Saturday, September 21, 2002

Question for today:

Given that the West Bank and Gaza are constantly portrayed as seething rabbit warrens of despair and poverty etc, and this NY Post article describes Arafat’s compound as massive, , then the question is: what was there before Arafat?

It’s unlikely to have been greensward, or a conveniently empty patch in the heart of Nablus. But for the time being, it’s a heavily fortified compound with enough room for Arafat and chums to hide while the IDF runs about breaking things.

Is it possible that the Palestinian Authority just, I don’t know, kicked a bunch of Palestinians out on their arses?

UPDATE: Meryl Yourish informs me the compound was built by the Brits in the 20's, and rightly dings my research. Reader Alex Robson contributed this BBC News story with additional details. Thanks folks.

This will not, however, diminish my glee at the thought of the old swine waiting alone in the dark with nothing but his stockpiled baby wipes for consolation. Is the battery of this cell phone working? Hello?

Friday, September 20, 2002


It’s an awkward question to ask but can someone tell me why Nelson Mandela gets such a good press?

It’s rare to see him referred to as anything but “statesman”, often with the “elder” tossed in. But seriously, what has he done to rank him as someone qualified to comment on world affairs? The world press waits one every word he speaks, like he is actually acquainted with the problem.

Meantime his own people are dying like flies, due in no small part to the bizarre scientific beliefs of his hand-picked successor, Tabo Mbeki. Mandela refuses to condemn the policies, an attitude we would be unlikely to accept from our own politicians. The ANC remains close ties

How does spending umpteen years in jail in South Africa, then five years of a medium-sized African nation, promote you to World Leader?

Personally, I have some high regard for his struggle against a reasonably disgusting regime. I say “reasonably” in the expectation that it will bring great showers of abuse on my head, but confident in the accuracy. South Africa under apartheid was not a place I would have chosen to live, for any number of reasons. But it was no Congo, no China, no Rwanda. There were no famines, no slaughter of the occasional million people. No Great Leap Forward. For the large part, rule of law prevailed, property rights were respected. More people got to vote more often than just about anywhere else in Africa. And one of their constant headaches was illegal immigration. That’s inbound, mind you.

Please bear in mind this is put forward to place Apartheid South Africa in a continuum of nastiness. Better than Sudan, worse than Switzerland.

Mandela served more than his time, and was released by the National Party for the purpose of negotiating the transition to majority rule. In a tribute to Mandela and De Klerk, this was accomplished without open warfare. The country is on its way to rack and ruin as we speak, but way less people died than might have been expected.

But South Africa is a smallish nation in world terms. Its GDP is, for instance, about three quarters the size of Australia. No-one is gonna think of the Australian Prime Minister as a World Leader, regardless of who it is. And our pollies will be guys who have been on the job for decades, travelling each and every year to meet the heavy hitters in the really important nations.

Mandela has visited Libya (dictator gets South African state honours), Tehran (wreath on grave of founder of theocratic one-party state), Gaza (“good friends” in the kleptocracy) and Syria (mass murdering dictator).

He blames the rise of the Taliban on the US, thinks that Israel is a white nation (he should explain this to Aryan Nation), that Egypt and Iraq are black and believes Bush is plotting war to please oil and defence industrialists. He thinks that the USA and the UK only respect the UN when there is a white Secretary-General.

Imagine your response if the Prime Minister of Australia did these things. World Statesman? I don’t think so.

UPDATE: The Guardian has reached the stage of self-parody when it comes to Mandela:
he finally made the transition from the world's most famous prisoner to the world's most respected statesman

But let’s not damn him by faint praise:
But Mandela is not just anyone. Towering like a moral colossus over the late 20th century, his voice carries an ethical weight like no other.

Is there room for any Dissent?
So the belligerent tone he has adopted of late suggests one of two things; either that some thing is very wrong with the world, or that something is very wrong with Mandela.

Followed by two grafs detailing what’s wrong with .. you guessed it: the world.
Mandela has never been particularly encumbered by delusions of grandeur.

There are no delusions when one is a “towering moral colossus”.
There’s more. Nigeria needs a “softly softly” approach. Suharto? Top bloke. Castro, Arafat, Gadaffi, all nice guys because
”We are a liberation movement and they support our struggle to the hilt."

And if there’s any question about his reasons for his insistent anti-Americanism:
Setting great stock by the loyalty shown to both him and his organisation during the dog days of apartheid, he has consistently maintained that he would stick by those who stuck by black South Africa.

Have they done anything for you lately, Nelson?

Ralph Lauren employees are suing their employer for insisting they buy Lauren-label clothing for work.
Young wants the retailer to end its rule requiring employees to wear the company's clothes and is seeking reimbursement of the money she has spent on the garments, according to her suit, filed on Wednesday in federal court.
A typical man's Polo Ralph Lauren shirt can cost more than $US50 ($A91)and a woman's blouse can cost more than $US90 ($A164).

But apparently it’s all right to sell it to other people

Thursday, September 19, 2002


At the moment, the debate on Iraq has entered a near-flatline state. The pressure on Sammy has not relented at all, since it was all from the USA. Only the most demented optimist would think Bush will back off; the best Saddam can hope for is that the situation does not deteriorate.

Saddam is playing for time. As Steve Den Beste said, democracies lose interest. Whether it is because of a desire to see the best in people, or poor attention span, whatever. The fact is that we have an unlimited ability to want to move on, pay the mortgage, help the kids with their homework. It’s bloody hard to do the workaday stuff if your mind is occupied with seething rage and bloodthirsty dreams of revenge. So you put it to one side, and soon the edge comes off.

The mind of a dictator is not like that. It’s likely Saddam has moved from clinical paranoia to that interesting and rare place so few people reach; they really are all out to get him. So he doesn’t lose focus. He has maintained absolute power for over 20 years, and left to his own devices will never removed, until he either makes a mistake, or is removed by external forces. In the Arab world, this is seen as winning. To simply maintain power becomes a cause in and of itself. Saddam has outlasted everyone who went against him, except for the fellow dictators like Assad, who dropped off the twig by himself.

So let’s assume the inspection game starts again. It is reasonable to think this time around, the inspections will be much more robust, with greater powers. The team will be larger, by at least a factor of five. Assume helicopters, powers to enter anywhere, anytime unannounced. Add intensive satellite imagery, and all the intelligence gathered over the years from defectors, spies inserted after the war, and new defectors. It is possible the new inspectors will demand and get the right to accept the defection of anyone one the spot, along with their family. This will be a new mine of information likely to produce up to date locations of new installations.

It is difficult to imagine Saddam will allow any realistic troop presence to accompany the inspectors. The affront would be too great to bear, and besides, foreign troops stamping around Baghdad might make the locals uppity.

So what’s the problem? This all sounds like a good deal, and the best shot yet at finding the various WMD caches Sammy-boy has stashed in the back yard.

Well, yes. But what happens if the inspectors find something?

Suppose this process spins out for another year. Don’t laugh, it’s quite conceivable. This gives the Iraqi nuclear program another year in which every back will be bent to the task of acquiring and completing the construction of at least two, and probably four or more nukes.

Now suppose the Inspection team gets a hot tip: there is a secret underground base beneath Presidential Palace 16c, and there are two nukes there. The team plans and executes a lightning raid, gets inside the bunker, and finally locates the bombs. Now we have absolute proof that Iraq has pursued and achieved nuclear weapons. What’s next?

In my opinion, a whole bunch of dead inspectors, that’s what.

Consider the situation from Saddam’s point of view. Once the nukes are found (or plague bombs, or Ebola Kool-Aid), there are no more alternatives. There is a massed war machine at the borders, and a US Administration that probably won control of the Congress. Once word of this gets out, all bets are off. The bombing will start, the stealth fighters will reduce the air defences to a fond memory.

Suddenly all the inspector will go incommunicado. Iraqi officials will express ignorance, evade, delay. Then there will be a cover story, probably a “citizen’s uprising against the infidel” or some such. They will promise to investigate, maybe even execute a few dozen poor schmos who will confess on television to save their children from execution. This will buy a few weeks. There is no shortage of Western voices who will insist on “natural justice” and that the UN must investigate.

Saddam knows he will only live a few weeks at best, once the war starts. So he must delay the start of hostilities until he is capable of holding a gun to the West’s head. That will probably be a WMD smuggled into an unknown US city. He will present Bush with a fait accompli, and demand the end of all UN sanctions and hostilities.

The same people who are today insisting there is nothing to fear will be among the voices clamouring that Bush concede. Will a US President give the order to attack, knowing that it could result in the death of possibly millions of his citizens?

Frankly, I don’t know. My preference is for the immediate start of the war, before the Iraqi scientists have a chance to enter a crash process to achieve one working nuke. I don’t give a damn for due process, and there is no obligation to respect the rights of the Iraqi regime. This is not a court of law, and most especially it is not a court of US law. There is no presumption of innocence. This guy has form. Any cop will tell you: if they’ve done it once, they’ll do it again.

UPDATE: Lileks has a different line, on the same problem.
UPDATE UPDATE. Jane Galt has more, using Texas as the model.


Greg Sheridan writing in The Australian has some level views about Sammy boy.
SADDAM Hussein is a mass murderer, a prolific liar, a purveyor of torture and state-sponsored terrorism, a serial violator of UN Security Council resolutions, a serial invader of his neighbours, and a possessor and user of weapons of mass destruction.

All that is given, acknowledged by Simon Crean as well as John Howard and by the European Left as well as the American Right. The question now is: Where does Hussein's agreement to accept weapons inspectors lead us?

You have to wonder why there are any questions raised about whether the world is better off without him, don't you?

On The Letter:
Anyone who believes Hussein has had a sincere change of heart, or no longer harbours aggressive intent, should go see their psychiatrist at the earliest opportunity.

Are you listening Mr Galloway?
A little bit of historical perspective:
In the end the US never makes an absolute choice between multilateralism and unilateralism. It does whatever works and whatever is needed. Eight years of multilateral efforts on the Iraq problem under Bill Clinton produced embarrassing failure. The mere prospect of unilateral US action kick-started the UN into facing reality and its own long-simmering crisis of credibility, as the PM pointed out.

And one for the KneeJerks in the ALP Hard Left:
Oh, and by the way, Canberra will in the end support whatever the US does, just as it would have done if Kim Beazley were PM and not Howard.

That's gotta sting.

Stephen Den Beste is producing, producing. Every damn day. Day after day.

Today's contribution is a long 'un, but well worth the read.
The nations and the poeples within the zone of our enemy's culture are complete failures. Their economies are disasters. They make no contribution to the advance of science or engineering. They make no contribution to art or culture. They have no important diplomatic power. They are not respected. Most of their people are impoverished and miserable and filled with resentment, and those who are not impoverished are living a lie.
They hate us. They hate us because our culture is everything theirs is not. Our culture is vibrant and fecund; our economies are successful. Our achievements are magnificent. Our engineering and science are advancing at breathtaking speed. Our people are fat and happy (relatively speaking). We are influential, we are powerful, we are wealthy. "We" are the western democracies, but in particular "we" are the United States, which is the most successful of the western democracies by a long margin. America is the most successful nation in the history of the world, economically and technologically and militarily and even culturally.

I like a man who agrees with me!
The original [al Qaeda] demand was for a complete cessation of contact between America and Arabia. Not just a pullout of our soldiers from holy Arab soil, but total isolation so that the people of greater Arabia would no longer be exposed in any way to us or our culture or our values. No television, no radio, no music, no magazines and books, no movies. No internet. And that isn't possible; you can't go backward that way.
But it's interesting that this shows their real concern. If they're no longer exposed to us, they are no longer shamed by comparing their failure to our success, and no longer seduced by it and tempted to discard their own culture and adopt ours.

Which raises the perennial point: if the Islamist culture is so bloody wonderful, why do they assume that their followers will leave it in droves if presented with a shiny alternative?

Further analysis:
Why is it that the US is concerned about Iraq getting nukes when we don't seem to be as concerned about Pakistan or India or Israel? Why are we willing to invade Iraq to prevent it from getting nukes, but not Pakistan to seize the ones it developed? It's because those nations don't embrace a warrior culture where suicide in a good cause, even mass death in a good cause, is considered acceptable. (Those kinds of things are present in Pakistan but don't rule there as yet.)

Go read. Go.


The Daily Pundit introduces a new academic to the down side of widespread internet publication fame.
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., darling of the east coast liberal elites, was not just wrong here, he was completely wrong about every single prediction he made, even to the smallest parts.
I expect he would like very much not to have written this in the first place and, failing that, would prefer that it be utterly forgotten.
No such luck, professor. Welcome to the blogosphere.

If somebody has a link for the Arundhati Roy article from late September 2001, she's next.


Another steaming plate of supposition, inference and conspiracy theory from Maureen Dowd, who is, I suppose, Margo Kingston's pin-up girl.

America's European and Arab allies now act more nervously about the cowboy in the Oval Office who likes to brag of America as "the greatest nation on the face of the Earth" than the thug in the Baghdad bunker.

Good! Excellent! I want the Euroweenies and hijack-schools to be nervous. I want them paying very close attention, so they can see that the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train.
"We don't want another war in this region," says an adviser to the Saudi royal family. "When Afghanistan is bombed, they just hit rocks. When there's bombing in our neighbourhood, they hit oil fields."

Except that the single biggest cause of oil fires has been Iraqi troops deliberately setting them alight. Like so many others, Maureen is still living in the days of Operation Rolling Thunder, carpet bombing and napalm.
Gerhard Schroeder's campaign prospects soared when he started running against Bush. "Many Germans," wrote The Times' Steven Erlanger, "seem to fear American military action in Iraq more than they fear Mr Hussein."

Once again, domestic politicking on international relations is just fine for the Germans, provided it delivers a poll jump. It must take strenuous efforts to remain ignorant of domestic US polls that show Bush's approval rising to 86 per cent. In the columnist trade, this is know as an "inconvenient fact".
Privately, Saudi officials say they are alarmed by the Bush team's military strutting, and think it would have been much better to get rid of Saddam with a covert operation. They agree with the President that Saddam is a monster who not only eliminates his enemies, real and perceived, but also their wives, children and friends.

The Saudis are asking for covert insertion teams to kill Saddam, privately contradicting their stance that the threat of Iraq be removed without "the firing of a single shot or the loss of a single soldier". Dowd does not disapprove of presumably CIA trained hit squads going in to bump of a head of state.
But the Bushies have got a taste of empire building in Afghanistan and they like it.

No need to back this up. It's Self-evident to the illuminated.
They can restore civilisation to the cradle of civilisation. Lemon fizzes, cribbage and cricket by the Tower of Babel. A 36-hole golf course on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates. ArabDisney in the hanging gardens of Babylon. Oil on tap at the Baghdad Hilton. Huge contracts for buddies in the defence and oil industries. Halliburton's Brown & Root construction company building a six-lane highway from Baghdad to Tel Aviv.

She doesn't feel the need to do the 23.4 seconds of research that would tell her that Iraqi amusement parks already exist, paid for with money that should be buying chemotherapy treatments.

So there you have it: a conspiracy at the highest level of the US Administration aimed at enriching the Cabinet and their cronies. The contracts are already written, the corporate winners already chosen. You have to admire the ability of the Bushies. They maintain their public persona simultaneously as bumbling fools and nuclear madmen, while managing to keep a huge conspiracy secret against the investigative powers of DowdGirl. They are somehow able to overcome their rigid thinking while constantly adapting their heinous plans for World Domination to each and every event that takes place.

Or you could assume that Dowd does not have the foggiest idea what she is talking about.

UPDATE: Juan Gato is also on form in his Bucket O' Rants.

Read this post of his before reading his slapping good time with her Royal Dowdness.
BTW, I have read a bit on the edges that the Beltway community was thrown back to how, whether by luck or design, they were played by Bush going to the UN and laying the smack down. The recent MoDo and McGrory columns cannot be viewed without taking into account the resentment at being used as they may have been. It's the backlash of the dupes.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Texas Guardian Massacre, Rottweiler style.
Over to Cranky Hermit for his views on the 60's geriatrics.

Let's see what the taxpayer dollar buys over at the Australian Broadcasting Collective. Maxine McKew has her pick of subjects for an interview on Iraq, so who do we get? Tariq Ali.
MckEW: Why do you feel that 9/11 was not much more than a pin prick?
TARIQ ALI, AUTHOR: Well the actual event certainly wasn't.

Just to set the tone. Can't wait for Ali to use that kind of language when the next Middle East crazy goes over the border.
I was in Berlin two days ago there was great mourning for the victims of the September 11.
But no-one, no Western leader, has so far publicly even declared that they're sorry about the innocent Afghan civilians who have been killed, whose numbers are now between 3,000 and 4,000.
No-one mourns for them but everyone mourn force citizens of New York.

Must have missed Ali mourning the 6000 the Taliban were executing each month. Ali is still clinging to debunked casualty figures.

Next is German domestic policy:
When I was in Berlin, it was very obvious that an overwhelming bulk of the country is opposed to a war on Iraq.

I'm sure Tariq spent a great deal of time mingling with the hoi-polloi in Dusseldorf and Munich.
And the fact that Schroeder has come out very strongly and has said that, even if the UN supports a war, Germany will oppose it, has actually helped him turn the situation round in the German elections and he's now six points ahead.

Apparently, it's all right for German leaders to use a war on Iraq for domestic political gain.
So that tease mood in large part of Europe, including, I may say, in Britain, where Tony Blair's pretty much isolated from his own party and trade unions.

No idea what a "tease mood" is, but he obviously can't read an opinion poll when it's in English.

On to unrelated conflicts!
I could say exactly the same that the region would be better off without Ariel Sharon, that Israel has chemical and nuclear weapons, yet no-one is suggesting inspectors go in to Israel to look at these weapons.

So these double standards have a very negative effect on people in that region.
Why single out Saddam Hussein?

As far as I'm concerned Sharon is just as bad.

This is the depths to which the Left has sunk. Ali is saying the Butcher of Baghdad is just as bad as the Prime Minister of Israel. There is no point in reasoning with this kind of bigotry, so I'll reserve my disgust for the journalist who let this slop ooze through without a murmur.

George W Bush as a leader of vision and creativity, give us a break!
People all over the world laugh when you say that.

Say what you like, laughing boy. Just be grateful the grownups are in charge.

Here's where he steps on his dick with golf shoes:
I have a certain view, which is that the people of these countries are the one who have the right to topple these governments. They're the ones that should be strengthened and encouraged. People learn through their own experiences much more than Western interventions, which actually come and stop certain processes, as we're seeing in Afghanistan today. I do not want a Western intervention in the Middle East.
I want the people of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etcetera, to deal with their own regimes. I'm not even for a Western intervention in Israel.

So people should be "strengthened", but this does not count as "Western intervention". Didn't Ali see what happened to the Kurds when the US encouraged them to revolt?

But my surprise is that he does not favour a Western intervention in Israel. I don't know if this rules in a Middle Eastern intervention, and why that is more desirable. However, this shows that Ali has lost touch with military reality. the only reason that there is any kind of problem with the Palestinians is that Israel has declined to solve it in the preferred Middle Eastern manner, that is kill everyone and plough the earth with salt. Ali has accepted the restraint Israel shows as weakness, and is assuming that without US support the Palestinians and their supporters will rise up gloriously and retake the Holy Land.

I've got news for you, Tariq: Israel can take on and win any of their neighbours in a conventional war, and beat the living shit out of them six ways to Tuesday. If Sharon really was as bad as Saddam, every picture you ever saw of Palestinians would have "file vision" in the corner. If you can't understand that the very existence of the Palestinian people is a tribute to the restraint of the Israeli government, and that the Western intervention you condemn is actually the US holding the Israeli military on a very tight leash, I suggest you talk to the people of Hama, Shatila, Ekmala, and Lockerbie to get their views on the desirability of a Middle Eastern solution. Ali really seems to believe that "people power" will somehow prevent barking madmen like Saddam, Assad and Gadaffi from doing what they have always done when Dissent raises its head. They will kill thousands and thousands until they squash the uprising, or run out of ammo. It's their nature, just as it is the nature of rich, educated academics to advocate policies that they will not have to clean up.

Thanks to Catallaxy Files for the heads-up.

Got a minute? Then email Bruce Hill and try and talk him out of quitting.
When you see the case put cleanly and concisely, it's worth repeating. Dr Daniel Mandel is a University of Melbourne historian and associate editor of The Review, published by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council
True, not every dictator can be replaced and not every country with weapons of mass destruction is a threat. But Saddam is. The reason is simple: use, not possession, is the key criterion. A gun in the hand of a policeman, an ordinary citizen, or even some criminals is not to be compared with one in the hands of a mass murderer.

and this:
But if the case is open-and-shut, various pundits insist, the US should seek the authorisation of the Security Council for military action if he refuses to be disarmed. In fact, the authorisation is there. Saddam's record induced the Security Council to pass successive resolutions mandating "all necessary means" to liberate Kuwait and enforce "all subsequent resolutions", which include disarming Iraq.

It's really quite simple: we are still at war with Iraq. They agreed to a conditional cease-fire, which conditions they have repeatedly, flagrantly violated. They do not have a leg to stand on. The "all subsequent resolutions" is the legal G-string that the USA can use if required to justify, yet again, doing the right thing.


Cato the Youngest has his own reasons for any perceived confusion in the pro-war camp:
How often does history provide a nation with the opportunity to simultaneously remove an odious tyrant, free his people, strike a blow for nuclear non-proliferation, lower oil prices, weaken the economies of other odious, misogynistic, and hostile regimes, while placing a large body of troops on their borders? If ever there was a war with "something for everyone", this is it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

This started life as a reply to a reader, who accused me of crimes several and nefarious

The message I am trying to get across is that the war of today, and the motivations behind it, are more different from Vietnam, than Vietnam was from World War Two. The radicals of the 60's would not have let an old soldier from D-Day tell them anything about war in 1968. Why should people think what Richard Neville has to say today be any more relevant? Your use of Germaine Greer is quite apt; the world has moved on. A feminist who wants women to wear the burkha, a hated symbol of oppression, to protest the liberation of women from a dictatorship, has lost any relevance she ever had.

I have to assume that you do not believe the public is entitled to know everything the government does, particularly when it comes to war planning. To expect total disclosure when loons like Saddam are in the habit of killing not only spies, but a spy's entire family, including infants, shows a certain lack of regard. The level of disclosure today is higher than it's ever been. And if you don't know something, how do you know it's being kept from you?

Your point about Iraq being supplied with WMD in the early 80's is relevant. But doesn't that increase the responsibility of the countries that sold weapons to Iraq? If supply of material is not a reason to participate in the cleanup, why should polluters be forced to pay?

Only the shitty dictatorships buy arms. Most everybody else makes their own. If arms-selling countries are not allowed to clean up the mess you say they helped create, and if all action has to be taken as a UN Security Council Coalition, then every suspect nation will at one point have been supplied by one or more of the permanent Members. It's a recipe for inaction. Inaction is what gets you Rwanda.

Pakistan is different from Iraq. If you cannot see that Iraq is run by a brutal despot, who has repeatedly used aggression against his neighbours, and has no stake in not acting rashly, then there is little chance of convincing you. To say "Pakistan is just as bad" implies you would support a strike on Pakistan. Is that the case? Milosevic is gone, and the Serbs are running their own show. Intervention of some degree or another is as old as the UN. Granting moral certitude to the UN Security Council is far more dangerous. What if the UN hadn’t approved of the invasion of East Timor? Should we have stood back?

Will Australian Prime Minister John Howard send his sons off to war? No. They are not qualified to fight in a professional volunteer army. To ask the question is to invite political leaders to make their decisions based on their concern for their families, above their duty to their country, which is what they're hired to do. And contrarily, I do not glorify war. But I do recognise it as "the extension of politics by other means". Just as sometimes the police have to beat some fool over the head before we'll come along quietly, some rulers have to be shown the pointy end before they'll get the message.

The world will be a better place without Saddam Hussein. There can be no argument on this. It is possible that by searching high and low, the Iraqi people might find a ruler who is worse, but why would they? And how would such a person gain power, with an occupying force in place? Remember Japan and Germany. The Allies wrote their Constitutions for them. They are now stable, prosperous democracies. We can deliver something similar to Iraq.

Were you asking Howard to send his sons to East Timor? Were you calling for a US pullout of Kosovo? Are you saying an invasion of Saudi would be better than an Invasion or Iraq?

Steve Den Beste has spotted the deliberate mistake in Iraq’s letter to the UN.
The only thing they've done is to say that they unconditionally accept negotiations to determine the conditions under which inspections would take place and what else would be done at the same time for Iraq to pay it for this indignity.
They haven't change anything. There was no concession here, no alteration of policy in the slightest. They're still trying to get paid to do something they already promised to do, and they're still trying to delay and play for time.

So far today, my favourite leg-humper is Greens Senator Bob Brown, who today declared that the Iraqi change of heart was entirely a result of world opinion, and nothing to do with the US. Way to go, Bob.

Armed and Dangerous is taking the discussion on aging Vietnam protesters further.
OK, you need to look at Damian Penny's front page.

Monday, September 16, 2002

Traffic! Traaaaaffic!

The good shop TANSTAAFL has bobbed up into the Instaradar, and I hope I can keep it there.
We seem to have attracted the attention of one Demosthenes, where I rate highly on the KneeJerk ™ scale of spluttering moral outrage.

Demosthenes takes issue with another post where I ask for some hard numbers on the lower limit for an officially recognised International Coalition. These are not the questions for me to ask, because:
he showed that he hasn't the faintest clue what multilateralism is, what the point of it is, what the "coalition" term stands for in this context, what the U.N. charter says, what the U.N. does, what the role of the Security Council is, what the role of the General Assembly is, where the point of conflict is right now, what happened during the first Gulf War, or, well, anything.

Which gets it off your chest, but doesn’t answer the questions:
So you want a Coalition? Then define your terms please. After all, this is your idea:
1. How many nations? A firm number please.
2. Which nations?
3. Why not the others?
That last because Demosthenes didn’t link to the post on his blog, and I’ll assume it was an oversight that he didn’t quote the last paragraph:
One of the interesting things this whole debate shows up is the casual racism in the Left protests. They know that the opinions of Sierra Leone matter not a jot in the real world, but in Consensus Land ™, why is their opinion worth so much less than, say, Germany's?

One comment did interest me though:
there may be justifiable conflicts, just not this one.

Can he let us in on those conflicts he considers “justifiable”? and some concise reasons would be appreciated.

Tim Blair is calling for suggestions:
SO, WHAT are we going to call those people who routinely refer to the September 11 attacks on civilians as attacks on America or the US government, but characterise US attacks on al Qaeda leaders or Iraq's government as attacks on civilians?

May I humbly offer my contribution: KneeJerks

Instalanche ™! Save yourselves! Get to the high ground! For further reading, this is one post I'm proud of. Check out the Aussie blogs on the list while you're here.

Sunday, September 15, 2002


For a majority of the baby boomers that make up the Western commentary elite, the 1960's were their defining moment. The first television war, large scale public protests, cultural upheaval. They were in high school when Kennedy was shot, and were radicalised by the time King went down.

Many student leaders that leapt to prominence then have remained place with a strong hand on the cultural tiller. Even to the point that many still see the world through that prism. Last week Howell Raines, the editor of the New York Times no less, used Vietnam to twice trump discomfiting questioning on The News Hour, when asked why the NYT was running a campaign against the war, instead of just reporting it. Can you imagine the scorn a young Raines would have heaped on some 60 year old in 1964, who was trying to use a 40 year old war to explain Vietnam? But that is what Raines wants to do. His credentials as an anti-Vietnam protester have somehow proofed him against irrelevancy and fogiedom.

Home-grown Australian hipsters are still trading on their fame of decades past. It’s as if they refuse to realise the world has moved on. No, Che is still glamorous, Bush is the same as Nixon, they’re all in on it together. And if they use the occasional reference to acid and The Man, it will delay the onset of Relevance Deprivation Syndrome. Here’s a thought fellas: if you have to keep reminding your audience of how cool and revolutionary you were 35 years ago, people are entitled to wonder of what use you are today.

But my question is this: what kind of thinking is the war of today creating? And how are the pensioned-off Radicals coping?

In the 60’s, Uncle Ho (shades of “Uncle Joe” Stalin) was a wrinkled, cuddly folk figure. Like an exotic little doll. Che was neither fat, nor dead. Fidel was macho. The Revolution was a foregone conclusion, and would lead to freer behaviour, looser sexual mores. Now the old icons have failed, and the new ones don’t measure up.

Now the defenders of the Movement are lining up behind crazies who are happy to bomb abortion clinics and would hunt gays for sport. Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden are not Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know. They’re just nuts. And they smell baaad.

There are complaints that the war resembles a video game. Occasionally there is a whiff of something like nostalgia from peace-pushers, when they declare the Western way of war to be impersonal, or even cowardly. It’s as if they hanker for the days when steely-eyed commandoes slit enemy sentry throats, and glassy-eyed GI’s lit up the ‘ville. The art of war has simply progressed so far so fast, that it has caught up to futuristic imaginings. The old images of grunts on patrol in the deep green are as outdated as going to battle with a crossbow and sling.

Armies have always fought as far away from each other as possible. The entire history of military technology has been killing at greater and greater distances. Because that makes it harder for the other guy to kill you. No commander has an obligation to his men but to kill the enemy at the longest distance he can arrange. Anything else is dereliction of duty, and any talk of a “fair fight” displays a fundamental lack of understanding of tactics.

Hand to hand combat isn’t honourable, or desirable. Killing up close is men in the dirt scared out of their minds, biting, scratching, gouging to get a grip on eyes, balls, ears anything you can get at. It’s screaming as he turns the knife back on you and it presses closer. It’s begging sweet Christ to make it stop and let you go home and talking to rubber muscles to force it back and down. It’s stabbing a man one inch at a time, a man whose face you will see every day for the rest of your life. So close you can feel his breath fall away, and smell his shit. It’s crying in the blood and the stink because you’re alive and you’ll have to do it again.

There are no more draftee soldiers wasted on acid, no more draft card burnings, no moratorium marches. No-one cares if you’re a Conscientious Objector. Today’s military specialist is likely to be a college graduate with skills so rarified to be near magic. The soundtrack of the war will not be Hendrix or Joan Baez on a transistor. It’s industrial-techno downloaded at the base internet café, played on a personal MP3 player. Or maybe a Spanish language course for a final college credit. These are motivated, angry volunteers who fought hard and long to get where they are, and are as far removed from a conscript army as they are from Venusian Amazon women.

The only conscript soldiers that feature are the poor bastards in the enemy front lines. They know the score, because they heard it from the few that were lucky enough to live through the first Gulf War, and unlucky enough not to surrender. They understand that when the elite army is staying home, and their own officers are shooting deserters on the spot, the clock is ticking.

There are others involved who have no say. The passengers of jet liners turned into flying bombs. The office workers looking up from their spreadsheets to see religious bigotry at its finest hour. The beat-down families of Baghdad that stare dully as the cream of their army parks an anti-aircraft battery next to their kindergarten. The slaves of the Sudan. Starving North Korean parents eating bark so their children can live another day.

How can a 60’s radical make themselves relevant to an audience that has seen all the horror the Taliban has to offer? How do you stick up for the sovereign rights of a government that gleefully demands a new stadium as the condition for not using the UN-built soccer stadium for public executions? Where is the My Lai anger at seeing the sponsors of mass murder get pounded into jam?

Simple: shift the rules, and keep shifting them. The People’s Revolution has moved out of the basement and into the newspapers and the Senate Committee Room. Power to the People is now served by delay, equivalence, exploiting the balance of votes on the floor.
DEMAND PERFECT WAR. No civilian deaths. No civilian injuries. A thousand-fold decrease is not enough. Any civilian death is proof of aggression.
DEMAND PERFECT KNOWLEDGE. No action without proof to Western legal standards. No targeting without absolute certainty.
DEMAND Perfect Foresight. No action without a replacement government ready to go. Risk is uncertainty. Uncertainty is death. Don’t destabilise. Avoid quagmires. The future is unknown, therefore certain to be worse.
DEMAND Clean Hands. Don’t fight anywhere you have an interest. Don’t fight anywhere you have no business in. Failure to condemn is support. Failure to support is racism. Failure to intervene is corruption. Intervention is interference. The enemy is bad, but we are tainted too.
DEMAND Full Disclosure. Endless hearings. All secrecy is conspiracy. The ghost of Nixon stalks the earth.

The old revolutionaries need to keep an image in mind before they put their hand up: Eisenhower. No-one could fault his ability at war, his patriotism or his intellect. So outflank him call him outdated, out of touch, a relic. But consider: his war was only 25 years out of date when JFK ordered the troops into Vietnam. You war is older than that, and much more obsolete.

Antiwar activists are correct when they say it takes to sides to make a war, and if one side (ours) will refuse to fight, there can’t be a war. This is true. Lay down your arms in the face of aggression and it becomes a beating. Or a rape.

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