have never begun a discussion of an amendment--and I have sponsored some serious amendments and pieces of legislation--by saying something as graphic and drastic as this is literally a matter of life and death. But it is. This is not hyperbole. This is not an exaggeration.
What my amendment will do is allow the military to put 2,500 more mine resistant ambush protected vehicles--known in the military by its acronym, MRAP--in the field by the end of this year.
Now, let me explain what I am talking about. First, I want to point out that the committee acknowledged the need for these vehicles and included $2.5 billion in this bill [JK Background: the 2nd-half 2007 supplemental military funding bill, currently the subject of political dispute]. But what I propose in this amendment is forward-funding money from next year's 2008 budget into this supplemental. In that way, we can build more of these vehicles which have one purpose--the specific purpose of saving lives, American lives. The fact is, as most of my colleagues know, 70 percent of American casualties in Iraq are caused by improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
Many of my colleagues, including the Presiding Officer, have been to Iraq. They have had the same experience I have in my seven trips--visiting field hospitals. There, you see amputees and people with serious head injuries who, because of the incredible skill and triage capability of our military doctors and nurses, are able to be kept alive. Most of those injured at Walter Reed and at Bethesda naval hospital are victims of these devices, sadly now familiar to all Americans from the nightly news. We have tried very hard--although this administration has done so belatedly--to better equip our troops to withstand IEDs. God forbid they find themselves victim of an IED attack, but if they do, we want them to be able to survive.
MRAP vehicles provide four to five times more protection to our troops than up-armored HMMWVs. That statement, that these MRAPs provide four to five times more protection than up-armored HMMWVs, is not my estimate. That is the judgment of our military leaders. The Commandant of the Marine Corps, GEN James Conway, with whom I spoke as recently as this afternoon, wrote on March 1 to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said:
Multi-National Forces--West, that is, the Marines in Iraq [JK Background: specifically, in Anbar province], estimates that the use of the MRAP could reduce the casualties in vehicles due to IED attack by as much as 80 percent.
He went on further and said that even though the MRAP is not expeditionary: It is, however, the best available vehicle for force protection. He concluded by saying: Getting the MRAP into the Al Anbar Province is my number one unfilled warfighting requirement at this time.
Let me repeat that: Getting the MRAP into the Al Anbar Province is my number one unfilled warfighting requirement at this time.
He went on to tell me today that although there is some disagreement in terms of priorities within this building, he was speaking to me from the Pentagon, he said, "I believe this is a moral imperative."
How many generals with four stars or three or two or one on their shoulders have you heard use that phrase? How often is something so fundamental it is called "a moral imperative"? This is a man who is heading back out to Iraq soon. He is talking about protecting his kids, his troops.
On my last trip into Anbar Province last summer, I went to Fallujah. I met with the commanding Marine general and roughly 30 to 40 of his commanders and noncommissioned officers. I was taken outside a building to see what they were trying to do to diminish the casualty rate of American forces required to patrol Fallujah. They showed me what they called a rhino [JK Background: he means a Buffalo, aka. "The Claw"], a big vehicle, looks like a Caterpillar bulldozer with a great big proboscis on it, a great big arm that is used when an IED is identified, to disarm it. It was interesting. I observed for the first time--maybe others knew about it--the hull. The bottom of it looked like a ship out of water. It had a V-shaped bottom. A humvee, like your SUV or your automobile, has a flat bottom. In a humvee, even if it is reinforced, it is still flat. The rhino had a V-shaped bottom or floor. I asked why. They said it made them much more blast resistant and it could protect the troops inside. That is the first time I heard about this concept. They did not have MRAPs yet, but they had this rhino, a much bigger vehicle for a different purpose.
As I talked to them, I remember asking the question, why aren't we building more of these things? You know, the folks on the ground, these kids and many not so young women and men who are climbing into these coffins, know that even in an up-armored vehicle if they are struck, deadly force may be exerted, scrambling their brains or outright killing them. The number one requirement of the Commandant of the Marine Corps is to get more of these vehicles. I respectfully suggest to all who care--and every one of us cares about the fate of the troops--if there is any place we should not consider the cost--emphasize again, not consider the cost--it is when there is a consensus that what we are purchasing can save lives. We have made no sacrifice in this country to fight this war except for the families of those who have gone to the war. We should not hesitate to save the lives of those who are sacrificing because of cost.
A couple of my colleagues off the floor, none of whom are on the floor at this moment, have told me it might not be cost effective because the military is working on a new vehicle [JK Background: the JLTV, which might be ready in 5 years or so if you give them a lot of R&D dollars, instead of using that to buy safer, proven vehicles right now. Typical Pentagon]. Give me a break. Cost effective? I wonder how many people asked, when we were talking about the invasion of Normandy in World War II: You know, we better be careful. We may build too many landing craft. We might have some left over. What are we going to do with them after the war?
We have no higher obligation than to protect those we send into battle. We have received a pretty good dose of this administration's willingness to send people into battle not prepared. Rumsfeld's famous comment: You go with the Army you have, not the Army you like or need. That is paraphrasing him from a couple of years ago. When we find a way to protect people better in battle, then it seems to me we have an overwhelming obligation to act.
Let me explain the specifics of the MRAP. Each vehicle can hold 4 to 12 troops. Like the rhino, these vehicles have raised steel, V-shaped hulls and chassis. The raised hull is valuable because it gives the blast more time to expand, lessening the impact. The V-shape pushes the blast up the sides of the vehicle and away from the occupants. With an up-armored HMMWV or any humvee, the flat bottom sends the blast through the floor right into the occupants. In addition, the vehicles have side armor and bulletproof glass, and they also have tires that can be driven when flat.
Ever since the military began using MRAPs in Iraq, the requirement has grown, as commanders realize how much better they are at protecting their personnel. In May of last year the requirement was only 185. By July, it had risen to 1,185. By November, it had risen to 4,060. By February of this year, after the supplemental request was submitted, it rose to 6,738. One month later, the requirement went up again to the current level of 7,774. At this point every one in the military agrees, we need 7,774 MRAPs.
The Marines are the executive agents for this program, meaning they are managing it for themselves and the other services. Every service has a need for the vehicle for explosive ordinance units as well as regular patrols. The Marines need 3,700 of them. The Army needs 2,500. The Air Force needs 697. The Navy needs 544, and the Special Operations Command needs 333. The cost of 7,774 MRAPs is $8.4 billion. This administration's current plan is to spend $2.3 billion this year and $6.1 billion next year. But I believe we can and must do much better, and so do the Marines. If we simply put more funds up front, spend them in the supplemental rather than allocate them a year later in the 2008 budget, the same money that we are going to spend anyway next year, if we move it up, we can accelerate production drastically.
Some have said the extra production capacity does not exist. Again, speaking to the Commandant of the Marine Corps today, he indicated that there are eight companies they are dealing with and he has confidence that they can build all they can purchase, all they can afford. That is also what the Chief of Staff of the Army thinks.
On March 14, General Peter Schoomaker told the Appropriations Committee that with the MRAPs, "We can build what we get the funds to build. It is strictly an issue of money."
Let's assume the Commandant of the Marine Corps and General Schoomaker are wrong. Let's assume they have made a mistake. Let's assume we can't build as many as the money we give them. So what. So what. We are not talking about building a highway on time. We are talking about an informed judgment by the United States military, to build not a new weapons system, but to build a new protection system for their forces.
I respectfully suggest, if we are going to err on one side or the other, for God's sake, for a change, let's err on the side of doing something that will protect American fighting women and men.
Quite frankly, if the Marines believe we can do it, then my money is on the Marines getting it right. If General Schoomaker says he needs it, and more money will get the vehicles, then I take him at his word. I would rather take a chance, and I believe the American people would also, to protect more Americans under fire than not.
What does this mean specifically? Well, by adding $1.5 billion, which my amendment does, to the supplemental today, the Marines will have $4 billion to work with. Based on their estimates, that will mean 2,500 vehicles get to the field 6 months sooner than under the current plan. You may say: What is 6 months? Ten of thousands of lives is what 6 months is. Figure it out: Four to twelve people in 2,500 more vehicles. Add up the numbers. That's 10,000 to 30,000 Americans. Look at the casualty rates that come from IEDs striking up-armored HMMWVs. Do the math, and tell me if their lives are not worth taking a financial risk to protect.
If we move this money forward, on October 1 of this year, instead of having only 2,000 MRAPs, we would have 4,500 in the field. On January 1, 2008, instead of 3,500 MRAPs, we would have 6,000 in the field. By February, we would fulfill the entire requirement, instead of waiting until next July. We are still going to spend $8.4 billion, but spending it faster will make a major difference.
If you want to be callous about this, it would also save the American taxpayers a whole lot of money because for every one of those injured soldiers who comes back--to put it in Machiavellian terms--who needs a lifetime of medical care, there are hundreds of thousands of dollars committed per casualty. I can find no logical argument for delaying this.
Let me end where I began. This is a matter of life and death. Madam President, 2,500 more vehicles means literally that 10,000 to 30,000 more Americans will have a four to five times greater chance of surviving a hit with an IED while on patrol than exists today if we do not act. Madam President, 10,000 to 30,000 Americans will not be added to the casualty and death numbers if we move this money up.
To use the phrase of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, at 3 or 4 o'clock today, on the phone with me: This is a moral imperative.I agree. It is a moral imperative that we protect these troops as soon as possible.
So tomorrow, when I have my 1 or 2 minutes to speak to this issue before we vote, I will urge all my colleagues to vote for this amendment."
The amendment passed in the Senate, and has solid support now on both sides of the aisle. The contemptible politics and deeply dishonest 'slow-bleed' strategy surrounding the supplemental make the exact timing of funds unpredictable, but on this issue the funding numbers will be there as soon as the needs of forces and commanders in the field trump the needs of politics.
Following House-Senate reconciliation, the amendment's value is down to $1.2 billion (the House had not included the full amount in its bill), but the Marine Corps believe they can shift $300 million from other programs over FY 2007/2008 to buy these vehicles, in order to meet their goal of making every single vehicle riding "outside the wire" (i.e. outside American bases) in Anbar province a blast-resistant vehicle with MRAP-level protection. Up-armored hummers would then be restricted to operating under explicit commander's waivers.
The Army remains predictably slow in this respect, and their request for only 2,500 MRAP vehicles in FY 2007-2008 won't begin to replace about 19,000 Hummers in theater. But they're moving in the right direction at last, toward blast-resistant patrol vehicles like the 101st Airborne's RG-31 Mk5 Chargers (one of the approved MRAP vehicles), rather than restricting these designs to Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams. They're also going to get more of these vehicles, sooner than planned.
That's going to save lives. You may like Senator Joseph Biden's political and policy choices, or you may hate them - but no matter what you think of him, he deserves real credit and sincere appreciation for this.
Long, long overdue. Still... better late than never.
This is the second in a two part article. Read Part One, Where Kurdistan Meets the Red Zone, here.
KIRKUK, IRAQ -- Kirkuk, like Baghdad, is one of the most dangerous places in the world. Car bombs, suicide attacks, shootings, and massacres erupt somewhere in the city every day. It is ethnically divided between Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmens, and is a lightning rod for foreign powers (namely Turkey at this time) that interfere in the city's politics in the hopes of staving off an ethnic unraveling of their own.
The city's terrorists are mostly Baathists, not Islamists, and their racist ideology casts Kurds and Turkmens as enemies. They're boxed in on all sides, though, and have a hard time operating outside their own neighborhoods. In their impotent rage they murder fellow Arabs by the dozens and hundreds. They have, in effect, strapped suicide belts around their entire community while the Kurds and Turkmens shudder and fight to keep the Baath in its box.
Kurdish and Turkmen neighborhoods are safer than the Arab quarter, but the city is out of control. Car bombs can and do explode anywhere at any time.
I spent the day with Peshmerga General "Mam" (Uncle) Rostam and Kirkuk's Chief of Police Major Sherzad at a house Mam Rostam uses a base in an old Arab neighborhood that now belongs to the Kurds. Just after lunch Major Sherzad’s walkie-talkie began urgently squawking.
"There has been a shooting," he said. "Two men on a motorcycle rode down the street and fired a gun at people walking on the sidewalk. One of the men was apprehended. They are bringing him here."
For some reason I assumed when the chief said "here" he meant the police station. He did not. He meant Mam Rostam's.
"They will be here in two minutes," the chief said.
"Here?" I said. "They're bringing him here? To the house?"
"They will bring him here before taking him down to the station," he said. "I'll interrogate him here. I'm not going to feel good until I slap him."
An Iraqi Police truck pulled up in front of the house and slammed on the brakes.
"Here he is," the chief said.
I grabbed my video camera, flipped the switch to on, and ran out the door.
By now you may have heard broadcast reports of the Southlake, Texas, fourth-grader who took a hand grenade to school. The school was evacuated and authorities determined the grenade was a dummy, though its safety pin (and I asssume arming handle) was attached. No word I can find on whether the grenade was a gag like this or a military training grenade. The latter do appear real as they are intended to simulate the heft and size of the real thing. Here is a photo I took a few moments ago of my own, personal training grenade that I now use as a paperweight:
Note the blue color, the military color code for a training or inert round of ammunition. Some of you will also note that this is by no means a modern grenade, the fragmentation variety of which looks like this, the M67.
But I digress.
Violence is a common phenomenon at US schools and universities. Last week a student of English literature at the University of Virginia killed at least 30 students in a rampage considered as the deadliest school attack in the US.Of course, there was no violence in the Texas incident. A fourth grader brought what is certainly his dad's property to school, and, as I said, it might not have even been a military-produced trainer at all, although the reports that it was "hollow" make that conclusion reasonable. (Mine is, too). Prudently, authorities evacuated the school and when they discovered there was no actual threat, classes resumed. But there was no violence.
So it's pretty cheeky of Iranian media to drive home a point that "Violence is a common phenomenon at US schools and universities" when they live in a glass house, speaking of violence. This is the country that invented the suicide jihadist bomber. This is a country that hangs homosexuals in public (warning, graphic). Oh, and also publicly hangs teenage girls accused of unchastity. And Iran also hangs dissidents, or those so accused, from cranes in public squares.
Nope, no violence here, only in America. Move along, now.
Go over to Blackfive and check out Grim's post on 'The Gravity Well' it's great stuff ... and dammit, Grim!! This blog is for serious theoretical COIN stuff. Blackfive is for hoo-ah-ing and talking about whiskey and manly things. Get that straight, will you?
Seriously, a post I wish I'd written and that you should definitely read. That right there's the path to victory, folks...
Obama gave his 'Big Foreign Policy' speech yesterday, and a transcript is up on his website.
Rhetorically, it's a good speech. I agree with a lot of what he says, and love his reclamation of the American role:
I still believe that America is the last, best hope of Earth. We just have to show the world why this is so.
He says other things that ought to resonate with the readers here - he wants a bigger, more lethal military, and he expressly reserves the right to act unilaterally if he believes the justification is there.
The elephant in the room remains his - I believe - fundamental misreading of the roots of the challenge we will face in the next decade.
A recent report detailed Al Qaeda’s progress in recruiting a new generation of leaders to replace the ones we have captured or killed. The new recruits come from a broader range of countries than the old leadership - from Afghanistan to Chechnya, from Britain to Germany, from Algeria to Pakistan. Most of these recruits are in their early thirties.> They operate freely in the disaffected communities and disconnected corners of our interconnected world - the impoverished, weak and ungoverned states that have become the most fertile breeding grounds for transnational threats like terror and pandemic disease and the smuggling of deadly weapons.
Some of these terrorist recruits may have always been destined to take the path they did - accepting a tragically warped view of their religion in which God rewards the killing of innocents. But millions of young men and women have not.
Delivering on these universal aspirations requires basic sustenance like food and clean water; medicine and shelter. It also requires a society that is supported by the pillars of a sustainable democracy - a strong legislature, an independent judiciary, the rule of law, a vibrant civil society, a free press, and an honest police force. It requires building the capacity of the world’s weakest states and providing them what they need to reduce poverty, build healthy and educated communities, develop markets, and generate wealth. And it requires states that have the capacity to fight terrorism, halt the proliferation of deadly weapons, and build the health care infrastructure needed to prevent and treat such deadly diseases as HIV/AIDS and malaria.
He's right and he's wrong here, I believe. The movement we face is both something that is fertilized by the kinds of conditions he describes above - and yes, we would go far in choking it off if we were to fix these conditions, and we should.
But it is also carefully nurtured by state actors who harbor, support, and subsidize its growth for their own relatively Westphalian reasons.
I believe we face a movement seeded and nurtured by both the conditions in the 'edge states' and by carefully executed support from states which are not and should not be considered 'failed'.
When I understand how Obama proposes to deal with that, I'll be able to unqualifiedly support his foreign policy.
Winds has featured many first-person accounts of post-invasion Iraq. While anecdotal, the picture they paint are useful in appreciating conditions on the ground. Besides Michael Totten's dispatches, Callimachus has presented "Kat's" two part account of operations at a Baghdad-based Western firm working on reconstruction projects. We've recommended this 2/06 IEEE Spectrum article on the Iraqi electrical grid.
Adventure writer Jon Evans has posted Blood, Bullets, Bombs, and Bandwidth on his website. Best I can tell, this is an expanded and updated account that he originally wrote for Wired. The linked version seems to date from mid-2005.
Ryan Lackey wears body armor to business meetings. He flies armed helicopters to client sites. He has a cash flow problem: he is paid in hundred-dollar bills, sometimes shrink-wrapped bricks of them, and flowing this money into a bank is difficult. He even calls some of his company's transactions "drug deals" – but what Lackey sells is Internet access. From his trailer on Logistics Staging Area Anaconda, a colossal US Army base fifty miles north of Baghdad, Lackey runs Blue Iraq, surely the most surreal ISP on the planet. He is 26 years old.
And Evans' conclusion:
One of the few things Ryan and Tyler agree on is their scorn for America's attempt to secure and rebuild Iraq. Tyler rages that the US military "couldn't bother to protect" the road between Baghdad and Anaconda, or even the four-kilometre stretch between Baghdad International and the Green Zone. And he found that when most other Americans dealt with Iraqis, "they were very insulting, they were often very condescending, and in many cases I felt that they treated them like subhumans."I was struck by the picture Evans paints of the U.S. reacting to the successful initiatives of our enemies. In the run-up and the aftermath of the invasion, planners did not mind Gen. Franks' oft-used aphorism, the enemy gets a vote. Of course, most of the U.S. media never knew, and still don't care. Note, for example, the routine use of the passive voice ("a minibus rigged with explosives detonated on a busy street") in this typical AP account from April 17th. Bombs "go off" in Baghdad for inscrutable reasons--rather than as the organized centerpieces of mercilessly crafted political campaigns.
Both of them lament the sorry state of the electrical system. "Not having power was probably the single biggest problem that created animosity among Iraqis," Ryan says. "The US tried to rebuild it in the Western industrialized-country model. The way Iraqis install a power system is, they put a bunch of small generators on neighbourhood blocks, with power cables running to everyone's house, and just sell them access directly. And it's easy to have a market-driven pricing mechanism. But the US solution was to give large US companies business here … If they'd had electricity working within a month or two of the invasion, there probably wouldn't have been near as much violence."
Iraqis desperately want to work. "You don't see people begging for money. You see people selling gas for money, selling cigarettes by the side of the road," Ryan says. Tyler agrees: "I interviewed a lot of people, and I never met one that wasn't so painfully eager it almost hurt to turn them away." But their economy remains paralyzed.
"The best way to deal with terrorism in the long run is to fix the underlying conditions that create terrorism," Ryan says. "It's difficult to fix their ideology, but it's easy to fix their infrastructure. But the US has done a bad job … It's like a feedback loop. They got on the wrong side of the feedback loop." Iraqi frustration breeds insurgents; insurgent violence cripples reconstruction efforts; and the resulting lack of power, communications, finances, and jobs breeds more frustration.In the face of this feedback loop, American forces have withdrawn into heavily guarded enclaves. SSI's modern, globalized, best-of-both-worlds strategy, bringing Americans and Iraqis together to help rebuild the shattered country, has faltered. Blue Iraq's neo-colonial approach, living and working exclusively on military bases, continues to thrive. The seeds Tyler has helped to plant – a team of crack engineers still erecting dishes around the country – may someday help drag Iraq into the 21st century, one satellite link at a time. But not until the rain of insurgent bombs and bullets has ended. And neither Ryan nor Tyler expects that to happen for years.
Blog readers can, if they choose, read about the battle space as it appears to Westerners and Iraqis in Iraq. They can discern the not-very-hidden hands of Al Qaeda and elements of the Iranian government in shaping that space. I suspect that narratives of mystifying, terrible, and depressing carnage obscure this basic point to many newspaper readers.
Accounts like Evans' won't tell us what the least-bad policy options are for Iraq. But they do help to inform us about the realities of the situation there.
"Welcome to the United States of America. This is to notify you that your application for permanent residence has been approved. It is with great pleasure that we welcome you to permanent residence status in the United States...."
The French elections just pushed forward a center-left (by French standards) and right (by French standards) candidates to the final elections.
Heather Hulbert, writing at democracyarsenal.com says:
And the far-right Jean-Marie le Pen falls to 10%, far below the second-place showing that so embarrassed France last time. So much for the SPECTER OF ANTI-IMMIGRANT SENTIMENT LEADING TO RIGHT-WING TAKEOVER.
Um, Heather - do you know was racaille means? Or the implication of nettoyer la cité au Kärcher??
Sarko is popular in no small part because he's mainstreamed Le Pen's positions, and wrapped them in a palatable personal history.
Hulbert's source - a immigrant to France - even makes this point, but somehow it got missed:
Maybe the biggest story is the (relative - sadly not total) collapse of the Front National, which slid back down to 11.1%, about what it used to score in parliamentary elections in the 1980s and early 90s. Probably partly a reflection of the tendency to flee the fringes, but also maybe due to Nicolas Sarkozy taking over much of the security and immigration discourse of the party and making it his own.
When people ask me why I don't have more respect for my betters - for the people who make their livings as policy analysts in areas where I'm a rank amateur - it's because I keep reading nonsense like this.
I'm not afraid of an Islamic takeover of Europe. I'm much more afraid of a resurgence of European racism and violent nationalism. they're much much better at that than we are. And I'm even more afraid of our clueless foreign policy apparachniks and their patent inability to see or think clearly.
I'm starting to use social networking software as a fun way to connect with a bunch of folks I used to know. My school friend Marcella is a leftist, but she has always adhered to that persuasion's intelligence & reason wing rather than its ignorance wing, and I've always had a lot of respect for her. Damned if she doesn't find some pretty funny stuff, too:
"A Sudanese man has been forced to take a goat as his "wife", after he was caught having sex with the animal. The goat's owner, Mr Alifi, said he surprised the man with his goat and took him to a council of elders.
They ordered the man, Mr Tombe, to pay a dowry of 15,000 Sudanese dinars ($50) to Mr Alifi.
"We have given him the goat, and as far as we know they are still together," Mr Alifi said."
And we wish him a life of nuptial bliss with the best piece of tail he's ever had. A pity they don't live in America, though, thus depriving us of future stories covering the new celebrities, their alimony battles, the Hollywood parties... and finally, of course, the dueling claims on their kid after Mr. Tombe is head-butted to death by a one of his wife's jealous suitors, and Mrs. Tombe chokes on a tin can in a motel room.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, millions of Americans owned guns. And in 1933, the murder rate was around 9 people per 100,000. But why no mass murder like today?
It struck me a counter-intuitive that the murder rate 70-plus years ago was 9 per 100,000. After all, everyone knows we have become a more violent nation over the last several decades. So I looked it up. And found Rita understated the rate. The homicide rate in 1933 was 9.7 per 100K, which is "around 10," not nine.
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1920 - 6.8 1921 - 8.1
1922 - 8.0
1923 - 7.8
1924 - 8.1
1925 - 8.3
1926 - 8.4
1927 - 8.4
1928 - 8.6
1929 - 8.4
1930 - 8.8
1931 - 9.2
1932 - 9.0
1933 - 9.7
By 1943, though, the rate had fallen below 2003's rate. The FBI says in 1991 the rate was 9.8, a tenth above 1933's rate. But beginning the next year the rate started trending strongly downward so that the 2003 rate was 36.7 percent less than 1994's rate, 5.7 v. 9.0. (A.L. conveniently linked to a table with annual figures from 1960-2004.)
Looking at other decades of comparison shows that homicide rates have gone up and down over the years. In fact, from 1870-1910 the murder rate hovered around 1/100K! The overall rate declined by about 50 percent between 1933-1958, when it reached approximately 2003's figure. By 1990, the rate was back to to 1933's level. Then it plummeted again back to the level of the mid-1950's. Interestingly, the rate's climb from the mid-1950s to 1990 took more than twice as long as its subsequent decline. By 2005, the rate had risen to 5.9, where it remained for 2006.
A graph of murder rates from 1900-1990 is on this site, be advised that the site has a definite agenda but its raw data seem accurate, based on my readings.related article here.
Now, one of WOC's smart readers comment on what these data mean.
Look, Newt's position on the cause of this tragedy is just silly (skip ahead to 3:38). The rate of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter in the US was 5.1/100,000 in 1960 (surely the idyll of the Country Club Republican). In 2004 it was 5.5. We're hardly Sodom, Newt.
I'm someone who thinks there are interesting intersections between anomic young men and modern philosophical thought that may lower the barriers to bad behavior, and provide a kind of ideological armature for the nihilistic acts of rage they choose to commit. But to blame the kind of acts the VT murders represent on any philosophical position - be it postmodernism, liberalism, or Rotary membership - is just stupid and foolish and skirts being disgusting. The killer was an insane young man who could and should have been identified and helped (or at least stopped) long before last week, and no philosophy, political position, or educational fad made him crazy and evil.
We have had evil people who have done horrible things since there have been people. Newt's a Christian, he ought to get that.
('The Devil In A White City' is the violence-porn bestseller about a charming mass murderer active in Chicago during the World Fair of 1893. I'd also suggest 'Everything Bad Is Good For You' as a followup.)
(h/t The Moderate Voice)
Mr. Blue requested some puppy pictures. This young lady's name is Onyx:
Onyx belongs to one of the trainers at the horse farm. She's a lab mix, rather obviously, and well suited to life on the farm. (Better than the barn cat, who sleeps right under the horses' feet sometimes.)
What a good dog.
If you'd like to see what she looks like from atop one of the horses, you can view this image. As you can see from her tiny little legs at the top of the frame, it's important that she stay out of the way on her own. You and the horse might both miss her (or rather, not miss her, in the horse's case).
Onyx seems to understand that, and has always been well behaved. She's a friendly girl, just as you'd expect.
So it's been over a year since I've bought a motorcycle. And I'm not using the KTM fully by riding offroad. And I really like Triumphs, and Triumph has come out with the new Tiger 1050.
I'm hoping mine will be here in a week.
Scorched Yellow with ABS, it'll look pretty much like this:
Which gave me the problem of naming it.
I've always named my bikes, and given them vanity plates with their names,.
My MuZ Baghira is "Thalia". The KTM is "Metternich".
So what to name the Tiger?
My first thought was Montecore, the tiger that attacked Roy. It's a cool name, and ironic, and a good reminder that the bike is dangerous. But it felt like bad karma. A friend suggested Chompawat, after the famous man-eater, but again - bad karma.
Hobbes? great - a twofer - Calvin and political theory. But no way to get it - and kind of cutesy.
Think, think, think. Think about great cartoon tigers - and hey!!
Thomas Nast and Walt Kelley!!
Meet Tammany Tiger.
That ought to make it unanimous.... Thanks to my friend Marcella for the tip.
What about a mandatory death sentence for anyone commiting a crime with a gun? Bet that would slow it down. And let police shoot anyone who disobeys one of their orders — not to kill but at least to stop their disobedience. Overreaction? Yes, but necessary because of the society we have become.
So the answer to gun violence is state violence! Of course, not every gun crime results in a shooting, much less a death; guns are used to threaten as well as injure a criminal's victim. But Mr. Meek wants every gun crime to result in a death! And anyone who disobeys a cop may be shot - although not to kill, you understand - whether that person is violent or not, armed or not. At first I thought that Meek was merely being hyperbolic, but in context I don't think so. He seems serious. See for yourself.
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"Clearly, the man who did the shooting at Virginia Tech had a mental-health problem which resulted in a murder-suicide,'' Poussaint said. "You can't force people to get help, but you can induce them. There are thousands of students who commit suicide on college campuses all around the country each year.
"And sometimes when people are depressed and think about harming themselves, they harm other people as well.''So, think before you offer a simple solution such as arming teachers. What happened Monday goes much deeper than that.
And the implication follows that a solution of disarming everyone needs to be thought through, too. I think that the coming debates will whirl around the privacy barriers preventing college administrators from learning about the status and diagnoses of mentally-ill students and mental illness diagnoses being reportable to the instant-background check system used in firearms purchases. Also relevant are these observations by Dr. Chris Rangel:
Although people suffering from serious mental illness like schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder are twice as likely to commit a violent act as the general population, the vast majority of people who do commit violent crimes do NOT have any serious mental illness and the vast majority of those with mental illness do NOT commit any violent crimes. Other variables like male gender, youth, substance abuse, and poverty are far better predictors of future violent behavior than mental illness alone. ... Mental illness is not even a good predictor of the future risk of committing mass murder. In one study of 34 adolescent mass murderers only 23% had any evidence of pre-existing mental illness and only a scant 6% showed signs of psychosis. ...
There's nothing simple here, folks. BTW, according to ABC news, there 1,100 college suicides per year. This is a lot of needless, tragic deaths, but hardly the "thousands" that Dr. Poussaint avers.
Law Prof. Eugene Volokh engages a friend:
I was corresponding with a friend of mine -- a very smart fellow, and a lawyer and a journalist -- about concealed carry for university professors. He disagreed with my view, and as best I can tell in general was skeptical about laws allowing concealed carry in public. His argument, though, struck me as particularly noteworthy, especially since I've heard it in gun control debates before:Forgive me, but I'm old-fashioned. I like the idea of the state having a monopoly on the use of force.I want to claim that this echo of Weber (who said "Today ... we have to say that a state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory") is utterly inapt in gun control debates, at least such debates in a Western country.
Volokh proceeds to make a strong set of arguments as to why individuals should be allowed to use force even in light of the Weberian claim, and you ought to go read them.
But all he needed to do was to quote Weber accurately.
Here's the part everyone cites, from 'Politics As A Vocation':
'Every state is founded on force,' said Trotsky at Brest-Litovsk. That is indeed right. If no social institutions existed which knew the use of violence, then the concept of 'state' would be eliminated, and a condition would emerge that could be designated as 'anarchy,' in the specific sense of this word. Of course, force is certainly not the normal or the only means of the state--nobody says that--but force is a means specific to the state. Today the relation between the state and violence is an especially intimate one. In the past, the most varied institutions--beginning with the sib--have known the use of physical force as quite normal. Today, however, we have to say that a state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.
Here's the part everyone leaves off:
Note that 'territory' is one of the characteristics of the state. Specifically, at the present time, the right to use physical force is ascribed to other institutions or to individuals only to the extent to which the state permits it. The state is considered the sole source of the "right" to use violence. Hence, "politics" for us means striving to share power, either among states or among groups within a state.
There's no need to explain the freedom of an individual to use force appropriately (i.e. in a state-sanctioned way), as opposed to the ability of an agent of the state to use force in a state-sanctioned way. We're all agents of the state, in a sense.
...and that undergraduate Political Theory education is worth something!
I've said frequently that 9/11 was not a failure of our security systems, or of the passengers and crew who were hijacked, but rather was a failure of doctrine. "Doctrine" is defined as "code of beliefs, or "a body of teachings" or "instructions", taught principles or positions". On 9/10/01 we had a standard doctrine about response to aircraft hijackings which included directives to the passengers and crew to be compliant, not confront the hijackers, minimize exposure to violence, and get the plane onto the ground where negotiations or intervention by highly-trained persons would resolve the issue.
Similarly, the Columbine murders did not represent a failure by local law-enforcement to act; it was a failure of the doctrine they had been trained to act within. because most hostage situations within buildings are resolved with minimal force and patience, the doctrine was to cordon, wait, and talk.
Both doctrines have changed. I do not believe that any passenger airplane will be hijacked again anytime soon except by multiple hijackers with guns - and possibly not even then. Police departments have now trained their officers to "go to the active shooter" and aggressively move to attack - as it appears the police did in responding to the VPI shooter.
Similarly, the discussions around the responses of the students in the comments to the post below seem to imply that those of us who are suggesting that the students could have done other things which may have changed the outcome are, in essence, blaming the victims. No, we're not. We're blaming the doctrine the victims were trained to operate under, and arguing that we - all of us - should rethink it and start implementing other ones, just as airline passengers and police officers have.
This doctrine isn't only applicable to the thankfully rare cases where a deranged person walks into a school or office and starts shooting. It is applicable to all the not-so-little crises we are liable to face.
As commenters have noted this isn't the time to dig deeply into this, both out of respect for the dead and their survivors and because we don't yet know enough unambiguous fact to make conclusive judgments. I'll come back to this issue soon, obviously, but don't think that today is the time.
A couple of days ago I wondered whether the Second Amendment's imprecise connection between the right to keep and bear arms and the existence of a militia might have been enough to have prevented Cho Seung-hui from buying his two pistols, had it been legal for only U.S. citizens to buy guns.It would depend, of course, on whether non-citizens are considered part of the militia if such a ban could pass Constitutional muster. Well, Randy Barnett to the rescue:
Section 311 of US Code Title 10, entitled, "Militia: composition and classes" in its entirety (with emphases added) defines the militia as follows:Seems that only US citizens are properly considered members of the militia, at least by federal standards. This whole train of thought began in response to Eugene Volokh's earlier question on what might have prevented, rather than merely prohibited, Cho from carrying out the attack. That makes this something of a thought experiment rather than an attempt to arrive at actual policy. After all, one of the persistent arguments firearms-rights advocates advance is the necessity for people to have effective means of self defense. Permanent-resident aliens would seem to have this requirement as much as you or me, yes?
(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
(b) The classes of the militia are —
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.
But anyway, weigh in in the comments on this question: Should non-citizens of the United States, legally living (as opposed to visiting) this country, be allowed to purchase firearms?
That the state of our preparation for totally unexpected and extremely violent events may be the same as that of many on the victims at Virginia Tech is not creditable or blameworthy. It's just a fact of our situation.
The practical implication of the state of our preparation, whatever it is, is that we have a default response to a crisis.
The point of thinking about doctrine and preparation is never to assign blame. There is and was nothing blameworthy about this. The point is to do better than our default response.
I do not think a nonspecific and negative mental preparation like "DON'T FREEZE!" is much good. "DON'T!! FREEZE!!!!" - that's not very useful.
I've said before what I think is useful.
Achilles Last Stand: The Primal Heroic Response
Under conditions of unexpected terror, in the absence of satisfactory specific preparation, all elaborate theories fail. This (summarized in post #4) works. Do this.
It will be useful to investigate the mental processes of those who did act positively, and who were lucky enough to be around to recount them. Admire them. Remember them. Imitate them.
Pick a hero, such as Professor Liviu Librescu. Learn all about his life. Strive to be more like him.
Focus on the positive. Focus on the good. Have a model. Move towards it.
The discussions on the Virginia tech massacre are too negative, in my opinion. Fighting each other with words is not a useful part of the mourning process.
All discussions focusing on the evil one are useless. You will never find any sense at the bottom of his madness. Order and good can give reasons. Evil and chaos ultimately can't. To dwell on what's senseless and vile only opens you to mental harm.
Talk about how "you can't say what you would do unless you were actually in classroom X" is empty negativity.
If you've been unexpectedly terrified by a violent threat, and acted positively, you know what you did. This is nothing special. Many people have done this. You can too. Likely you already have. So be heartened and be positive.
"If Turkey allows itself to interfere in the matter of Kirkuk, we will do the same…in Turkey." -- Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani.
KIRKUK, IRAQ -- Just south of the Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq's northernmost provinces lies the violence-stricken city of Kirkuk, the bleeding edge of Iraq's "greater" Kurdistan, and the upper-most limit of the asymmetric battleground known as the Red Zone. Kirkuk is claimed and counterclaimed by Iraq's warring factions and is a lightning rod for foreign powers -- namely Turkey --- that fear a violent ethnic unraveling of their own that could be triggered by any change in Kirkuk's convulsive status quo.
I spent a day there with Member of Parliament and Peshmerga General "Mam" Rostam, Kirkuk's Chief of Police Major Sherzad, my colleague Patrick Lasswell, and our driver Hamid Shkak. You could stay a month in Kirkuk hunkered down in a compound or a house and not see or hear signs of war. But violence erupts somewhere in Kirkuk several times every day. If you go there with a Kurdish army general, as we did, and spend your day with the city's chief of police, as we also did, you will see violence or at least the aftermath of some violence. This isn't a maybe. So I brought my video camera as well as my Nikon along.
From the safety of the Kurdish city of Suleimaniya -- where the war is already over -- Kirkuk looks like the mouth of Hell. It's outside the safe fortress of the Kurdistan mountains and down in the hot and violent plains. The city doesn’t look much better up close, and you can feel the tension rise with the temperature in the car on the way down there.
Patrick and I woke Mam ("Uncle") Rostam first thing in the morning at his house in Suleimaniya. He told us we could follow him to Kirkuk, where he works every day, so we hired a world class driver to do the job.
Hamid Shkak spent years driving foreigners around war zones in south and central Iraq. He has more experience than anyone I know steering clear of IEDs, barreling through ambush sites at 120 miles an hour, and veering around spontaneously exploding firefights. He was perfect for the job, and we had little choice but to trust him and Mam Rostam with our lives.
MENTAL REHEARSAL: "Mental rehearsal can be a valuable tool in preparing you for a life threatening encounter. Mental rehearsal has been around and practiced since the early 1940’s, however, studies linked to mental process and physical skills can be traced back to 1892." (Duran & Nasci, 2000, p. 29).
Mental rehearsal is the process of mentally visualizing and rehearsing how something should be done prior to actually doing it. What this rehearsal does for the body is it connects thought processes with physical activity. Most of us are equipped with the physical tools, (ex. defensive tactics, shooting skills, etc) to get the job done but, if we cannot connect them to a mental rehearsal under stress, a life and death decision process may occur to slow, with hesitancy and with errors. The concept of mental rehearsal is to experience the situation before it actually occurs. By creating "real life" scenarios to different situations, you can walk yourself through the decision making process. The scenario can be played over and over adding or changing the situation causing changes in decision making processes. Mental rehearsal should be done with things you’ve never encountered or thought of before. Scenarios should incorporate situations that cannot be included in training sessions due to safety issues or practicality. Make the scenarios as true to life as possible!
Probably the most important issue in mental rehearsal is to "always visualize yourself winning or never being killed." Part of this rehearsal is training yourself to never give up even in the event you do get shot, stabbed or hurt. By anticipating stressful situations you can prepare for them.
- Survival Stress in Law Enforcement (pdf), Steve Drzewiecki
It's been interesting to watch the members of the commentariat play their designated roles in the aftermath of Virginia Tech. I wish they wouldn't just yet. We don't know enough, and anyone who has genuine feelings about it is still too raw to think clearly much less talk intelligently.
But the news cycle demands its sacrifices, and our good sense is probably the first one.
I don't typically read Michelle Malkin - I pretty much know what she will say on an issue, and while I respect her intelligence and ferocity, she skates a little close to Ann Coulter sometimes. So I caught this via a post on Outside The Beltway.
Wanted: A Culture of Self-Defense
Enough is enough, indeed. Enough of intellectual disarmament. Enough of physical disarmament. You want a safer campus? It begins with renewing a culture of self-defense -- mind, spirit and body. It begins with two words: Fight back.
Steven Taylor, at OTB (and PoliBlog) writes:
More Asininity (This Time from Malkin)
What in the world is going on? First we have Derbyshire and Blake and now this. First, why do we have to find blame in places other than the fact that a truly disturbed individual simply did an unthinkable act and cracked. There is only so much that can be done in a free society to prevent such situations. This attempt to blame a general "liberal" attitude at universities and that this somehow has led to a culture of "conflict avoidance" that somehow, by inference, led to people not defending themselves on Monday - that is utterly ridiculous.
There's a lot to unpack here.
Michelle is strongly advocating more people carrying weapons. James is strongly opposed to it.
That's a topic I'll talk about more later on, not today.
Michelle is very specific in her blame of campus culture - specifically progressive campus culture - for the apparent passivity of the students, and blames the passivity of the students - in some part - for the scope of what the evil madman was able to accomplish.
I've also talked about the roots of the modern terrorist movement as being closely aligned with mainstream academic thinking, and will have more to say about that later, as well.
But I want to talk about one simple thing tonight. I'll evoke the immortal words of noted right-winger Michael Moore, who gave a lecture in Cincinnati in 2003:
Near the end of his lecture, Moore invoked the memory of Sept. 11, 2001, transporting his audience to the seats of a hijacked airplane.
"Two or three men holding box cutters paralyze 100 people," he said. "How can this happen?"
There's fear, certainly, from seeing some of the first class passengers' throats sliced open. The smell of death, the blood, the rasping breath of misery. But something else had to be in play. Maybe the forbearance that comes from living comfortable lives. Surely someone would take care of this, as surely as policemen always rushed to aid them in times of need.
"Could the 100 passengers have stopped the men with box cutters?" Moore asked. "Sure, of course. Three guys with blades against a hundred unarmed fighters? The hundred win every time. Maybe not easy, maybe a few die, but the hundred win. We know it because those brave fighters on the Pennsylvania flight got up from their seats. And they beat the hijackers!"
Then Moore asked the audience to replace those passengers with 100 people from the Bronx or Over-the-Rhine or any not-so-comfortable community -- the kind of neighborhood where calling 911 won't necessarily bring the police running to help you.
"And maybe when the police do show up -- if the police show up -- they take you away instead," he said.
Now, Moore asked, do you think 100 people from the Bronx would sit there?
"They would fight back," he said. "They would rise up out of their seats and fight."
He's right. The good folks don't fight. They don't because, to be honest, they never have in their lives - if you're my age or younger, fighting in elementary school isn't normal, it's the end of your school career. It amazes me how few of my peers have ever had a real altercation.
Obviously, by virtue of my willingness to own and use arms - and martial arts of other kinds - I made the decision a long time ago that I would fight. I've argued in the past that fighting bad people is an obligation society places on good people as a way of raising the cost of being bad.
And the reality is that in extremis, people freeze, flee, or fight. Two of those reactions are useful. I'll quote my law enforcement officer friend:
By design, Universities are filled with idealists wishing to take the higher road of understanding and compassion when it comes to dealing with the dangers people often pose toward their own species.
Most importantly, if you find yourself in an active shooter situation and you can access real shelter or cover, waste no time running full speed in that direction. If you are trapped, in a room with an assailant who is picking off victims as he/she finds them, FIGHT.
No, I do not blame the victims in Virginia. The only person to blame is an insanely evil young man who isn't here to receive his just punishment.
But I have advice for those who would prefer not to be victims. And it lies in the simple fact that the State cannot, and will not guarantee your safety. You are the ultimate guarantor of your safety. You should act that way.
So here, I'll side with Michelle, and my cop friend, and Michael Moore (who would have thought it?) and tell Taylor that to call Malkin's views asinine is - well - I'm too polite to say asinine, so I'll just say foolish and wrong.
Update: fixed dumb conflation of names.
Update 2: Anne-Marie Cox takes a swing at the issue too; she's indignant that John Derbyshire would suggest that someone might try and do something in the face of an active shooter:
If I had to choose a favorite insane statement here -- like, say, if someone was holding a gun to my head -- I think it'd be the idea that, "At the very least, count the shots and jump him reloading or changing hands. Better yet, just jump him." Or, best yet: you could always try the ol', "Shoe's untied!" bit. Works with my theoretical mass shooting murderers all the time.
Um, Anne-Marie, it's like this. One of the ways that you train for things that haven't ever happened to you - and I'm so tempted to put in an assf**king reference here - is to imagine them, and pattern a response. real grown up people - like pilots, musicians, and yes, people who fight for a living - do exactly that.
Along with real training, it has a nice benefit, to which I can testify - which is that you'll respond better if you've got a pre-made plan (and better still if you practice it) than if you don't.
I'll bet that no one today gets on an airliner without thinking a little bit about how they'd react to a hijacker. Which is one reason there won't be any more hijackings without serious weaponry.
So thanks for playing, Anne-Marie, and please go back and comment on things you actually know something about, like what midlevel Washington wannabe politicians do for relaxation.
Alfred Donovan, a patent lawyer whose blog covers Royal Dutch Shell, takes a look at the largest patent filing in history. Shell thinks they have a sound method for getting top quality oil out of oil shale rock, which would remain profitable as long as oil stayed above $30/barrel.
If it works, it would also be better for the environment than conventional drilling [JK: maybe, maybe not].
If they're right, the US would add a truly vast amount of oil to its reserves. Indeed, the USA accounts for 62% of the world oil shale resources, and USA, Russia and Brazil together account for 86% in terms of shale oil content. Other countries with significant oil shale include, in order, Democratic Republic of Congo, China, Morocco, Italy, Jordan and Canada (we're focused on the tar sands, so haven't fully explored), among others. Then there's Israel.
Donovan is something of a gadfly re: Shell, and has been embroiled in a number of activist run-ins with them (gotta say, registering and then winning the rights to royaldutchshellplc.com gets him some points with me). He thinks Shell's technique will work, and notes that Shell has been granted rights to a small patch of shale field in Colorado to make an experimental run with its new method: The Mahogany Research Project.
I certainly hope this one works out for Shell. If not, however, they aren't the only ones putting research dollars into economical processes.
It's funny how much that means to me.
Defense Industry Daily usually confines our coverage to procurements, but we also cover militarily significant field tests. A DARPA program called Orbital Express, which just achieved the first ever servicing of a satellite by another satellite in space, certainly qualifies (video link at DID). There are more tests to come, and their success will be watched closely in many quarters.
The Orbital Express advanced technology demonstration couples a prototype servicing satellite (ASTRO) and a surrogate next generation serviceable satellite (NextSat). Together, they are meant to test robotic, autonomous, on-orbit refueling and reconfiguration of satellites. If that were possible, it would mean faster, less risky missions to maintain and extend the lives of America's critical military satellite fleet - and the technology would have more than a few civilian/NASA uses, as well.
Somewhere I was listening to an interview with a witness of the Kent State massacre in 1970. The horror of the campus killings 37 years ago were compared to events at Virginia Tech.
Hearing about Kent State reminded me how that massacre helped to forge a generation. So too will Virginia Tech, though quite differently.
Kent State was a tragedy that was the result of two sides facing off over the war in Vietnam. One side was protesting the seemingly endless and expanding conflict in Indochina; the other side was called in to maintain civil order. Guns went off, and four people lay dead. The young generation just emerging from the 1960s rallied around this event. The antiwar cause was buttressed. Their deaths, while tragic, were at least casualties in a battle of ideas.
But what of today's young generation? The Virginia Tech massacre seems prophetic for them. Nine times the number died at Virginia Tech than did at Kent. What cause did these young people die for?
None at all. They died because a lunatic got his hands on some very effective killing technology. The press looks for meaning, and answers. They'll never be found. Because they're not there.
Today's young generation must contend with mass death at the hands of anonymous people, with anonymous causes. Certainly, murder sprees are not unique to today's young generation. But situational catastrophe seems to have taken on a life of its own in the past 10 years. In terms of age, it's possible that some of the kids who were shot at by Cho Seung-Hui might have dodged bullets of similar intent at Columbine High School in 1999. This is a generation that has become accustomed to being distracted, influenced, and sometimes killed en masse by random occurrence without a coherent purpose.
Some of these kids are in school, others among them are in Iraq and Afghanistan. There too, they must contend with anonymous, random violence. International Jihad does indeed represent a cause, albeit incoherent much of the time. But each act of violence in the name of Jihad seems arbitrary, and murderous.
What must today's young people make of the world they must engage? What are their expectations, as a generation? Media has pounded them all their lives about how the world is dangerous; it's full of child molesters, murderers, disease and vice. They're a generation raised with interior childhoods, safe from what lurks outside, but free to observe it on a screen. All their worldly needs could be met in homes and safe places. Childhood became a crafted vocation.
Virginia Tech was the slaughter of the lambs by one of their tormented own. While their lives had purpose and meaning, their deaths had none. That's the despicable truth. Where Kent defined the older generation's opposition to war, Virginia Tech defines only an rising tide of random atrocity without end.
Wish them well.
Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle didn't have such a great season last year, and recently told Sports Illustrated that he was searching to regain his confidence. After a game in which the only runner allowed was Sammy Sosa... who was then promptly picked off first base... I'd say "Mission Accomplished."
Buehrle's no-hitter ends the longest period without one in major league history.
If you're a baseball fan who would be interested in a blog by an all-star, major-league pitcher who blogs about every game he starts, and talks about pitch selection and what he was thinking at various key points during the game... then you need to start reading Boston Red Sox ace Curt Schilling's "38 Pitches." Schilling also answers questions from fans on a regular basis; intelligent questions get an intelligent response, and hostile questions get intelligent sarcasm. The blog is maintained by the same creative and technical staff involved in his videogame company 38 Studios, who is also involved with R.A. "Drizzt" Salvatore and Todd "Spawn" McFarlane.
Sports reporters, as a group, are head and shoulders above, say, defense and global politics reporters in terms of their level of subject matter expertise and understanding. Even so, Schilling's blog offers a level of insight into the game you don't currently get from the sports pages.
Smart reporters would take notice, and start changing the questions they ask athletes to evoke more than Carman's immortal 37 sports answers. Instead, you might guess that Schilling's efforts are being greeted by something less than enthusiasm in the mainstream media world. You'd be right. Schilling's post dissecting his 8 shutout innings against the LA Angels has this comment attached:
"I saw Charles Pierce’s scribblings in the Globe today. I find it amusing that the alleged champions of free speech in the print media are so indignant about your qualifications to communicate directly with public vs. allowing them to present Curt Schilling in the light that they feel is best. I guess that free speech and expertise on baseball, gaming and politics can only come from journalism graduates who who were trained extensively on the biases of their college professors."
As many others have noted in the media and the blogosphere, the killings at Va. tech have reignited advocates on all sides of the gun-control issue. Once again, a term being bandied about is "the need for sensible gun laws."
Of course, it all depends what "sensible" means, and that connotation will vary widely from one side to the other.Eugene Volokh asks a sensible question, though:
A New York Times editorial about the Virginia Tech mass murder states, "What is needed, urgently, is stronger controls over the lethal weapons that cause such wasteful carnage and such unbearable loss." My question, now that we have a little more information about the criminal (though I stress far from complete information): What stronger controls over weapons would likely have stopped him from committing the murders, or even led him to kill fewer people? Note that I'm not asking what controls would have prohibited him from doing something. Murder law, and for that matter the gun control law that banned firearms from campus, already prohibited him from committing mass murder. That didn't seem to help. I'm curious what "stronger controls" would likely have stopped a would-be mass murderer from killing, or at least killing as many.That's an excellent question, and the comments at the post are, uh, entertaining when they are not very informative.
Yesterday, one of the radio airwaves commentati said that no law could have prevented Cho from committing the murders. Cho bought his two pistols legally. But, I thought while listening, Cho was not a US citizen. Under Virginia law, a permanent-resident alien, which was Cho's status, may buy firearms just as a citizen may. The gun dealers were properly licensed and regulated.
Might Cho have been stopped if it was illegal for non-citizens to buy guns? Would he have had the connections to buy pistols on the black market? No way to know, of course, and the idea of patchworking gun laws based on this incident strikes me a futile gesturing, anyway. Lord knows US citizens kill each other with guns quite enough.
There's another problem with the idea, too. Foreign nationals are held t enjoy the same Constitutional protections as citizens when under US jurisdiction. No one is going to argue that a foreign tourist visiting Miami for two weeks should be allowed to buy a gun, but obviously permanent-resident aliens are a different category.
So back to Eugene's question: what laws could have actually prevented Cho from rampaging? I can't think of one. Can you?
This morning, I talked to Littlest Guy (my 10 year old) about the shootings at Virginia Tech. He'd seen the paper, and knew the basic facts.
I explained first that while it got a lot of attention, it wasn't something I worried about a lot, and that he was more at risk from bees than he is from mad killers like this. I told him that nonetheless it was a good idea for him to imagine what he'd do if something like this happened, so that he could know that he isn't ever helpless.
Later, I talked to a friend who is a University police officer about it, and got this response (the author is a law enforcement officer at a major urban university who will have more to say about the response at VPI tomorrow):
What do you tell your college bound child about crime, danger and self-preservation?
Recognize that a University is just a city within a city, filled with people. Some are good, some are bad, some are there to take advantage of the environment for profit and others, to prey upon a particularly vulnerable population.
By vulnerable, I include students, staff and faculty, all of whom tend to believe the hype about the University Community being somehow insulated from the crime that exists outside the borders. By design, Universities are filled with idealists wishing to take the higher road of understanding and compassion when it comes to dealing with the dangers people often pose toward their own species.
Tell your son or daughter that in order to decrease the risks hidden behind the school's marketing facade, they must listen to their instincts when confronted with danger, rather than letting their intellect and ideals overcome them. A student needs to be willing to see danger when it presents itself. They need to understand that bad things happen to good people every day, even in places that are supposed to be safe. That all of nature survives and thrives upon decisions of fight or flight, but fails or dies if they succumb to the immobility of fear.
Unfortunately, we live in a would-be virtual world, where we protect our children from fear and leave them to practice their survival skills in games that allow them to respawn when they make the wrong choice. This leaves them believing that they cannot come to harm and although I don't think walking around riddled with anxiety over every potential encounter is healthy; skepticism, caution and adaptability to swiftly changing circumstances are excellent tools for long term survival.
To be more specific, if something doesn't look right, it probably isn't and you should report your concerns to the authorities. If someone seems irrational, delusional or just plain weird, let someone know. If someone seems to believe you have a romantic relationship and you don't - be alert and report stalking or obsessive behavior as soon as you encounter it. Sometimes, if these situations are caught early, the subject can be helped with medical intervention. Do not put embarrassment above safety.Most importantly, if you find yourself in an active shooter situation and you can access real shelter or cover, waste no time running full speed in that direction. If you are trapped, in a room with an assailant who is picking off victims as he/she finds them, FIGHT. Throw things, big things if you can grab them. Use that as a distraction to assault the shooter. Go down fighting if you must, but do not let yourself be immobilized by fear. Unless you can hide among the bodies and successfully play dead (a risky tactic if the assailant decides on a 'coup de grace' shot), you may as well go down fighting. If you cower in a corner or under a desk, as soon as he sees you he will kill you. Take the initiative away. You have nothing to lose in this situation. Remember the lesson of 9/11, submission to an adversary bent on killing plays into his expectations and will likely result in your death.
Update: changed formatting to distinguish the author's words from mine.
|- MyDD -||- Kos -||- Gallup Apr 13-15 -|
"Professor Liviu Librescu, 76, threw himself in front of the shooter when the [murderer] attempted to enter his classroom. The Israeli mechanics and engineering lecturer was shot to death, "but all the students lived--because of him," Virginia Tech student Asael Arad--also an Israeli--told Army Radio.
Several of Librescu's other students sent e-mails to his wife, Marlena, telling of how he had blocked the gunman's way and saved their lives, said Librescu's son, Joe.
"My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," Joe Librescu said in a telephone interview from his home outside of Tel Aviv. "Students started opening windows and jumping out."
Librescu was a Holocaust survivor who escaped communist Romania for Israel in 1978 and moved to Virginia in 1986. By coincidence, he was murdered on Holocaust Remembrance Day."
In the Jewish community, the response to hearing of a loved one's death is "may his memory be a blessing." Prof. Librescu's clearly is, demonstrating what real martryrdom is about - dying not to kill others, but to save them.
On the other hand, OpinionJournal also noted very clearly what had not happened at Virginia Tech... but had happened at Virginia's Appalachian School of Law in January 2002:
"The gunman, Peter Odighizuwa, killed three, and probably would have killed more but for another student's gun:
"Students ended the rampage by confronting and then tackling the gunman, officials said.
"We saw the shooter, stopped at my vehicle and got out my handgun and started to approach Peter," Tracy Bridges, who helped subdue the shooter with other students, said Thursday on NBC's "Today" show. "At that time, Peter threw up his hands and threw his weapon down. Ted was the first person to have contact with Peter, and Peter hit him one time in the face, so there was a little bit of a struggle there."
Imagine if someone had been in that position at Virginia Tech. One more reason why the university administration is going to have a tough, tough time living this one down. Deservedly. From January 2006:
"Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker was happy to hear the bill [to allow people with concealed carry permits to carry guns on campus] was defeated. "I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus."
Can't argue with a fantastic success like that, can you?
Another news conference recently concluded at Virginia Tech. I didn't catch all of it, but I did see the part where a speaker (didn't get his name) said firmly that the response to the shootings and the decisions made by the university administration and police were correct and proper based on the information they had at the time.
This might be true. But it's way too soon to know that. In only 24 hours there's no way to review dispassionately the record of events, discussions and decisions. And it offends the objective mind that the same people who made the decisions have now definitively pronounced that their decisions are beyond criticism. An independent board of inquiry is more than justified here.
From the beginning, the public utterances of university President Charles Steger's and Police Chief Wendell Flinchum have been sorry spectacles. They have distanced themselves from the events, describing the day as if it had little to do with them personally. It's one thing to demonstrate command of facts, but they have displayed all the personal connection with the mass murders as if describing a close loss of a football game. Certainly, I have seen no evidence that they have even done much soul searching about their decisions and response plans. Frankly, ISTM that they hardly even care much.
I know that sounds harsh, even cruel. I cannot believe that yesterday's horrors have affected them any way but deeply. I would even guess they cried in their beds last night. But their public appearances and utterances seem to have been coordinated with a staff attorney first, whose advice must have been: "Say nothing to indicate that you personally or the university bear any responsibility for this tragedy. Speak in the third person. Make sure you say repeatedly that everything you did was correct and proper."
But hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits are sure to follow, anyway. Already, parents are calling for Steger and Finchum to get the boot. Myself, I hope they will have the decency to resign as a matter of principle. No matter how much legal and emotional distance the two men try to put between the killings and themselves, the deeds happened on their watch.
Everyone is, of course, talking about "healing" at the university. The departure of Steger and Finchum would be a big part of it.
My oldest son goes to college at the University of Virginia (Glenn appears to have misread this, my apologies for using the abbreviation earlier), and so I've gotten a slug of phone calls from colleagues and friends who knew he was in Virginia telling me about the mass murder at Virginia Tech today.
This isn't the time for dispassionate - or even passionate - policy discussion, although that will surely follow.
It's time to think about the other parents - parents like me - whose daughters and sons go to school at VPI (instead of UVA where my son goes) and are waiting for news or are getting the worst news imaginable.
I left Virginia about a year ago, so I haven't kept up to date about regulations governing concealed carry on university campuses, but as I recall the administration at VA Tech had advanced a university rule preventing concealed carry on campus, for permit holders. Although someone carrying on campus would not be violating any state firearm laws my understanding is that they could be prosecuted for "trespass" and could be fired or expelled from the school. The upshot of all this is that concealed carry on campus is suppressed, if not eliminated.
When the Virginia legislature failed to overrule VA Tech's carry restrictions, maintaining the right to carry on university campus under House Bill 1572, proposed by Todd Gilbert from Shenandoah county, VA Tech spokesman Larry Hincker was delighted: "I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus."
At this point the authorities are saying that at least 20 persons have been killed at VA Tech by a gunman who didn't even bother to conceal his weapon. Draw your own conclusions, but I imagine the press and Democrat congress will spin this as evidence of the need to further disarm citizens, though a single person with a concealed carry permit could have prevented the tragedy. The real travesty is that no one who might have put a stop to this was armed, because they'd been stripped by good intentions--thus making the campus relatively safe for an attacker who wasn't really worried about expulsion, and didn't have to be concerned about a student or faculty member with a concealed weapon.
If anyone knows more about the concealed carry situation at VA Tech or other VA schools please contribute to comments.
Update: Fox now reporting 32 dead. So far reports are that he used a 9mm handgun, which makes it even more incredible. Such a thing would not have even been conceivable unless it were perpetrated against a totally trusting and unarmed population.
Here's this week's video. Please share it with some friends once you've watched it:
We're very slightly under $14,000 today, with very little publicity after the initial 3 or 4 blog posts.
Here's what's going on:
1) I'm working to get the legal and accounting set up for the PAC, so that we'll be legal and I can contact each of the pledged donors to fulfill their pledge.
2) I'm reaching out to a number of people to put together a 5-person Board of Directors so this isn't just me doing things and/or making decisions.
3) I'm designing a site that will allow you to register, pledge, donate, post your thoughts, and contact others to help us raise money and awareness.
My guess is that all of this will happen between 4/21 and 5/10, with a goal of being fully operational by 5/15.
Feel free to go to the VictoryPAC site and add your pledge.
JK: I thought this was an interesting concept idea, so here it is. It's a paraphrase/ takeoff on "On How to Treat the Populace of Valdichiana After Their Rebellion" by Niccolo Machiavelli (1503) based on the version translated by Peter Constantine in The Essential Writings of Machiavelli (The Modern Library, 2007).
Appearing before the Congress, Gen. David Patraeus spoke of what should be done with the territories and cities of Iraq. These are the words he used, and the decision that the Congress reached, more or less verbatim, as the resurrected ancient Roman historian Livy reports them....
On How to Treat the Populace of Iraq After Their Insurgency
Niccolo Machiavelli - paraphrased by Wayne Lusvardi, Pasadena, CA
"Congressmen! What needed to be done in Iraq with armies and wars has, by grace of god and the skill of our soldiers, been done. Slaughtered are the enemy armies of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Republican Guard in Iraq. All the land and cities of Iraq, and the city of Baghdad in the land of the Fertile Crescent, either were conquered or surrendered, and are now in your power. As they keep insurging and putting America in peril, we must consult about how to secure ourselves, either by cruelty or by generously forgiving them. God has granted you the ability to deliberate whether Iraq is to be maintained, and how to make it secure for us indefinitely. So consider whether you want to punish harshly those who have given themselves to you and want to ruin Iraq and Afghanistan entirely, turning into a desert a country that has often supplied you with Muhajadeen anti-Soviet resistance fighters in dangerous times; or whether you intend to follow the example of our forefathers in ancient Rome. This would give you the glorious opportunity of expanding American democracy.
All I have to say to you is this: The most enduring power is the state which has loyal subjects who love their Congressmen. But what must be deliberated swiftly, as you have many people hovering between hope and fear. You must free these peoples from their uncertainty and anticipate their every action, either with punishment or reward. My task was to ensure that this decision would be yours, and my task has been done. It is now for you to decide what is for the benefit of our republic.
The congressmen praised Patraeus' speech, and as the case in each insurgent city and territory was different, they agreed that it would be impossible to pass a general resolution, but that each instance would have to be considered separately. Patraeus specified the case of each of the territories, and the Congressmen decided that the Iraqis were to become unincorporated territory, and that any sacred or historical artifacts looted in the 2003 invasion were to be returned. They also made the Kurds, the Shiias, the Sunnis and the people of Kurdistan, the Assyrians, the Mandeans, the Iraqi Turkmen, Shabaks, and the Roma (some dispersed and living in the U.S.), while the people of Kurdistan (Sulaymânîyah Province) were allied to keep their privileges, their insurgency being blamed on a few individuals. The people of Fallujah, however, were severely punished for having been a home to many Jewish academies for centuries and under British control in the 1920's who nevertheless mounted an insurgency numerous times. To secure Fallujah, the U.S. had to depopulate the city and then send in new settlers, knocked out all the bridges over the Euphrates River, but later helped re-build all the mosques destroyed in the Battle of Fallujah.
It is clear from the judgment of the British passed on these insurgent territories that they strove either to win their loyalty through benefits, or to treat the territories so harshly to win their loyalty through benefits, or to treat, the territories so harshly that they would never need fear them again. The ancient Romans, unlike the British, regarded any middle way as harmful. In their resolutions, they chose one extreme or the other: benefiting those with whom they saw hope for reconciliation, and, where there was no hope, making certain Rome could not be harmed again. The ancient Romans carried this out in two ways: One was to destroy the city and bring the inhabitants to live in Rome; the second was either to strip the city of its inhabitants and send in new ones, or, leaving the former inhabitants in place, to send in so many new ones that the original inhabitants could never again conspire against the authority of Rome. The Romans used these two methods in the case of Latium in Italy, destroying Velitrae and providing Antium with new inhabitants.
I have heard it said that in our actions we should look to history as our teacher, which is particularly true for Presidents. The world has always been inhabited in the same way by men who have had the same passions: There have always been those who serve willingly, those who rebel and those who are punished. Should anyone doubt this, he has only to look at the incidents in the city of Fallujah in Operation Phantom Fury in November 2004 recapturing Fallujah. Even though the particulars of the insurgency and recapture of these territories was quite different, that fact of the insurgency and the recapture are the same.
If it is true that in our actions we should look to history as our teacher, it would be good if those who will have to judge and punish the territories of Iraq would follow the example of those who once ruled the world, particularly in a case where the ancients teach us in no uncertain terms the best course of action. Just as the Romans judged each territory differently, as the offense of each people was different, so must we now strive to evaluate the difference in offense in each of our insurgent territories.
If you were to assert that this is precisely what we have done, I would reply that we have done so only to some extent, but that we have fallen short in important ways. It is good that we allowed Kurdistan and many other Iraq Provinces to keep their assemblies, and that we indulged them, managing to reconquer them with benefits, because I equate them with the people the ancient Romans treated in a similar manner. But it is not good that the Sunni people of Baghdad, who acted in the same way as the ancient Roman cities of Velitrae and Antium, have not been treated the same way they were. If the judgment of Romans believed that rebellious populaces had to be either benefited or destroyed, and that any other course of action was dangerous. From what I see with Baghdad we have not adopted either of these two courses. One cannot claim that the Sunnis have benefited by having to come to the U.S. every day, their offices abolished, their sinecures wiped out, their being disparaged publicly and having soldiers quartered in their previously secure neighborhoods. And yet, one cannot claim, either, that we are securing ourselves against them by leaving their city walls intact and allowed five-sixths of their citizens to go on living there, not sending in new settlers who would keep them in check. In any future war that we might have to fight, we will have to face greater expenditure in Baghdad than we will in fighting the enemy. Experience taught us this in 2004, before Fallujah rebelled or we began our cruel reprisals. For when the al Qaeda troops assaulted al Anbar Province, we had to send our forces to Fallujah in order to keep the city stable, instead of using those troops in Ramadi in Anbar Province.
Nor would we have had to pull Reservists from home and send them back to Iraq as part of the "Surge." The Sunnis disloyalty resulted in our having to face considerably more peril and expenditure than if it had remained loyal. Hence, putting together what one sees now and what one saw then, and the conditions we have imposed on the Baghdadis, one can categorically conclude that if -- God forbid! -- the U.S. Green Zone were to be invaded by terrorists, Baghdad would either rebel or cause us so many problems as we tried to secure it that it would become an expenditure the U.S. would not be able to bear.
I do not want to neglect discussing the prospect of a U.S. terrorist attack, and the inevitable designs any state-sponsored terrorists have on Iraq and Baghdad, as at the moment this is a central topic of discussion. Let us not concentrate on the danger we can expect from any Sleeper Cells in the U.S., but let us turn our sights on a peril closer at hand. Anyone who has observed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's course of action will note that in his strategy for extorting the states he has threatened, he never looks to U.S. alliances, having little esteem for the U.S. and Britain. One can only conjecture that he intends to create such a powerful state in Iran that he will be unassailable, making allegiance to him desirable for the leader of any nation. Should this be his design, then he is clearly aspiring to possess all of Iraq that he now infiltrates. There is no doubt that because of his boundless ambition, and the way he has drawn out negotiations with us without ever concluding any agreements. It now remains for us to see if the time is right for him to put his designs into practice.
I remember hearing American historians say that among the many reasons one could call Presidents James Polk's expansion of U.S. territory into former Mexican lands, Lincoln's provocations at Fort Sumpter, President William McKinley's exposure of a battleship, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's strategy of rebounding from Pearl Harbor, is that they are experts at seeing an opportunity and seizing it. This view is proved by our experience of what they have carried out when they had the opportunity. If one were to debate whether now is an opportune moment for them to assault the U.S., I would say no. But one must consider Ahmadinejad can wait for the kind of moment in which he can be assured of victory, as time is on his side: Iran will eventually acquire nuclear weapons or para-nuclear weapons of mass destruction such as Polonium, and Ahmadinejad will grasp the first opportunity that presents itself and place his cause to a great extent in Fortune's hands.
Even since Gen. Shinseki began pushing wheeled armored vehicles in the 1990s, the USA has shifted away from tracked carriers - and a number of European countries are moving toward all-wheeled forces. Canada was on that road, too - but it would seem that they are taking some of the lessons re-learned during Operation Medusa in Afghanistan to heart. Canada's DND:
"The heavily protected direct fire capability of a main battle tank is an invaluable tool in the arsenal of any military. The intensity of recent conflicts in Central Asia and the Middle East has shown western militaries that tanks provide protection that cannot be matched by more lightly armoured wheeled vehicles.... [Canada's existing Leopard C2/1A5] tanks have also provided the Canadian Forces (CF) with the capability to travel to locations that would otherwise be inaccessible to wheeled light armoured vehicles, including Taliban defensive positions."
In October 2003, Canada was set to buy the Styker/LAV-III 105mm Mobile Gun system to replace its Leopard C2 tanks. In the end, however, the lessons of war have taken Canada down a very different path - one that now has them renewing the very tank fleet they were once intent on scrapping, and backing away from the wheeled vehicles that were once the cornerstone of the Canadian Army transformation plan.
And so it goes... Read the rest at Defense Industry Daily.
Ed Captain's Quarters" Morrissey is moving out of his call center, and on to a new job at "Blog Talk Radio." Two big congrats, Ed! One for the new job, and one for this...
"Even my current bosses -- two of the most reasonable and ethical men with whom I have worked -- told me that I could hardly pass up this chance.
Why not name the company [I work for]? I have always wanted to keep a bright line between my politics and their operations. Customers might have issues working with someone who strongly advocates any kind of political point of view, and I don't want them to suffer for my passion. Also, I had tried to steer clear of any political discussion at work, and discouraged any conversation about my blog or radio work. The most gratifying moments of my final weeks have been when two co-workers asked me, after the announcement of my departure for political commentary, which party I supported and whether I was a conservative or a liberal. It meant that I had succeeded in that separation."
The above is the mark of a professional, who understands how to conduct himself at work, and why. Bravo.
Littlest Guy (finishing 5th grade) just took their test and did very well. We're debating putting him into one of the summer or distance learning programs, and I'd love to find someone who's had a child go through one (or a child who went through one themselves) who'd be willing to comment on it.
Leave a comment or drop a me a note.
And no, he doesn't look like the milkman.
Internet gossip Matt Drudge has claimed that Media Matters for America is a "Soros operation."Looking at the non-authoritative but informative Sourcewatch entry on Media Matters we get:
In fact, Media Matters has never received funding from progressive philanthropist George Soros.
Funded with "more than $2 million in donations from wealthy liberals." "Among Mr. Brock's donors is Leo Hindery, Jr., the former cable magnate; Susie Tompkins Buell, who is co-founder of the fashion company Esprit and is close to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, and Ms. Buell's husband Mark; and James C. Hormel, a San Francisco philanthropist whose appointment as ambassador to Luxembourg was delayed for a year and a half in the late 1990's by conservative lawmakers protesting what they called his promotion of a 'gay lifestyle.' 
Media Matters for America is funded in part by the Democracy Alliance.
And following the Sourcewatch link to 'Democracy Alliance' we get:
"Members of the Democracy Alliance include billionaires like George Soros and his son Jonathan Soros, former Rockefeller Family Fund president Anne Bartley, San Francisco Bay Area donors Susie Tompkins Buell and Mark Buell, Hollywood director Rob Reiner, Taco Bell heir Rob McKay ... as well as New York financiers like Steven Gluckstern." 
Conservative site 'Discover the Networks' says:
Media Matters has not always been forthcoming about its high-profile backers. In particular, the group has long labored to obscure any financial ties to George Soros. But in March 2003, the Cybercast News Service (CNS) detailed the copious links between Media Matters and several Soros "affiliates" - among them MoveOn.org, the Center for American Progress, and Peter Lewis. Confronted with this story, a spokesman for the organization explained that "Media Matters for America has never received funding directly from George Soros" (emphasis added), a transparent evasion.
Here's why this matters - if the issue is to replace one group of powerhungry liars with another, it's really hard for me to motivate any energy to become involved. And I assume that I'm not alone.
Transparency and honesty matter, or they don't. You can't bust GWB for failing to be completely transparent and then cloak yourself in bullshit without the room starting to stink.
Honesty is more important to me than social justice because I don't believe that people who are profoundly dishonest are capable of advancing the cause of social justice.
But Steve's not only clever, he's moral.
Racist Quote of the Day:
Oh oh....looks like a pouty Brown Sugar is going to ask Daddy to buy her another pair of Ferragamos. Or invade another country.--T.Bogg (referencing a photo of the Secretary of State).
There's an amusing debate going on in the blogosphere over whether Imus is a liberal or a conservative, as if that makes any difference. If "nappy-headed ho" comes out of your mouth when you describe a female college basketball player, you're a racist. If making a lewd reference to a black prostitute is what comes to mind when you need to dis Condaleeza Rice, you're a racist. And it doesn't matter if the nazis over at LGF are pretending to take offense.
I have never understood the notion that liberals like Tom (of TBogg) - who would spasm into rageful unconsciousness listening to a white redneck talk smack about a black man or a woman somehow feel free to bring out their inner Tom Mezgers if the target isn't on their side of the angels.
An old post from armedliberal.com back in 2002 which seems highly appropriate in light of yesterday's Duke acquittals, and this post at Maggie's Farm:
The War on Bad Philosophy continues.
I'm still working today, so I can't give this the depth it deserves, but I want to point folks to an article on Free Speech and Postmodernism, by Stephen Hicks, a Randian liberal arts professor, and commentary on the article by Arthur Silber on his blog Voice of Reason. (link originally via Instapundit)First, I'm not a big fan of Rand and Randians. As a group, they tend to exhibit the confusion between logic and reason that many bright teenagers display (I should know, I've got two...). But while there is a framework in both articles I'd take some exception to (and will when I get a moment), there are a couple of 18kt gems worth pulling out and handing around. From Hicks:
What we have then are two positions about the nature of speech. The postmodernists say: Speech is a weapon in the conflict between groups that are unequal. And that is diametrically opposed to the liberal view of speech, which says: Speech is a tool of cognition and communication for individuals who are free.
If we adopt the first statement, then the solution is going to be some form of enforced altruism, under which we redistribute speech in order to protect the harmed, weaker groups. If the stronger, white males have speech tools they can use to the detriment of the other groups, then don't let them use those speech tools. Generate a list of denigrating words that harm members of the other groups and prohibit members of the powerful groups from using them. Don't let them use the words that reinforce their own racism and sexism, and don't let them use words that make members of other groups feel threatened. Eliminating those speech advantages will reconstruct our social reality - which is the same goal as affirmative action. A striking consequence of this analysis is that the toleration of "anything goes" in speech becomes censorship. The postmodern argument implies that if anything goes, then that gives permission to the dominant groups to keep on saying the things that keep the subordinate groups in their place. Liberalism thus means helping to silence the subordinate groups and letting only the dominant groups have effective speech. Postmodern speech codes, therefore, are not censorship but a form of liberation - they liberate the subordinated groups from the punishing and silencing effects of the powerful groups' speech, and they provide an atmosphere in which the previously subordinated groups can express themselves. Speech codes equalize the playing field.I haven't read a better description of the postmodernist take on speech and power.
I believe Hicks to be off base in his explanation of the root of this construction; he explains it as a political tactic adopted as the previous tactic - affirmative action - began to fail. He's wrong; this is a manifestation of the underlying philosophy behind affirmative action - the primacy of group identification, and the construction of politics as conflicts between identified groups.
I'd suggest going back to Marcuse's 'Repressive Tolerance' for a historic touchstone.
A bit more bloggage then back to work...
...2002 was an interesting year, wasn't it?
(Sorry, I just love the Glenn Gould movie)
So I broke down and subscribed to Foreign Affairs. I want to learn what the smart folks (like Dan Drezner, who has an article in the Marc/April issue) are thinking and writing about. I acknowledge my lack of expert knowledge and think it'd be good to hear what expert have to say.
So this month, along with Drezner's article, there's a lead article by Ray Takeyh on Iran, in which he argues strongly for detente. He argues, in fact, for the inevitability of detente, because of the strength of Iran.
In order to develop a smarter Iran policy, U.S. leaders must first accept certain distasteful facts - such as Iran's ascendance as a regional power and the endurance of its regime - and then ask how those can be accommodated.
OK, there's some things to think about in that.
But - no where in the article is there anything about the demographic issues or the potential collapse of Iranian oil revenues - and the political implications that presents for the "endurance of its regime". Now it may be that those issues are overblown; there are certainly arguments to be made.
But I'd say that it's pretty difficult to talk about Iran and our long-term strategy with them without dealing with these issues - or at least raising and dismissing them with some arguments that hold some weight.
And it's difficult for me to sit down and accept the authoritay of someone who is a Senior Fellow at the Council of Foreign relations and author of 'Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic' when he tells me that Iran is an unstoppable force in the Middle East and doesn't deal with the reasons why Iran may either be a hollow power - or why it may be motivated to be aggressive within a specific window of time. If this is what the leading experts are doing - heaven help us all.
Then Noah Pollak sent me a note announcing the new issue of Azure, the magazine he's involved with.
In it, David Hazony (editor in chief of the magazine) has an article on 'The New Cold War' in which he details the issues in containing Iran.
By most measures, Iran is an easier mark than the Soviet Union. It does not yet have nuclear weapons or icbms; its Islamist ideology has less of a universal appeal; its tools of thought control are vastly inferior to the gulag and the KGB; and its revolution is not old enough to have obliterated the memory of better days for much of its population. In theory at least, it should be much easier for the West to mount a similar campaign of relentless pressure on the regime - from fomenting dissent online, to destabilizing the regime through insurgent groups inside Iran, to destroying the Iranian nuclear project, to ever-deeper economic sanctions, to fighting and winning the proxy wars that Iran has continued to wage - in order to effect the kind of change of momentum needed to enable the Iranian people to bring their own regime down the way the peoples under communism did in the 1980s and 1990s.
This article cuts closer to my presuppositions and beliefs than Takeyh's; it stands as a counter to his arguments about the inevitability of Iranian power with an argument about the necessity of countering it.
But it's more in the nature of a polemic than an analysis.
And the question, of course, is whether it's the right polemic. And some analysis would help make that case. Or Takeyh's.
My dad was a very good gambler. The best bets he made were ones where the
suckers other bettors saw the odds differently than they were really.
I've argued for a long time that the progressive netroots weighs more in the consciousness of the political class than it does in political reality. I was meaning to do a post on the Political Arithmetik post showing netroots-fave Edwards 4th and stalled when Jeff Jarvis did a much better post for me.
"Boy, those results don't look like those from Gallup - from the real voters. At the Politics Online conference in Washington a few weeks ago, I remember one of the many pundits there arguing that Hillary has no grass roots support and momentum because you can't find it in the blogosphere. Well, maybe in one blog."
The political blogs are all about Edwards and Richardson, and the polls are all about Hillary.
It's a fundamental mistake to presume that because one narrow slice of the chattering classes (us) happens to be all excited about a candidate - like, say Ned Lamont - that the enthusiasm is shared by the larger electorate.
I think there's a lesson there for the netroots - especially the wannabe political consultant class netroots - and I'll cite my perennial source John Schaar:
"Finally, if political education is to effective it must grow from a spirit of humility on the part of the teachers, and they must overcome the tendencies toward self-righteousness and self-pity which set the tone of youth and student politics in the 1960's. The teachers must acknowledge common origins and common burdens with the taught, stressing connection and membership, rather than distance and superiority. Only from these roots can trust and hopeful common action grow."
After reading my critiques of the educational and intellectual backgrounds of Muslim men of religion, one of my readers asked me about whom I see worthy of being religious scholars. In my response to the reader's inquiry, I told her that I have tackled this issue in many of my books. However, I will be pleased to give a brief statement about my perspective regarding this point.
During the first five hijrī centuries, Muslims witnessed enormous intellectual breakthroughs across a broad range of subjects in Islamic thinking. These successes included topics such as the fundamentals of jurisprudence, linguistics, interpretation and historiography. These intellectual advances resulted in a revolution of opinions and interpretations that varied from the extreme conservative right, such as the Hanbalī school [in reference to the Ahmad Ibn Hanbal], to the utmost level of reason-based interpretation proposed by the great thinker Ibn Rushd [Averroes], and between those two extremes there were a multitude of other schools of thought. For example, at the time when Abū Hanīfah al-Nuamān accepted less than 100 hadīths [sayings and doings of the Prophet Muhammad], Ahmad Ibn Hanbal recognized more than 10,000 hadīths.
Nevertheless, Muslims committed a grave mistake against themselves and their religion when they closed the door to ijtihād [interpretation] and stopped searching for new concepts and solutions. They became satisfied with simply taking from what their ancestors had produced, although those concepts and solutions were the outcome of an ancient era and the fruits of the conditions of a past time. Therefore, Muslims are living in a status quo environment where they ruminate on the thoughts of other men who exerted efforts to set concepts that suited their time eight centuries ago. In comparison to ancient Muslim men of religion such as Averroes, who is as important intellectually as Aristotle, current Muslim scholars read only in Arabic, they are not aware of modern sciences, and they find themselves in social environments that do not allow them to be intellectually open to the innovations of humanity in the different fields of social and human sciences.
We are in dire need of a new generation of scholars who can comprehend the sciences, cultures and knowledge of the current age as well as understand the heritage of ancient Muslims. Seventy years ago, the grand imām of the Azhar, Dr. Mustafá Abd al-Rāziq, was a former professor of philosophy in a university. Which university you may ask? Not the University al-Riyadh or the University of Sana'a, but he was a professor at the University of Sorbonne.
I have been engaged in meetings with a number of scholars from the Vatican. I always bemoan and wonder why the Vatican abounds with men of religion with such splendid educational, intellectual and encyclopedic cognitive backgrounds in their various areas of knowledge, while our scholars know nothing about the great fruits of human creativity in many of the different branches of social and human sciences.
At a conference held seven years ago, I saw a scholar who is considered by some as the greatest Muslim jurist and preacher of his time. He was an Egyptian with Qatari nationality who fled from Egypt during the clashes between the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamāl Abd al-Nāsir in 1954. At the conference, he used more than one interpreter, and never got involved in discussions about modern streams of thought. On the other hand, the Vatican scholars were using four or five languages in their discussions that covered vast fields of knowledge. I will not hide the fact that I felt ashamed of him that day. He seemed so primitive in his thoughts and approaches. It appeared as if he was a primeval human from the forests of ' Borneo Island.'
We need a generation of Muslim religious scholars who have studied other religions, human history, world literature, philosophy, sociology and psychology and can speak a number of languages; the languages of civilization. Until this happens, our Muslim scholars will remain primitive and stay at their level of naivety, shallowness and isolation from the path of civilization and humanity.
Before I reached 20 years of age Father George Qanawātī, a monk who headed the Dominican Monastery in al-Abbāsīyah, Cairo, had taught me about Greek drama and ancient Greek philosophy. Another monk taught me some simple things that have made many people nowadays think that I am an academic expert in Judaism. However, never in my life have I seen a Muslim man of religion who had encyclopedic knowledge in a number of fields of interest.
In conclusion, just as we are underdeveloped in all of the fields of science, we are in the same respect, underdeveloped in the sciences of our Islamic religion. Our backwardness in Islam is the same as it is in medicine, engineering, information technology and space research. We are nothing but a 'parasite' of humanity. Even the weapons used by the militias of the groups calling themselves jihādīs [related to Islamic jihād] are made by others who work hard at a time when we are insipid.
We need to see the emergence of a generation of this type of men of religion, which I have just described in the article, who combine the zenith of Islamic sciences and modern sciences at the same time. Without them, Muslims' isolation from the progress of humanity will increase. Campaigns of criticism will be escalated against them. I can also imagine that a huge number of them will be driven out of the European communities and from North America. In addition to that, Islam-West clashes, such as the war against the Tālibān in Afghanistan, may reoccur. Muslims (or to be more precise, large sectors of the Muslim population) will become the primary enemy of Western civilization or may become the first enemy of all of humanity.
Despite the need, such long-pursued development within Islamic religious institutions is very unlikely to occur. The biggest Islamic institutions in the modern world, especially in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are expelling any element that calls for the slightest renovations and changes. If so, what should we expect about demands for comprehensive change?
One of the Islamic universities has dismissed Dr. Ahmad Subhī Mansūr when all he has done is rejected the recognition of prophetic hadīths as a source of jurisprudential principles. The university should have discussed the differences in viewpoints using a scientific method that would be performed within the framework of a dialogue, and organized arguments where the differing scholars can exchange opinions. Strangely enough, Abū Hanīfah al-Nuamān, one of the great-four Muslim jurists, was in the same situation as Dr. Ahmad Subhī Mansūr when he decided to recognize only a few of the hadīths at a time when other jurists accepted all prophetic hadīths. To be more precise, if Abū Hanīfah had seen a book like 'Sahīh al-Bukhārī' [al-Bukhārī's Authentic], he would have rejected more than 90% of its contents. In this situation some modern Islamic university would have deemed Abū Hanīfah kāfir [apostate] although he was the first of the great four Islamic jurists and was entitled 'The Great Imām.'
As a matter of fact, conditions in today's Islamic religious institutions do not allow those institutions to produce men of the quality of Abū Hanīfah and Averroes. They are more and more isolated and occupied with 'yellow' religious references. For centuries, their role in the interpretation of Islam has been restricted to the texts of books and not their contexts. It became rare to find one scholar at these institutions who read even one book in a language other than Arabic.
Therefore, the long-sought for change among the Islamic establishment is now contingent upon a political leadership that is willing to lean toward a rational interpretation of history and a vision for the future. Unfortunately, these qualifications are not easily found within Islamic communities. Nevertheless, we need to demand a political leadership that works towards achieving radical procedural change within the structure of the Islamic scholarly community and that is willing to herd this community into harmony with the age of science and the progress of humanity. Without this driving force, Muslims will be heading for a massive confrontation with humanity which will be as disastrous as a collision between two celestial bodies.
On September 1, 1939, the Second World War broke out. It was a conflict that can be described as the greatest in the history of humanity. The war erupted between two sides. At one side the Axis powers, which included Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Dictatorial Japan. Those three countries did not believe in democracy as it was defined by Western countries such as Britain, France, the Scandinavian countries and the U.S.A. On the other side of the war there were the Allied powers. It can be said that the Allied group was categorically inharmonious. In addition to democratic countries, according to the Western definition, such as the U.S. and Britain, it also included the Soviet Union which was a dictatorial regime in the fullest sense of the word. The Soviet government described itself as a dictatorial, proletarian regime. The Second World War ended with the destruction of the triangle of the Axis camp, Italy, Germany and finally Japan, which surrendered when two atomic bombs were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
However, the end of Second World War was the beginning of another large-scale conflict, which has been described as the Cold War. Since the Soviet Union had joined the Allied camp, it was difficult for the rest of the allies to turn their backs on their wartime communist partner and start a traditional war against the Soviet Union, which was an extremely essential ally despite being completely contradictory politically as well as economically.
As soon as the Second World War had ended, "yesterday's allies" became "today's enemies." The U.S. along with Britain and countries from what was later called Western Europe found themselves in confrontation with their former ally, the Soviet Union. A country, which following the war was becoming larger, more powerful and more influential.
I would like to concentrate on describing the world scene at the end of the Second World War because this particular situation is the source of the two historical paths or options which will be handled in this article. Before Second World War broke out in 1939, the Soviet Union was contained within its borders although, it had patriarchal relations with other communist movements worldwide through an organization that the Soviets established to support such movements, which was called Communist International or the Comintern.
The military defeat of Germany and Japan, created a power vacuum in the international arena after the Second World War. In Europe, the German army began withdrawing westward after it had reached the gateway to Stalingrad. Simply speaking, as the German army retreated from east to west, the Soviet army occupied the territory that they abandoned. At first the Soviet forces moved forward within their own territory then they advanced into other countries that later formed the Warsaw Pact and the Comecon and were known as the Eastern European countries or the countries beyond the Iron Curtain. Consequently, all the lands that were removed from the realm of German sovereignty became new areas of influence for the Soviet Union and its political and economical ideologies. As a result of the German retreat to the west the bloc of countries in Eastern Europe was formed and became like planets orbiting around the Soviet Union.
A similar process took place in Asia. When the Japanese army retreated from the vast territories that it had conquered outside of the Japanese home islands, communist parties in those areas took over the evacuated lands.
Although this process took place in more than one country, there are numerous examples including; Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Mongolia, the greatest and the most important case in point was that of Mao Tsetung in China. He, and after him the remnants of his communist followers, proceeded to replace the withdrawing Japanese forces and simultaneously swept away the Chinese anticommunist alternative led by Chiang Kai-shek who withdrew from the Chinese mainland and settled on the island of Formosa. For years, the Western world considered the exiles on Formosa to be the official Chinese representatives and dismissed the great giant mainland with its population exceeding one billion people.
Thus, the so-called free world came out of the Second World War victorious over its enemies, but the gains of the Soviet Union were bigger and far more important than those of its allies in the war.
The Second World War ended but the Cold War began and continued until the announcement of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. During the years from 1945 until 1991, the controlling factor in international politics was the conflict between the two poles of the Cold War. In spite of the fact that the Cold War can be considered from many perspectives, this article will concentrate on only one issue; the division between the two Koreas. The specific reason behind choosing the Korean issue is my belief that it summarizes most of the facts, the characteristics and the repercussions of the Cold War era.
The major players of the Eastern camp during the Cold War have since 1991 categorically changed their political, economic and social policies. The Soviet Union, all of the Eastern European countries except Belarus, all the Asian socialist countries except North Korea and the entire socialist Third World except Cuba have redefined their political and economical policies. Neither Belarus nor Cuba represent and exemplify the Cold War era as the two Koreas did and are still doing.
Korea was one nation before being divided by the ideologies of the Cold War era. The people of the two Koreas are racially the same and they speak the same language. The greatest distinguishing feature between the two Koreas emerged due to disparate choices between two historical paths and destinies. Therefore, 45 years after of the end of the Korean War, it is the right of the reader to know, and the duty of authors to explain, the reasons that led to the creation of two Koreas. There is a South Korea that moves, works and lives politically and economically in concurrence with the Western system, and a North Korea which circled in the orbit of the Eastern bloc, strictly speaking of Mao Tsetung's communist China.
Thus, it has become up to humanity to see, reflect on and examine the repercussions of each path and the choices of South Korea and North Korea. In my belief, these two choices are the most significant characteristics of the era of the Cold War. Equally, the modern results of the two significant historical choices of each Korea represent the fruit and consequence of each choice.
When the Korean Peninsula was divided into two nations, North and South Korea, more than half a century ago the number of people living in each of the states was almost the same. Today, due to the deteriorating living and health conditions and the high mortality rate among children in North Korea its population numbers only half that of South Korea's 50 million.
It is noteworthy that while mortality rate among children in South Korea is six in every one thousand, in North Korea the percentage is four times more than that. This means that 24 children out of every one thousand newborns die before their first birthday in North Korea.
I thought it would be suitable, for the benefit of the message of this article, to offer the readers a number of significant comparative facts that I have compiled during a prolonged study of the two countries.
For example, while the number of telephone lines in South Korea reaches 24 million, in North Korea there are less than two million telephone lines. The annual electrical consumption for the whole of South Korea is 320 billion kWh. On the other hand the North Korean state consumes only 21 billion kWh annually, which means that the amount of electricity being used in South Korea is 15 times more than it is in North Korea. Furthermore, while South Korea consumes 650 thousand barrels of oil on daily basis, North Korea consumes only 25 thousand barrels. In other words, South Korea's usage of petrol is 2500% higher than North Korea's.
It is worthy to mention that there is a certain mathematical relationship between the amount of petrol used in any society and the level of economical development in that society. The greatest proof for this equation is China. While the Chinese economy has been growing at a rate of 9% annualy, there has been an consummate increase in the country's demand for petrol and other fossil fuels.
In addition to the previously mentioned comparisons between the two countries, the amount of the total economic production in South Korea is equivalent to $1200 billion while the economic production in North Korea does not exceed $40 billion, which means that the local production of South Korea is 30 times what it is in North Korea. The per capita real income in South Korea has reached $24,000 per year, while in North Korea it is less than $1,800 per year. It could be useful and even funny for readers to know that the average height of males in South Korea has increased to 1.74 m, while it remains 1.58 m among North Korean males. Finally, life expectancy in South Korea is approaching 80 years, while it remains ten years less than that in North Korea.
I think that readers will agree that these comparative statistics are extremely significant indicators that need no explanation. One country chose poverty, backwardness, and suffering, while the other chose progress, prosperity, health, and production. Talking about the pride of a nation, one side chose to receive donations and financial aid, while the other chose development and wealth and has subsequently obtained excess funds so that it can offer aid to others.
There is more than one logical and sound reason that would encourage the Egyptian nation to hope that the long-awaited constitutional amendments will successfully prohibit the establishment of political parties based solely on religious platforms.
Firstly, there is a strong belief among many that the glorification and sanctification of the Islamic fiqh [jurisprudence] is a baseless act. These critics often note that the Islamic fiqh is merely a man made interpretation of holy texts. It might be useful to refer here to the most fixed and wide-spread definition of the Islamic fiqh that says that, "Fiqh is the science concerned with the deduction of practical rules out of their juristic references." It is easy to see that any process of deduction is a human, not a divine, action since it inevitability requires the use of language and logic.
As further proof of the temporal nature of fiqh, it is known that the legacy of the great sunnī jurists, Abū Hanīfah, Mālik, al-Shāficī, and Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, was created in less than 200 years. In addition to that fact, the second and third juristswere contemporaneous and, importantly, still differed in their opinions regarding fiqh. How could Mālik publish a jurisprudential madhhab [school or legal system] different from that of Abū Hanīfah unless the latter's work was nothing but a human production? One more significant evidence that we are discussing a merely human work from beginning to end is the fact that the third sunnī jurist produced two different legal systems, one for Iraq and another for Egypt.
Consequently, the principles considered, by some, to be the Islamic tenets for comprehensive systems of government are nothing but ijtihād. Such interpretations have come to be called the Sultanic commandments. Experts know that temporal rulers, whether during the Umayyad or the Abbasid eras, heavily influenced most of what was written about the Sultanic commandments. These rulers acted this way in order to guarantee that whatever was written about the laws would concur with their desires and understanding concerning the governance of their respective communities.
I would like to emphasize that similar processes took place in other places. The relationship between the opinions and writings of the British political thinker Hobbes and the British throne is a case in point. It has been argued that Hobbes specifically wrote opinions that echoed the desires of the British crown.
Therefore, the existence of political parties formed on religious basis alone is illogical because the principles of the so called Islamic doctrine in governorship affairs reflects nothing but the interpretations of humans who could be right or wrong, so the matter is entirely a human production.
Islam does not articulate a comprehensive framework for organizing government systems that could replace the contemporary details found within the constitution. Outlining such detailed schemes was neither the task nor the aim of Islam. However, blaming Islam for not presenting a distinct political system is tantamount to blaming it for not having a comprehensive theory in psychology, sociology or management sciences.
In fact, Islam came with groups of general rules, which would be more useful if used as guidance when formulating the more detailed regulations. Taking al-Māwardī's book ' al-Ahkām al-Sultānīyyah' [The Sultanic Commandments], as well as many similar books about the same topic, as examples for such detailed regulations is preferable to demanding too much from vague Islamic statements. Those works are manmade ijtihād, which reflect the authors' academic and rational abilities, as well as their cultural and motivational backgrounds while bearing in mind the unavoidable impacts of historical and geographical factors.
My focal point for this article is that there is a clear and powerful logic that can eradicate the viewpoint that is calling for the establishment of political parties based on religious platforms. We can agree that the overall rules that some call 'systems of governorship in Islam' were merely the deductions of men who lived more than one thousand years ago and pondered over the rules that they thought, in their time and place and inasmuch as their understanding, knowledge and conditions were, would lead to the establishment of a governing system representing the essential values of Islam. Once we have agreed about this then we must agree that the so-called 'ruling system in Islam' is a vague and imprecise description of what Muslim jurists wrote more than one thousand years ago in a serious and respected attempt to form bodies that would govern their communities in harmony with the principles and values of Islam.
We should accept the notion that the writings of ancient Muslims with regards to laws and government are valuable attempts that have been inspired by the essence of Islam. This is the most reasonable conclusion any rational mind can reach. Once we have done this then we will have to believe that there has been a lack of ambition within the Muslim community for a period of time exceeding one thousand years to update and expand our political traditions. We must renovate the writings of the ancient jurists as regards the Sultanic commandments so that we can reform our contemporary political and constitutional regulations.
Thus, any discussion that quotes heavily from writings, that were published a thousand years ago, and ignores contemporary Islamic jurisprudential issues will be just like using a book compiled in the tenth century A.D. on medicine and pharmacology as a founding base to establish modern medical systems and institutions. Decidedly, of course, this practice will lead to the death of all the patients.
Islam spoke about donkeys and cattle as important means of transportation. It also spoke about the principle of shūrá [consulting], but not directly about democracy, citizenship and human rights.. Nevertheless, it is shameful for a modern man to insist on using donkeys as his only means of transportation. This kind of decision lead to the conflict between Wahābīs, led by Faysal al-Darwīsh, and King cAbd al-cAzīz, when the Wahābīs rejected all the aspects of modern civilization like cars, telephones and radios.
In my belief, the individual who insists on solely using the concept of shūrá is like the person who believes that means of transport should be restricted to donkeys and cattle, on the ground that Islam spoke about donkeys and did not speak about cars, trains or planes.
Current political realities beg the question "Why can't we as Muslims establish political parties based on religious platforms?" Especially in light of the fact that there are numerous political parties in Europe that are described as Christian, the most well-known of them is probably the Christian Democratic Party, to which the German Chancellor Mrs. Merkel belongs.
I have, in front of me while writing these words, the constitutions of all the countries which have Christian parties in addition to the principles of those parties. There is not a single word, in neither the constitutions nor the principles of those parties, that assumes that those parties will rule according to religious fundamentals or according to any other principles but the values contained in their respective constitutions. These parties are Christian in name only. They are political parties representing conservative viewpoints. Their principles and values have been inspired by Christianity but they rule and are ruled by the terms of their constitutions and positive laws.
I do not think that the supporters of a movement like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt will ever dare to announce that their goal in transferring the Brotherhood into a political party is to reach a similar frame of mind as that of the Christian Democratic Party.
There remains one important argument. It is my absolute conviction that political parties who describe themselves as Islamic are acting purely as political bodies. They are simply political entities seeking power. In and of themselves these goals are legal objectives. Yet, some of these parties play an emotional chord when they describe themselves as Islamic. They are nothing but a salafī [fundamental] movement living off of the understandings and deductions of humans who lived more than ten centuries ago and handled the issues of their age through solutions that were consequences of their time and place.
There is no better evidence than that of Muhammad Ibn Idrīs [Imām al-Shāfi cī] who published a new legal system when he arrived in Egypt since his previously published legal doctrine was suitable only for a distinct body politic in Iraq.
The catastrophe is when a people characterized by intellectual indolence, since neither they nor their ancestors have worked to update their political doctrine for one thousand years, want to continue to live as parasites on the understanding of others who worked hard and made every effort ten centuries ago.
In my belief, movements calling themselves political Islamic movements, amongst them the Muslim Brotherhood, unconsciously suffer from tremendous intellectual dilemmas which have very strong and negative impacts on their abilities to form new and modern doctrines of law.
Islam touched on lofty values about justice, equality and the virtues of knowledge. We can call these 'general values' or 'macro values.' Nevertheless, in order to be suitable for times and places other than during the dawning of Islam it did not articulate detailed specific codes or micro values. As such, followers of political Islamic streams of thought are fighting tooth and nail to establish a comprehensive governing system that is not applicable in the modern era. Islam has not prescribed such a detailed system. Therefore, political Islamic movements end up clinging to topics that have little relevance in the modern era, such as the impermissibility of bank interests in Islam and the panel code among others. The best thing for them to do is to admit that Islam came as a sublime religion and not as book in economics, politics, sociology, psychology, chemistry or medicine. However, if they make this admission, how will they play the game of politics? If they make it, they will abandon the strongest tool of their political propaganda. In addition, they will be required to present a realistic political, economical and social program and not their usual tricks and slogans of 'applying God's commands', 'Islam is the solution' and ' al-Barakah [the blessing]'. Such abstract and common slogans, if examined in the practical battlefield of life, would prove to be nothing but big empty air bubbles that contain mere politics and no religion whatsoever.
Regarding the issue of the 'blessings,' many of the kind, simple Muslims think that having people ruling in the name of Islam on top of the community is enough to bring welfare and blessing. To those who think this way I would argue that early Muslims, to be more precise the companions of the Prophet, the al-Muhājirūn [emigrants] and al-Ansār [supporters] and amongst them the Prophet himself, were defeated in the battle of Uhud. If victory, success, progress, or welfare are achievable through blessings alone, Muslims would have been victorious in Uhud as they clearly had the blessing of the Prophet. However, the defeat of Muslims in Uhud proves that just as God created the creatures of the world, he has also created certain rules and laws to run the universe, amongst them the laws of nature. One of these laws says that whoever fights without the material and practical qualifications of victory will be defeated. Through these laws Muslims, led by Tāriq Ibn Ziyyād, won in their conquest of Andalusia and due to the very same laws, Muslims were defeated several centuries later in the Battle of Tours in southern France.
In conclusion, whoever thinks that blessings will come upon him just because he says that he is ruling in the name of Islam will receive results in all fields similar to the defeat in the Battle of Uhud. Victory, progress, and successful leadership come only through science and good administration, which are human tenets that belong to no religion, denomination or nationality. We have no single evidence that those who want to rule their communities in the name of religion acquire any of such tenets. On the contrary, we have shinning evidences acquired from their backgrounds, their ideological history and their relationship with the universality of science, knowledge and the values of progress that they do not and will never acquire these tenets.
My Examiner column is up - "Why liberalism matters in an age of excess"
...our new Gilded Age risks both ruining the republic, as those forced out of the game withdraw their political and social allegiance ... and ruining our economy as those who are winning the game focus on capturing value rather than creating it.
Tim O"Reilly has a post up on building more civility into blogging.
His suggestions are:
1. Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you allow on your blog.
2. Label your tolerance level for abusive comments.
3. Consider eliminating anonymous comments.
4. Ignore the trolls.
5. Take the conversation offline, and talk directly, or find an intermediary who can do so.
6. If you know someone who is behaving badly, tell them so.
7. Don't say anything online that you wouldn't say in person.
As someone who supports having a civil blog, I ought to be 100% in support. But I'm not quite...#1 I do support, but possibly not the others. Which is somewhat self-contradictory, I know.
Ali Allawi's book 'The Occupation of Iraq'.
In a rueful reflection on what might have been, an Iraqi government insider details in 500 pages the U.S. occupation's "shocking" mismanagement of his country - a performance so bad, he writes, that by 2007 Iraqis had "turned their backs on their would-be liberators."
"The corroded and corrupt state of Saddam was replaced by the corroded, inefficient, incompetent and corrupt state of the new order," Ali A. Allawi concludes in "The Occupation of Iraq," newly published by Yale University Press.
I've got a high tolerance for incompetence and mismanagement - since much of human history seems to be based on it - and so I don't throw my hands up in despair when people talk about how incompetent the occupation has been.
But if we're going to get better at it, we'd better list and learn from our mistakes.
Who is Kathleen Parker, and what century is she living in?
A column in the Washington Post:
On any given day, one isn't likely to find common cause with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He's a dangerous, lying, Holocaust- denying, Jew-hating cutthroat thug -- not to put too fine a point on it.
But he was dead-on when he wondered why a once-great power such as Britain sends mothers of toddlers to fight its battles.
Why, because toddlers don't have fathers?
She dismissed the effectiveness of women in combat:
Women may be able to push buttons as well as men can, but the door-to-door combat in Fallujah proved the irrelevance of that argument. Meanwhile, no one can look at photos of the 15 British marines and sailors and argue convincingly that the British navy is stronger for the presence of Acting Leading Seaman Faye Turney -- no matter how lovely and brave she may be.
She must have missed Sgt. Leah Ann Hester's story.
Mark Bowden has a brilliant article up in the Atlantic on interrogation in Iraq, and its role in finding Zarqawi.
"We both know what I want," Doc said. "You have information you could trade. It is your only source of leverage right now. You don't want to go to Abu Ghraib, and I can help you, but you have to give me something in trade. A guy as smart as you - you are the type of Sunni we can use to shape the future of Iraq." If Abu Haydr would betray his organization, Doc implied, the Americans would make him a very big man indeed.
There was no sign that the detainee knew he was being played. He nodded sagely. This was the kind of moment gators live for. Interrogation, at its most artful, is a contest of wits. The gator has the upper hand, of course. In a situation like the one at Balad, the Task Force had tremendous leverage over any detainee, including his reasonable fear of beating, torture, lengthy imprisonment, or death. While gators at that point were not permitted even to threaten such things, the powerless are slow to surrender suspicion. Still, a prisoner generally has compelling reasons to resist. He might be deeply committed to his cause, or fear the consequences of cooperation, if word of it were to reach his violent comrades.
Stuff like this is why it's worth it to subscribe to the Atlantic.
SULEIMANIYA, IRAQ -- Iraq is a country with three armies and I'm-not-sure-how-many militias and death squads. The Iraqi Army is nominally the national army, but it's still being trained, supplied, and augmented by the coalition forces, which is to say the Americans. It's also not allowed to operate in the north. The third army is the Kurdish Peshmerga, the liberators and protectors of the only part of Iraq -- the three northern governates -- that may be salvaged from insurgency, terrorism, ethnic cleansing, and war. Do not confuse the Peshmerga with the ragtag ethnic and sectarian militias running rampant in Iraq's center and south. The Kurdish armed forces are a real professional army and are recognized as such in Iraq's constitution and by the so-called central government in Baghdad.
My colleague Patrick Lasswell and I spent a couple of days with officers and soldiers at the Ministry of Peshmerga in the northern city of Suleimaniya. I knew already that the Kurds bristled at charges that their Peshmerga was yet another of Iraq's many militias, and I have to agree now that I've seen and interviewed them myself.
Colonel Mudhafer Hasan Rauf arranged our visit and hosted us in his office. He was, I believe, the only officer we met who did not wear a uniform.
The fact that the Peshmerga can dress nicely and have formal offices where journalists can meet them does not in and of itself make them an army and not a militia. Hezbollah has offices south of Beirut where journalists can go -- if, unlike me, they haven't been threatened and blacklisted. Unlike Hezbollah, though, the Peshmerga take their orders from the locally elected and centrally sanctioned civilian authorities.
"The word Peshmerga is a holy word among Kurds," Colonel Mudhafer said. "It means those who face death. We are the outcome of the oppression and torture of the central government in the past. Peshmergas value their lives less than the liberation of their people. We are not a militia as some people in Iraq say. We are not a militia at all. The political leadership gives us orders, and we are an organized army."
It may appear odd to Western readers that I refer to Colonel Mudhafer by his rank and first name, rather than by his rank and last name. This, though, is how the Kurds refer to themselves and to others. I am never Mr. Totten. Here I am always Mr. Michael. Jalal Talabani, Iraq's Kurdish president, is never called Mr. Talabani or President Talabani. They call him Mam (which is a term of affection like "uncle") Jalal. Uncle Jalal. The informality in this part of the world, even in the offices of the elite and in the military, is refreshing and agreeable to someone like me from the Pacific Northwest in United States were formality never really took hold.
The Kurdish armed forces don't take their orders from civilian officials in Baghdad. They are treated by the central government as something like a regional or "national" guard. Only the civilian officials in the Kurdish northern governates are allowed to give them their orders, which makes official Iraqi Kurdistan's status as de-facto independent or, if you prefer, a state within a state.
Tony Corn, in Policy Review, September 2006:
"In Iraq as in Afghanistan, real professionals have learned the hard way that - to put it in a nutshell - the injunction "Know Thy Enemy, Know Thyself" matters more than the bookish "Know Thy Clausewitz" taught in war colleges. Know thy enemy: At the tactical and operational levels at least, it is anthropology, not Clausewitzology, that will shed light on the grammar and logic of tribal warfare and provide the conceptual weapons necessary to return fire. Know thyself: It is only through anthropological "distanciation" that the U.S. military (and its various "tribes": Army, Navy, etc.) will become aware of its own cultural quirks - including a monomaniacal obsession with Clausewitz - and adapt its military culture to the new enemy.1
The first major flaw of U.S. military culture is of course "technologism" - this uniquely American contribution to the phenomenon known to anthropologists as "animism." Infatuation with technology has led in the recent past to rhetorical self-intoxication about Network-Centric Warfare and the concomitant neglect of Culture-Centric Warfare. The second structural flaw is a Huntingtonian doctrine of civil-military relations ideally suited for the Cold War but which, given its outdated conception of "professionalism," has outlived its usefulness and is today a major impediment to the necessary constant dialogue between the military and civilians.2
Last but not least, the third major flaw is "strategism." At its "best," strategism is synonymous with "strategy for strategy's sake," i.e., a self-referential discourse more interested in theory-building (or is it hair-splitting?) than policy-making. Strategism would be innocuous enough were it not for the fact that, in the media and academia, "realism" today is fast becoming synonymous with "absence of memory, will, and imagination": in that context, the self-referentiality of the strategic discourse does not exactly improve the quality of the public debate."
He has some good points, and is spot-on re: flaws #1 & 2. It's a wide ranging essay that goes far beyond Clausewitz as Corn asks, again and again, what Karl #2 has to contribute to key questions surrounding the war. Here's the link again. Sub-headers include:
-- Clausewitz in Londonistan
-- Clausewitz in America: Prussian fantasies, French realities?
-- The Revolution in Guerrilla Affairs
-- "Virtual States" and "Nonlinear Wars"
-- "Deep Coalitions" and "Soft Balancing": The Shiite crescent and the SCO
-- The "Permanent Campaign" and the "Long War"
-- "Lawfare": Clausewitz or Carl Schmitt?
-- Soldier, Statesman, Scholar: The lost battles of Clausewitz
-- Beyond Clausewitz and 4GW
...from $13,000 in pledges. Not as good as I'd hoped, not as bad as I feared.
If someone would go over and pledge $100, we'd be over $13,000.
Just click here...
I'll do a link roundup tonight when I'm done with work.
...Who is happy to hold forth on her TV show that 9/11 was a government plot, which she denies advocating but which remains as the only conclusion left. I'd make it "dishonest kook of the month," but really, once you're ceritifiable your honesty becomes pretty irrelevant anyway. I offer you Rosie, straight from the horse's ass:
"I do believe that it's the first time in history that fire has ever melted steel. I do believe that it defies physics that World Trade Center tower 7 - building 7, which collapsed in on itself - it is impossible for a building to fall the way it fell without explosives being involved. World Trade Center 7. World Trade [Center] 1 and 2 got hit by planes - 7, miraculously, the first time in history, steel was melted by fire. It is physically impossible....To say that we don't know that it imploded, that it was an implosion and a demolition, is beyond ignorant. Look at the films, get a physics expert here [on the show] from Yale, from Harvard, pick the school - [the collapse] defies reason." (Watch the clip here)
Popular Mechanics reminds her that they've done this already, and the result was a thorough book debunking this kind of idiocy. Along the way, they point out the canyonesque depth of ignorance and stupidity in the above statements. But liberals are smart - just ask them!
For extra fun, read the comments with the various leftist kooks in it. This reply to it all makes my top 3.
So I did my first-ever live radio interview today in support of VictoryPAC, with a conservative talk radio host named Vicki McKenna on the air in Madison. She commented that as a conservative in Madison she understood what it was like to be a liberal hawk - somewhat isolated. I disagreed, and pointed her at the Euston Manifesto and worked in Norm Geras.
Apparently I didn't suck, because I'm invited back to her Friday morning show in Milwaukee, on WISN.
If it's going to be streamed, I'll let everyone know.
VictoryPAC is over $12,000, by the way...I'm chasing new videos tonight.
Last night was Passover's Second Seder, which concludes:
"Ended is the Passover Seder, according to custom, statute and law. As we were worthy to celebrate it this year, so may we perform it in future years. Oh pure one in heaven above, restore the congregation of Israel in your love. Speedily lead your people to Zion in joy. Next year in Jerusalem!"
Cairo columnist Tarek Heggy has been a frequent contributor here at Winds of Change.NET. In the wake of his 2004 Passover greetings, we had an interesting email exchange around the story of Passover, the role of the Egyptians, and one specific part of the Passover Seder: the spilling of 10 drops of wine, as the plagues visited upon the Egyptians are recited.
Why do we do that? The more I thought about it, the more I wondered if perhaps the standard explanations were missing something - something that goes right to the heart of this holiday of freedom.
They shipped my computer 3/31. It'll be here tomorrow.
Pretty darn good, once they got engaged.
If Murdoc had his way, once the emergency spending bill was sent on to the White House, President Bush would give a speech explaining why he was going to veto it. And it would go something like this:
My fellow Americans,
I hope you won't mind if I ask for a few minutes of your evening to discuss with you a matter of national importance.
Earlier this week, the emergency spending bill was sent up from Congress for my approval. After carefully reviewing the bill, discussing it with senior military and administration leaders, and exploring alternatives, I am officially announcing that I will veto this bill tomorrow morning.
Now, I have only vetoed a single bill that has made it to my desk since I took office in 2001. And I don't veto this one lightly. Congressional Representatives and Senators are elected to their offices by the people of the United States, and the people of the United States are the ones who ultimately run the American government.
But this bill, originally written to fund the efforts of our military overseas and at home in the War on Terror, includes a requirement for a deadline to withdraw American forces from Iraq. And that requirement is simply unacceptable.
And why that is a sign of hope.