March 31, 2003
The Shark Blog is Famous in Britain!

Sneering "journalist"-with-chip-on-shoulder John Sutherland of London's Guardian slams me for my recent commentary on bulldozer shahida Rachel Corrie

Martyrisation demands retaliatory demonisation. Having been bulldozed to death, Rachel was duly blogged to death. The front-page news stories came out on March 17. By the next day, sites such as the aptly-named SharkBlog (hosted by Stefan Sharkansky) were in full mephitic flow. The Shark himself led the charge with a riff on "The Prime of Miss Rachel Corrie", casting her as Mary MacGregor, the idiot girl in Muriel Spark's novel. She had committed "suicide by bulldozer" as deliberately as her Palestinian buddies with their body bombs.
(the entry he is referring to is here ) Sutherland closes
What have we come to? The speed with which this kind of devil's advocacy can now (thanks to the net) be mounted, its sheer unbridled violence and its moral irresponsibility are, to the thoughtful mind, more frightening than any of those WMDs for whose (dubious) existence Britons are, at this moment, laying down their lives. Stop the world: I want to log off.
Yeah, my blog is more violent and frightening than Saddam's chemical weapons, all right. These Europeasers must either seriously not give a shit about all the truly horrible things that their hero in Baghdad does, or they must feel terribly impotent in the face of overwhelming success by the American British coalition, or both. Otherwise, why would a big newspaper like the Guardian lash out at a little ole' blogger like me???

Charles Johnson also has a nice response to John Sutherland.

UPDATE Bill Herbert traces some of Sutherland's arguments to discredit the criticism of Rachel Corrie to the "Vanguard News Network" (, slogan: "No Jews, Just Right"). That would fit. I came across another self-described "American Nazi" who created a "Tribute to Rachel Corrie" ( )

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:18 AM
How the Arab media reports on the war

After reading Mamoun Fandy's Washington Post column on the Arab media that I linked to yesterday, I was curious to see how the Arab media actually does report on the Iraq war. So I hunkered down with my Arabic-English Dictionary and slogged through the translation of an entire article from the Al-Jazeera website.

16:48 Mecca Time, March 30, 2003
Baghdad: Four Thousand Arabs to Carry Out Martyrdom Operations

An American soldier injured in Iraq upon arrival at a base in Germany yesterday

Iraqi Army spokesman General Hazem Ar-Rawi said that more than four thousand Arab volunteers from every single Arab country have arrived in Iraq to carry out "martyrdom" operations against the invasion forces in the days ahead.

Answering a question at a Baghdad news conference about the legitimacy of the regular army engaging in suicide operations, Ar-Rawi said: "It is our duty to drive out the invaders no matter what the price". And he said that an Iraqi officer named Ali Ja'afar Hamadi An-Nu'mani carried out a suicide operation on Saturday near the city of Najaf, which resulted in the deaths of eleven American soldiers, not the mere four that the Americans claimed.

Ar-Rawi stressed that in the eleven days since the beginning of the war, the invasion forces along the battle front lost their balance after the military operations ended in devastating failure to accomplish their planned objectives. And he indicated that one of the most marked signs of the loss of balance is the weak performance of the American and British soldiers and the fact that they abandoned the corpses of their dead on the battlefield.

The Iraqi spokesman mentioned Iraqi successes at arresting the advance of the invasion forces and maintaining a presence deep behind the invaders' lines. He explained that American and British losses numbered hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries along with the destruction of more than 130 tanks and armored vehicles in addition to the airplanes that were shot down.

Answering a question about the missile that fell on a Kuwait shopping mall yesterday, Ar-Rawi said "A missile was fired from the Faw [peninsula] at the invaders who defiled Kuwaiti soil". He added that firing the missile from the Faw was proof it was still in the hands of the Iraqi people.

The article is fascinating for several reasons. It reports the Iraqi general's fantastic claims ("hundreds of American and British deaths"; "eleven casualties" of the suicide bombing instead of four) as unchallenged fact. There is no mention of the number of Iraqi casualties. There is no indication that anybody questioned the general about the potential harm to Kuwaiti civilians from Iraqi missiles that land near shopping malls. And to add weight to the general's claims about inflicting great damage on American soldiers, there is the photograph of the injured GI on a stretcher.

Yes, this would support Fandy's dismissal of Al Jazeera's credibility, and his characterization that it is "political pornography"

Many thanks to the Ribbity Frog for proof-reading and correcting the above translation. The Frog is an Israeli with a strong command of the Arabic language who follows the Arabic press. Be sure to check out the Ribbity Frog blog for more translations of Arab media items which give a fascinating and important view of how the Arab world talks to itself.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:10 AM
March 30, 2003
Here and There, Mar. 30

Today's must read side-splitting humor, from Jim Treacher:

Garofalo To Be Lowered Into Shredder

Bushington, DB -- In a televised address from somewhere inside one of his 57 palaces, President George W. Bush today issued a fatwa on actress/comedienne Janeane Garofalo, calling for "all noble American people to hunt down the godless dog Garofalo and bring her to me alive."

Read the whole thing.

Today's must read serious analysis, on the Arab media's coverage of the Iraq war, by Arab journalist and Georgetown lecturer Mamoun Fandy, in today's Washington Post

Reporters and producers know what their viewers want to see: images of empowerment and resistance because of past defeats. They also want to see what Hussein's information minister, Muhammed Said al-Sahaf, calls teaching the Americans a lesson. "We are no less than the Vietnamese. Just make it costly in body bags and the Americans will run," said a general who comments regularly on al-Jazeera. Some Arab journalists say they have little choice but to go along. "The cost of speaking out now -- even to simply say that Saddam is partially responsible for what is taking place -- is very high. It could cost you your job and could even cause you physical harm," said one.
Read the whole thing

Religion of Peace: An "Egyptian-American" man and his wife were detained Sunday in Cairo, Egypt after customs agents found two guns and 200 bullets in their luggage, airport officials said.

And speaking of the Religion of Peace, Michelle Malkin reminds us that Kuwait fragger Asan Akbar was not the first MSWA: Muslim Soldier With Attitude

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:47 PM
March 29, 2003
Here and There, Mar. 29

War-related job losses: Hans Blix took early retirement from his job as chief UN weapons inspector for Iraq.

"I think we were given a bit too short time," Blix said. "A few more months would have been useful."
Useful for Saddam to be sure, which is why we had to go in there. And that brings us to the next guy who lost his job: Musahim Saab al-Tikriti, Saddam's cousin and commander of Iraqi air defense, who has not done a very good job of defending Iraqi air space. Taking over this thankless job is Gen. Shahin Yasin Muhammad al-Tikriti, whose last name is suspiciously similar to that of his predecessor. No word yet whether Saddam's cousin Musahim was merely fired or also lined up against a wall and fired upon.

Meanwhile in the war on terrorism here in San Francisco, the illegal monthly bicycle riot known as "Critical Mass" tied up traffic yesterday in a show of solidarity with Saddam Hussein and the al-Tikriti family. San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown claims that the cost to the City of policing the various pro-Saddam protests will rise to $5 million. Brown is asking the federal government to pay for this cost out of the Homeland Security budget. My opinion is that federal government should absolutely pay for this, but only on the condition that the City stop releasing these criminals back onto the streets and instead hand them over to federal authorities where they can be treated like the enemy combatants that they are and given one-way tickets to Guantanamo.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:20 PM
March 28, 2003
War With Syria?

Ha'aretz reported yesterday that Baby Doc Assad said that he fears becoming the next target of the US-led coalition, adding "We will not wait until we become the next target", without being any more specific. Today Ha'aretz reports that

Syria is granting free passage across its border with Iraq to volunteers who wish to join the fight against the U.S. and British forces. Thus far, dozens of volunteers, primarily Palestinians from the refugee camps in Lebanon, have crossed over into Iraq through Syrian-controlled border posts.

The passage of volunteers with Damascus's consent has given rise to the theory that the U.S.-fired missile that struck a Syrian bus traveling in Iraq was an intentional attack on a busload of such volunteers.

The Syrian mufti, Ahmed Kaftaru - a government official - recently called on Muslims worldwide to employ all means, including suicide operations, to defeat the American-British-Zionist aggression.

In today's press conference, still in progress as I write this, Donald Rumsfeld said that military equipment which can endanger the lives of coalition forces, including night vision goggles, is entering Iraq from Syria.

We consider such trafficking as hostile acts and will hold the Syrian government accountable for such shipments
Rumsfeld said.

UPDATE The AP has more on Rumsfeld's press briefing and his warning to Syria here:

There's no question but that to the extent that military supplies or equipment or people are moving across the borders between Iraq and Syria, it vastly complicates our situation," Rumsfeld said.

Asked if the United States was threatening military action against Syria, Rumsfeld said: "I'm saying exactly what I'm saying. It was carefully phrased."

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:25 AM
Leftwing Media Bias Watch

Every Monday and Thursday the San Francisco Chronicle menaces its readers with a reality distortion vortex called "Ruth Rosen". In yesterday's column, Rosen fabricates a government disinformation scandal:

GIVE THE Bush administration credit for the way it sold this war. The opportunistic manipulation of our fears undermined common sense. Nearly half the country believes that Iraqi terrorists commandeered the planes that slammed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 (Knight Ridder poll, January).
There are several embedded assumptions here, among them:

1) Half the country believes that "Iraqi terrorists commandeered the planes..."
2) This is a false belief
3) Those who believe this do so because the Bush administration deliberately persuaded them to believe it.

It has been reasonably well-established that none of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Iraqis. How do we know this? It is not because King Fahd of Saudi Arabia purchased airtime to tell us that 15 of the hijackers were his subjects. It is because the ... Bush administration revealed the identities and nationalities of the perpetrators. Does Rosen have any evidence (or even media quotes) to suggest that the administration is also telling people that there were Iraqis among the hijackers? I don't think she does.

Second, the Knight Ridder poll [large PDF] doesn't exactly reveal a belief that "Iraqi terrorists commandeered the planes...". It simply asked the more muted question: "As far as you know, how many of the September 11th terrorist hijackers were Iraqi citizens?" [pp. 85-86] The possible answers were: "Most of them", "Some of them", "Just one", "None" and "Don't Know". The preferred answers are "None" and "Don't Know". Although the best available evidence says "none", I am open to the possibility that not all of the hijackers identities have been confirmed beyond challenge. It's also excusable, I think, for the average person to answer "One" or "Some". We keep hearing about the 15 Saudis, but where were the other four from? Egypt? Yemen, UAE? I doubt it's all that hard to induce the average geographically challenged American to go along and agree that there were one or two Omanis, Iraqis or Slovenians in the group if that's the country the interviewer is asking about.

In fact, just about half the respondents answered that "Most", "Some" or "One" of the hijackers were Iraqi citizens, while 17% said "None" and 33% said "Don't Know". Yes, the percentage of the public that is underinformed is disappointingly high. But back to Rosen's insinuation that the Bush administration is responsible for this knowledge gap. Not only does she not have a smoking gun that the administration has tried to lead us astray on this, but the demographic breakdown of the responses dismantles her position. Whether broken down by gender, race, income or party, the ( Men / Whites / High earners / Republicans ) were more likely to answer correctly than the ( Women / Non-whites / Low earners / Democrats ) respectively.

In other words, the anti-Bush demographics were all more likely to believe that Iraqis were involved in the 9/11 attacks than were the pro-Bush, folks. So even if Rosen manages to produce evidence of the alleged disinformation campaign that none of the rest of us have seen, I'd be especially interested to hear her explain how Bush's propaganda was more effective at convincing his detractors than it was at persuading his own base. Beyond that, why would it be that those who are the least inclined to believe in a direct Iraqi role in 9/11 are also more persuaded by the administration's actual arguments for regime change? ( I would argue that it's because they're consistently on the right side of the Clue Gap, but I'd be curious to hear Rosen's explanation too).

Rosen makes up some more stuff:

The war was also sold as a cakewalk. Now, we're surprised by fierce military resistance. What did we expect?
What we expected was consistent with what the President told us on March 19 to expect:
America faces an enemy who has no regard for conventions of war or rules of morality... A campaign on the harsh terrain of a nation as large as California could be longer and more difficult than some predict. And helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country will require our sustained commitment.
Again, look through the various administration statements over the last year and a half. I will buy a piece of cake for the first person (including Ruth Rosen) who brings to my attention any administration statement that suggests the war would be a piece of cake.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:17 AM
March 27, 2003
Here and There, Mar. 27

Today is my wedding anniversary. Irene asked me to mention that our wedding day was the happiest day of my life and that the last four years have been the happiest years of my life. She didn't have to ask, I would have mentioned that anyway, because they were. May we have at least another fifty happy years ahead of us.

Unavoidable Pun Watch Glenn Reynolds writes about the "oral argument" in the Texas sodomy case. Along those lines, I can't help but note that the State of Texas' opposition to natural human behavior is, well, go read this.

It's probably a good thing that there were no instant public opinion polls back in 1861 and no embedded CNN reporters covering the first week of the Civil War. If the spinmeisters of doom can portray our overwhelming successes in Iraq as "not going well", imagine what they might have done with the opening days of the war between the states, which included the Confederate victory at Fort Sumter and the secession of Virginia?

Al Jazeera Watch: The Al Jazeera website has moved to a new hosting provider and is currently offline.

UPDATE (5:23pm) The aforementioned "new hosting provider" was the result of a low-tech hack attack. The website is now back online and hosted in ... France! (The URL for the English language site still points to the Arabic site)

Baby Doc Assad fears becoming the next target of the US-led pro-sanity coalition. "We will not wait until we become the next target," he was quoted as saying. It is not clear, however, what he intends to do to avoid becoming the next target.

Iraq fired a missile (possibly a Scud) into Kuwait a few hours ago. Fortunately, the Kuwaitis have Andre Agassi to protect them.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:23 PM
March 26, 2003
Saudi Diplomat Linked To Al Qaeda

Der Spiegel reports that a Saudi diplomat has been linked to Al Qaeda and suspected terrorists.

Mohammed J. Fakihi, an attache at the Saudi embassy in Berlin, had contacts with a group of Islamists who were arrested last Thursday on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack. Fakihi met with the suspects through Berlin's al-Nur Mosque.

After the German Foreign Ministry confronted the Saudi Embassy with the results of the investigation, the Saudis flew Fakihi home to Riyadh. The report implies (but does not explicitly state) that the German officials were not able to interrogate Fahiki.

Investigators also discovered Fakihi's business card during an earlier search of the apartment of convicted 9/11 conspirator Mounir el Motassadeq. It was only after multiple attempts that the Saudi government responded to German inquiries about Fakihi.

Reuters also has the story. It doesn't mention Fakihi's name or Motassadeq connection. But it adds that the diplomat was called home before he could be expelled on suspicion of "violating weapons laws and falsifying documents".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:17 PM
Here and There, Mar. 26

A very Happy Birthday to my Aunt Lynne

A nail in the coffin of bilingual education?: Five years after voters approved English-only classrooms across California, the popular ballot measure seems to be working. The percentage of English-learning students who tested as proficient in English nearly tripled from 11% in 2001 to 32% in 2002. English-only learners score higher on the test than do bilingual students.

The San Francisco Chronicle seems to be paying its in-house "war blogger" to spin the news for Saddam.

All Jazeera, All the Time: My single biggest source of blog traffic today is people doing search engine queries for "Al Jazeera". (The search engines are pointing to a translation of a news story from the Al Jazeera web site I posted last year). The Al Jazeera web site itself is currently unreachable (by me, at least). Earlier this week it was suffering from what appeared to be traffic overload, amid reports speculating that it had been hacked and/or a victim of a "denial of service" attack. Pages were loading slowly, and often timing out, but it was definitely functioning. At this moment, however, the site is unreachable (for the techies in the audience -- Al Jazeera's DNS servers will not resolve the hostname into an IP address). The earlier speculation was that the hacking attempts came from the US, so does this mean that the site is blocked to US traffic, or is it down altogether? Can any of my overseas readers tell me whether they can reach the Al Jazeera website?

UPDATE As of 9pm PST is back online. The much vaunted English language website, only points to the Arabic site.

Meanwhile in Iran The Mullahcrats are organizing an "anti-war" rally for Friday, in support of their old (friend? enemy? I give up) Saddam. The pro-democracy civil disobedience movement is boycotting the pro-tyranny "anti-war" rally.

Veteran Ha'aretz reporter Ze'ev Schiff, always worth reading, says "the Turks bear much of the responsibility for the gap that has developed between the timetable of the original battle plan and what has actually happened in the field."

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:58 PM
Is God on Saddam's Side?

Is God on Saddam's Side? The answer is: I hope not. But after reading the San Francisco Chronicle's extracts from Bay Area religious sermons: "Spiritual leaders struggle to address fear, uncertainty of times", it seems that many who claim to understand more about God than the rest of us aren't so sure. The message of most of these sermons is that it doesn't matter what Saddam does, God doesn't want America to possess or use weapons. Only one of the cited sermons made sense. I am saving it for the very end. First I am going to make you read all of the hideous examples of the perversion of religion in the service of moral equivalence.

Father Stephan Borlang, St. Vincent's Ferrer Catholic Church, Vallejo

Weapons, war, destruction are all a result of our lack of faith. We try to satisfy our spiritual thirst and hunger in ways that are contrary to God's will.
Rev. Laird Stuart, Calvary Presbyterian Church, San Francisco
God's will for all nations was that they should choose a new way to live together, like lions and lambs.
The Rev. G. Penny Nixon, Senior pastor, Metropolitan Community Church, San Francisco
As a queer, I am well acquainted with the notion of categorization. I am all too familiar with government lies and the potential cruelty of otherness. As a religious leader, I am sorrowfully aware of institutional secrecy and self-preservation at any cost. I suppose that is why I am so certain that no human is dispensable.
I guess she/he is telling us that Saddam, Uday and Chemical Ali are also indispensable.

David Fitzgerald, steering committee member, San Francisco Atheists

Because despite the fundamental disagreements atheists have with religion, opposition to this unjust war could prove to be what unites believers and nonbelievers alike.
Who says atheists can't also have a spiritual side or be a moral force?

Anwar, Imam/religious director, South Bay Islamic Association, San Jose

Oh Allah! Today as we supplicate to you, thousands and thousands of innocent people are being killed all over the world. Please save them, have Your mercy upon them, as You are the most merciful. Spare the lives of the innocent Iraqis, Palestinians, and all innocent people that are being tortured and killed over the world. They do not deserve it.
Does Imam Anwar also pray for the overwhelming majority of Muslims who are oppressed at the hands of Muslim tyrants? In fact, he does not.

Rev. David Sammons, Mount Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church

What those who hate us will be doing, is what we've done ourselves, in the way we've portrayed Saddam Hussein.
Tanto Teah Strozer, San Francisco Zen Center
It helps, in this effort, to stay grounded in one's body and breath. And when we have the opportunity, we can help each other in little ways ... Stop, be aware, feel your feelings in your body, let the body process them before going onto whatever you are doing.
And if only Saddam had learned Pilates, maybe he wouldn't be so cranky and obstreperous.

Finally, there is at least one religious leader in the Bay Area who still cares about the difference between right and wrong:

Yakov Kagan, Chabad of Contra Costa (Lubavitch), Walnut Creek

Judaism teaches us that one cannot be neutral when it comes to holy and unholy, good and evil. One must take a stand and define his position pro or con. It takes great vision and bravery to choose to eradicate the evil but there are those who recognize their mission to transform the world into a G- dly domain.

We can Thank G-d for America and its leaders who are brave enough to stand up to evil in its source and commit themselves to destroying it. As G-d accompanied Moses on his mission to destroy the Evil leader of ancient Egypt so let us pray that G-d will accompany our troops and commander in chief toward facing down today's evil tyrants.


Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:04 AM
March 25, 2003
Here and There, Mar. 25

ROTFL (I) France determined to play big role in rebuilding Iraq

Gilles Munier, an executive board member of the French-Iraq Association for Economic Cooperation, said business leaders and government representatives were studying how to gain a foothold in postwar Iraq...Some French are concerned that a U.S.-led administration in Iraq will favor companies from the United States and other pro-war countries while penalizing companies from France and other war opponents.
Go figure. And not that it should take any special talent to predict such a thing, but Shark Blog predicted several weeks ago that France would be knocking on our car door about now, dressed in a short skirt and not wearing any panties.

ROTFL (II) Saudis make peace proposal to United States, Iraq

ROTFL (III) Der Spiegel has a laughably biased article called "Warblogging: Completely Different War News". Curiously, Der Spiegel understands warblogging to be blogging against the war and exposing pro-war bias in U.S. media. The article skeptically mentions exactly two pro-war blogs (the fine Oxblog and L.T. Smash) and wonders whether and to what extent they are "fed with information" by the Defense Department. Seriously. The sidebar contains a list of links to war-related blogs. In addition to the two pro-war blogs previously mentioned, the list includes several anti-war blogs. Among them, (lead story today: Robert Fisk on Washington’s ‘Quagmire’ in Iraq) and "Veiled for Allah", the official voice of all those burka-wearing European American converts to Islam that are filling our streets these days. Somehow, Der Spiegel didn't notice the more widely read and influential blogs that cover the war, such as Andrew Sullivan, Instapundit, Little Green Footballs, The Command Post... Stop me now before I run out of room.

Palestinian Corruption Watch: Haaretz reports that international donors have frozen funding of leading Palestinian "human rights" group "The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment" after an independent audit raised suspicion of mismanagement of millions of dollars in grants, the European Union said Tuesday. From September 1997 through August 2002, the organization received about $10 million from donors (including the European Union). However, about $4 million of this sum was embezzled, used for other purposes, or cannot be accounted for, according to the audit. It would be interesting to find out how many people were killed with the money used for "other purposes". But let's hope this is a sign that the Europeaser Union is finally starting to take responsibility for their "humanitarian assistance" to the world's kleptocrats and terrorists.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:40 PM
Cirincione Cassandra Watch

I woke up this morning to Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace speaking with NPR's Bob Edwards about the war in Iraq [audio]. I put Mr. Cirincione's remarks in context, by quoting from his formidable body of prior statements, predictions and running commentary on other recent situations.

Today (March 25, 2003):

As most observers have noted this not what we expected. It was clear that Secretary Rumsfeld was hoping for a very early decapitation strike or surrender. That did not happen. Saddam seems entrenched in power, still controlling his forces.

November 9, 2001
Things aren't going well in the war [in Afghanistan]
(Kabul fell four days later)


These guerilla tactics are also somewhat unexpected and taking a much higher toll than people thought...[The US military didn't count on] the irregulars and the staunch resistance and the tactics that Saddam seems to have adopted...I think there's no doubt in the end that the U.S. military will win, it's just the toll may be higher than any of us had been expecting, and the fighting, as the President now says, may be much longer than he led us to believe just a week ago
In fact, nothing I've read has indicated that the administration was expecting a cakewalk. The administration has long expected and planned for uncertainty and Cirincione has written as such:
Feb 23, 2003
[administration officials] harbor grave doubts. As one senior official told a New York Times reporter, "We still do not know how U.S. forces will be received. Will it be cheers, jeers or shots? And the fact is, we won't know until we get there."
Ordering the regular forces, not the Republican Guards, but the regular forces that were supposed to be surrendering en masse by now...Ordering them to take off their uniforms, adopt civilian clothes and carry out operations behind enemy lines. Our military is understandably upset about this, thinks it's not, you know, sort of fair, not the proper way to conduct a war. Unfortunately it seems to be very effective.
It is not merely "not, you know, sort of fair" but also a serious war crime. Cirincione does not label it as such.


There's a very high expectation that Saddam in fact does have a large stockpile of chemical or biological weapons. This might not be true. He might have very few of these weapons left. Nonetheless it does slow our progress. As troops come across suspicious rockets or vats or laboratories they're going to understandably stop, take a step back, put up a perimeter, call in the inspectors.
Dec. 9, 2002
The unanimous Security Council resolution ordering Iraqi compliance with United Nations inspections--and the credible threat of war should Iraq not comply--make it very likely that Saddam will cooperate with UN inspections. The early inspections have gone well enough...
If Saddam had complied with the various Security Council resolutions he would not have any illegal weapons, period.

Some more examples of Cirincione's sage predictions:

Dec. 9, 2002

The U.S. administration has convinced most journalists and world leaders that it will soon attack Iraq ... Leaked plans detail a ferocious, short war to isolate, then topple Saddam Hussein. Arab leaders publicly oppose a war, but news reports indicate their quiet support. President George Bush seems ready to let loose the dogs of war at any moment.

Which is precisely why he will not have to...

...there are several very plausible scenarios that could turn the war into a catastrophe. These include the use of chemical or biological weapons against US troops [ with weapons that Cirincione claims that either (a) Saddam doesn't have, or which we (b) shouldn't waste our time looking for]; an attack on Israel that prompts an Israeli counter-attack, possibly with a nuclear weapon...

... it is not likely that the United States will go to war anytime soon.

Feb. 23, 2003
Even if the war itself goes well, and we can avoid the horrors of chemical weapons, house-to-house fighting and torched oil fields, the bombing campaign said to involve 3,000 bombs in the first two days alone will kill thousands. And this time every television station in the world wants to be live from Baghdad. CNN was alone in 1991; now there are dozens of CNNs. Each will broadcast live photos of dead Iraqis being pulled from the rubble.
How did the prediction of "will kill thousands" in the first two days come to pass? The answer is here
So far, Iraqi television apparently has shown little footage of civilian casualties, probably an indication there has not been much, said Korb, an assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan administration. He said the Iraqis would repeatedly show footage of any large-scale civilian casualties if they could
Cirincione gave us a whole bunch of other doomsday predictions in an op-ed which appeared in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle
Fatwas are already flowing from mainstream clerics urging all Muslims to resist the U.S. invasion. Governments may indeed fall, but it may be the rulers in Jordan that are threatened, not the dictatorship in Syria

But the war -- whatever the outcome -- will likely increase both amateur and organized terrorism. Much of the terrorism will be spontaneous outrage at the invasion and deaths, striking out at close by, identifiable American targets.

If the war goes well, world publics may fear emboldened, postwar U.S. intentions even more. The Bush doctrine seems likely to generate exactly the anti-U.S. coalitions that it was designed to discourage.

If the war destabilizes Pakistan, nuclear weapons, materials or scientists may flow to other nations or terrorist groups. North Korea, ignored during the crisis, may go overtly nuclear...

...It will destabilize the region, increase terrorism, decrease alliance unity and make the spread of deadly weapons more likely without measurably increasing our national security.

It sounds like a horrifying future to be sure, but given Cirincione's track record for predictions, I'm going to wait a few days before investing in a backyard bomb-shelter.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:55 PM
March 24, 2003
Here and There, Mar. 24

Brooke Schreier 1, Ruth Rosen 0

I just learned that my cousin Aaron Katersky, a reporter for Clear Channel radio, is embedded with the First Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq. An archive of his reports may be found here. I have never met Aaron, but I admire his courage and will be thinking of him and following his coverage in the days ahead.

It appears that Russian technicians are helping Saddam's military jam US GPS signals. This is the same Russia that the San Francisco Chronicle has recently described as "our longtime partner" and a "longtime ally"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:46 PM
Al Jazeera Barbarians

As Andrew Sullivan wrote

The pictures on al Jazeera are Danny Pearl revisited. Cowardly, evil, depraved: and the fact that al Jazeera is broadcasting them shows exactly how unhinged the enemy has become. Ditto the news of the American serviceman who attacked his fellow soldiers. Two sides of the same Islamist coin. If these barbarians actually believe this kind of behavior will weaken American resolve, they just don't know Americans. But it's a good indicator that this war isn't over yet. And the worse may yet be to come.
I found a page on the Al Jazeera web site that has some gruesome screen shots of their broadcast of dead and captured American soldiers. The original page is here [Al Jazeera is frequently inaccessible these days]. I made a copy of the page with its photographs here. I am extremely uncomfortable with these images that disrespect the honor and/or memory of our troops. On the other hand, it's important for us to understand how the most popular television station in the Arab world chooses to report on the war and to depict American soldiers.

The text above the photographs says

Al-Jazeera showed pictures of the bodies of American soldiers who were killed during the battle that took place between American and Iraqi forces in the city of An-Nasiriya in south west Iraq. It also showed pictures of American soldiers who were taken prisoner by the Iraqi forces at the same battle. For a long time today [March 23], the American Defense Dept. denied that any soldiers were killed or taken prisoner until it backed off and announced that fewer than ten soldiers were missing in southern Iraq
This graphic at the top of the page:

refers to the editorial section of the website where the page appears. The text says: "Al-Watan al-Arabi" -- "The Arab World". Indeed.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:14 AM
March 23, 2003
Best Fictional Documentary

Michael Moore won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for Bowling for Columbine. In his acceptance speech, Moore said

We like nonfiction and we live in fictitious times. We live in a time where we have fictitious election results, that elect a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons
Moore's pre-occupation with fiction might help explain why Bowling for Columbine was the first work of fiction to win a Best Documentary Oscar.

In light of Moore's award, however, the Academy voted to reclassify 1939 Best Picture nominee "The Wizard of Oz" as a documentary so it could be awarded the Best Documentary Oscar retroactively. Academy president Frank Pierson said:

Most people think of The Wizard of Oz as a child's fantasy, but in fact, it was a courageous and true story of a Rainbow coalition consisting of a young animal rights activist (Dorothy), an African-American (the Lion), a disabled prosthesis wearer (Tinman), a gay man (the Scarecrow), and a lesbian (the Good Witch of the North). The movie documents how this coalition fought for social justice and prevailed over the capitalist white man Wizard and his right-wing religious ally the Wicked Witch of the West.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:21 PM
Leftwing Media Bias

Same poll, different spin: The latest CBSNews/New York Times Poll is out. CBS reports that Americans "approve of the U.S. taking military action against Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power" by a margin of 76% to 20%. The New York Times reports that "Support for Bush Surges at Home, but Split Remains" I'll get to the "split" in a moment. But first, they write that Americans "approved of Mr. Bush's handling of Iraq" 70% to 27%. These were in fact two distinct questions from the same survey. But it's kind of funny that the Times chose to lead with the more partisan question with the predictably less impressive numbers than the one that CBS chose.

And the "split"? The "split" is that "While 93 percent of Republicans said they approved of Mr. Bush's handling of Iraq, just 50 percent of Democrats did." Where do the independents stand? The NYT doesn't tell us. Since there are undoubtedly some undecided responders, it's clear that more Democrats support "Mr. Bush's handling of Iraq", let alone the basic concept of military action against Iraq, than oppose either. Yet the Times chose to spin this in the most partisan way possible.

Meanwhile, over on the other coast in Baghdad by the Bay, the San Francisco Chronicle demonstrates yet again that it may as well be the pro-bono P.R. agency if not for the Tikrit Mafia, then at least for the Pelosi wing of the Democratic party.

THE U.S.-LED war on Iraq has been accompanied by assaults on free speech in the homeland.
Which assaults might those be? Is the FBI torturing Ruth Rosen again?
The attempt to label anyone who disagrees with the war as "unpatriotic" is predictable, but no less disturbing.
Never mind the hyperbole about labeling "anyone who disagrees" as "unpatriotic". We're not really talking about assault, we're talking about criticism. Which is simply another form of, uh, free speech.
Americans who support the war should be respectful of those who speak against it with deeply held convictions.
i.e. please don't be mean to us, because we hold our idiotic delusions as sincerely as, say, Hitler, bin Laden and the Tokyo subway nerve gas people held theirs.
Opponents of war, for their part, should recognize the foolishness of trying to use vandalism and intimidation to protest the use of military force.
Note that opponents of war are not called upon to be respectful of those who support the war. It's just not a good strategy to use violence against 76% of the population.
Once the fighting began, however, the diplomatic option vanished. We support the troops and their mission.
Yeah, with all the conviction and sincerity that Nancy Pelosi does:
"I disagree with the policy that took us to this war. I dispute some of the arguments used in favor of this resolution, and I am disappointed in some of the provisions in this resolution..."

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:55 AM
The Fischer Doctrine

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer gave an interview to Der Spiegel on Friday where he criticizes American disregard for the UN, calls for stronger institutions for peaceful conflict resolution, and inadvertently argues why the United States should feel more relieved than worried about German pacifism.

I cannot and do not wish to imagine that we are at the beginning of a series of wars of disarmament ... We must not be left with only the alternatives of permitting terrible dangers to exist, or being drawn into a war of disarmament ... American power is a decisive factor for world peace and stability, but the world order cannot function when the definitive criterion for the application of force is when it is in the national interest of the most powerful country ... The same rules must apply for large, medium and small nations.
Meaning, I guess, that the opinions of Guinea and Liechtenstein should be as important as those of the United States. Fischer doesn't see any present alternative to the UN and the Security Council, and rejects the US role as "world policeman". He declines to say, however, who should be the world policeman or to whom such a policeman would be accountable.

Fischer complained that in the question of Iraq

there was no real trans-Atlantic dialogue.
He places the blame not only the United States, but also on the Europeans who didn't involve themselves in the discussion early enough.
The European Union needs to draw the consequences from this, create stronger institutions and appoint a stronger European Foreign Minister
The prospect of an empowered Chris Patten sounds frightening at first, then again there's not much of an historical precedent for a pacifist superpower.

It all comes together in the final paragraph:

The position that conflicts should be resolved peacefully has nothing to do with cowardice or sentimentality. America, after all, has suffered far fewer catastrophic wars than Europe has. The Americans have never had a Verdun on their continent. The USA has never had anything comparable to Auschwitz or Stalingrad.
Interesting that Fischer should mention Verdun, Auschwitz and Stalingrad, all of which were started by, uh, his own country. If the only alternative to the old aggressive Germany is a wholly pacifist Germany, then I'll take the latter, thank you. Fischer isn't likely to get a world where the Saddam Husseins of the place are chided into complying with the Queensberry rules of international law. But at least the Americans and others who are in a position to confront tyranny and defend freedom should feel comfortable to do what needs to be done while putting Franco-German pacifist-aggression in its proper perspective.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:51 AM
March 22, 2003
Here and There, Mar. 22

CNN TV is reporting (not yet online) that a single U.S. soldier is suspected in the grenade attack on U.S. troops in Kuwait that left 13 wounded. It was an astonishing moment watching Aaron Brown receive this news on the air from the Financial Times' Charles Clover. Brown was incredulous and wore a pregnant expression, straining not to ask the obvious question: Was the soldier a member of the Religion of Peace?

UPDATE The answer is yes, the soldier is a member of the Religion of Peace. In a later CNN TV report (not online) the TIME magazine reporter embedded with the 101st Airborne said that the suspect (who confessed) had an "Arabic sounding last name" and apparently did it for political/religious motivations. CNN did not report the fact that the traitor was a Black Muslim

PeakTalk reports on the latest spotting of our old friend, Gretta [Regretta?] Duisenberg.

San Francisco Trifecta this story pushes all the right buttons in San Francisco, if nowhere else

About 500 lesbians used the occasion of their first public pride march Friday to protest the war in Iraq as opposition politicians blocked the U.S. Consulate in Acapulco and dozens of anti-war demonstrators camped out in front of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.
Yeah, a story about lesbian Mexican Saddam supporters may be a non-sequitur, but it's also the essence of San Francisco.

Click here for the Cartoon of the Week. Erin O'Connor provides the context.

An astonishing tale of racial sensitivity and poltical correctness run amok

Spoiled brats: San Francisco Saddam supporters who were arrested for antisocial behavior are complaining about the lack of comforts in jail

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:58 PM
Bahgdad by the Bay

Betrayed by the spelling. Another indication that the San Francisco "peace" movement is being directed by this guy:

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:45 AM
Fisking the Chancellor

Robert Berdahl is Chancellor of the University of California - Berkeley. He is also Professor of History in a department which is ranked as the #3 History Dept. in the United States.

Chancellor Berdahl, in his role as an historian, wrote the following op-ed, which appeared in Thursday's San Francisco Chronicle.

Questioning the Motives for War
Iraq and the lessons of history

The historical references made by the Bush administration in support of a war with Iraq offer some lessons in the use and abuse of history.

The reader will find in the op-ed plenty of lessons in the abuse of history, but none of them emanate from the Bush administration.
Members of the administration have made repeated references to the appeasement by England and France prior to 1939, ignoring the fact that appeasement involved allowing Hitler to occupy Austria, the Sudetenland and then the rest of Czechoslovakia. The lesson of the 1930s is the importance of collective action to resist aggression, a lesson employed by America and its allies during the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War. There is no historical analog from the 1930s, however, that would call for an invasion of Iraq in the absence of any act of aggression by Iraq.

The analogy between the UN Security Council's failure to enforce its own resolutions against Iraq with the League of Nations' failures of the 1930s is spot on. It was the failure of the League in 1935 and 1936 to confront Italy's invasion of Abyssinia and Hitler's rearmament in violation of the Treaty of Versailles that encouraged Hitler to go on to occupy the Rhineland, for starters. Like Hitler in 1935, Saddam has armed himself in violation of his treaty obligations. And the UN today has less of an excuse for inaction than the League had in the 1930s. The 1935 Hitler merely announced his intentions to expand his Reich. Saddam already has a substantial track record of aggression, including the invasions of Iran and Kuwait, and the horrendous abuse of Iraqi civilians. To deal with him as if none of this happened and under the assumption that he will not engage in future aggression would be the height of foolishness.

The lesson for me is that, yes, "collective action" is essential for resisting aggression, but only when implemented through a collective of the willing and not through an ineffectual league of unwilling nations.

A historical reference not mentioned by the Bush administration that we might wish to consider now is 1914. After terrorists assassinated the Archduke of Austria and his wife, Austria demanded the right to punish anti-Austrian terrorists in Serbia. Although Serbia acceded to most of the demands, Austria declared war anyway, thereby drawing all of Europe into World War I.
It's hard to see the relevance of World War I Europe to the current war. The assassination of the Archduke may have been the proximate act of violence prior to the outbreak of all out war, but the longstanding rivalry between France and Germany was building toward war for decades. [Go back and reread the first part of the Guns of August] How does the analogy of the great power machinations of 1914 map onto today's world? Berdahl doesn't say.
A war that was to be quick and easy lasted four years, claimed 9 million lives, and defined the fault-lines of European conflict for the rest of the century.
The first few days of World War I saw Germans plundering the Belgian countryside and committing atrocities against civilians. The first few days of the liberation of Iraq show Iraqi civilians embracing the American liberators. And the fault lines of World War I were not the fault lines for the rest of the century. The fault lines of European conflict during World War I were (basically) drawn between France, England and Russia on one side and Germany, Austria and Turkey on the other. After World War II the fault lines were Western Europe and Turkey vs. Russia
The repercussions of an American invasion of Iraq are liable to be worldwide and last for many years.
Of course there will be repercussions. That's the whole point.
Another historical fact absent from the administration's history lesson is the fact that the CIA helped Saddam Hussein's Baath Party seize the government in 1963, after which Saddam Hussein joined in perpetrating the bloodbath that followed. Also ignored is the manner in which Saddam Hussein was supported and armed by the United States during the 1980s.
To the extent that the United States had anything more to do with helping Saddam than did, say, France, Germany and Russia, it's our responsibility to fix whatever problem we might have mistakenly exacerbated. That's what we're doing. Why aren't those other countries that helped Saddam doing anything to fix the mess they helped create?
Members of the administration have repeatedly quoted Santayana's famous admonition, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." The question is, what is relevant history and how do we learn from it?

We learn not by seeking events that seem to parallel those in our own time, but by examining the long sweep of history, by studying how oppressive regimes, in fact, ultimately change without the necessity of war to overthrow them. Dictatorships, when contained, eventually collapse.

Yes, all civilizations eventually collapse, including dictatorships. And "In the long run," as Keynes said, "we're all dead". Any dictatorship that deserves to collapse, deserves to collapse quickly and it will collapse more quickly with outside pressure.
This certainly is a lesson of the history of the 20th century. We did not go to war to prevent Stalin or Mao, also dictators responsible for the deaths of millions of their own people, from developing weapons of mass destruction. We contained them. The Soviet Union ultimately imploded and China today is a major trading partner of the United States.
Containment was more apropos during the Cold War for a couple of reasons that do not apply to Iraq and the rest of the Arab world: first, the USSR and China were too large and powerful to confront directly. We probably should have prevented both countries from obtaining nuclear weapons had we been able to. But we didn't do it in time. Second, both countries had the good sense not to blow up US embassies or to fly airplanes into US office buildings. The various Arab and Islamic psychopathologies show less willingness to restrain themselves from attacking us than the USSR did. The opportunity to prevent the long-term threats from growing out of control is now, before they acquire the means to deter us from effective self-defense.
History teaches that international affairs are complex and rarely yield to black-and-white divisions of good and evil.
If the Soviet Union, the Third Reich and Ba'athist Iraq are not as close as human beings get to perpetrating evil, then what is?
And we learn that justice is ultimately served by adherence to the rule of law and not by states that arbitrarily grant themselves the right to stand above or outside of the established practices of international law.
If only there were a deus ex machina to enforce "international law". But there never has been and there never will be. And the lesson, again, from the failure of the League of Nations in the 1930s, and the failure of the UN to deter, say, the Soviet Union and Arab aggression during the Cold War is that "international law" is hardly a deterrent to those who need to be deterred.
The extension of democracy in the world has not come from the barrel of a gun, but from the extension of the rule of law.
Now forgive me, Professor, because I was a simple math major in college, not a history major. So I'm not current on all the fundamental principles of modern historical scholarship, such as "the long sweep of history". And it might be that sophisticated historians no longer bother with petty details such as names, dates and causal relationships. But here's a question that I've been pondering lately on the subject of gun barrels vs. the "extension of the rule of law". You might be able to help me answer it:

Did the adoption of the United States Constitution in 1787 lead to the military defeat of Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781 and the subsequent withdrawal of British forces from the Thirteen Colonies, or was it the other way around?

In the 20th century, we have learned that the determination of people to control their own destiny is ultimately stronger than the empires that have dominated them.
Absolutely, and oppressed people (like Iraqis) appreciate outside help (like ours) to overthrow those who dominate them.
Jonathan Schell has splendidly summarized this lesson in the March issue of Harper's magazine: "If force remained the essence of power and the final arbiter in politics, then the British today would rule India, the United States would preside over South Vietnam, the apartheid regime would survive in South Africa, the Communist Party would rule over the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union would rule over Eastern Europe. That none of these things is the case testifies to the capacity of cooperative power to defeat superior force."
Splendid indeed, but wrong. I'm not quite sure what Schell means by "cooperative power", but force alone is not a sufficient condition to retain power. The willingness to apply force is also required. And what characterizes the situations in the quote above is not so much the presence of force, but the loss of the willingness to apply force. Since Saddam appears to retain the willingness to apply force [or at least he did a few days ago], countervailing force is required to defeat him.
The lesson of history is that we cannot make ourselves safe or secure by reliance on military superiority alone, as the Bush Doctrine presumes, but by aligning ourselves with the hopes of people everywhere for peace, economic justice, the rule of law and freedom from oppression.
Yes, but contrary to what the Chancellor implies, that is precisely what we are doing.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:00 AM
March 21, 2003
Arab Reaction to the War

In Cairo, thousands of protesters took to the streets on Thursday to protest the liberation of Iraq. There were also violent protests in Yemen

Meanwhile, among those Arabs who have actually tasted the privilege of life under Saddam: Der Spiegel cites a Kuwaiti public opinion poll that says 89.6% of Kuwaitis support the war to depose Saddam. Today's New York Times reports that in Iraq itself:

In Safwan, just across the border with Kuwait in southern Iraq, civilians greeted the First Marine Division with cheers today as they entered the town.
Go figure.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:58 AM
Shock and Awe?

Who says the revolution will not be televised? I've been watching the 24 hr. non-stop coverage of the liberation of Iraq on CNN. Fortunately, so far, it has turned out to be one of the least dramatic wars of my lifetime. There seems to be more violent resistance to Saddam's ouster in downtown San Francisco than in Iraq itself. May the war continue to be both boring and short.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:10 AM
March 20, 2003
Here and There, Mar. 20

Think Different The man who didn't invent the Internet joins the board of the computer company that didn't invent the mouse and the graphical user interface.

That'll teach 'em Thanks to Bill Herbert for sending the link to this MPEG file [4.5MB] of some Tomahawk missiles launching from the USS Bunker Hill.

Joseph Leitmann updates: "10 minutes ago, about 40 cops in full riot gear/combat mood assembled outside the office on the street to go and confront all those idiots (Saddam lovers) who have made downtown a horrible place today."

and Who says this "civil disobedience" doesn't threaten public safety? I just called the San Francisco Police Department (please, no giggling) to report a neighborhood crime issue. The weary officer who answered the phone grumbled back: "Sir, what do you have, cause we're really busy."

"I tried to appease you and this is the thanks I get?" Traces of the poison ricin have been found inside a locker at a railway station in Paris, according to the French interior ministry.

Perceptions Gap The current online poll at the Arabic language Al-Jazeera asks: "Do you believe that America will use chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in its war against Iraq?" 78.8% answered YES.

"It's insane downtown" e-mails Joseph Leitmann from his office in San Francisco's financial district. "Thought you would want to know all those idiots are blocking every major intersection down here..." The San Francisco Chronicle has more

Welcome to The Command Post, a new war blog. Organized by Michele and Alan with a cast of contributors.

Cracks in the Berlin-Baghdad Axis? Germany has expelled a number of Iraqi "diplomats" for non-specific "activities inconsistent with diplomatic status"

Al Barger doubts that Saddam's live speech last night was really a live Saddam. I also suspected it was a body double. Those coke bottle glasses betrayed him. The man who read the speech looked less like a ruthless dictator than an Ernie Kovacs character. Percy Dovetonsils in uniform.
Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:18 PM
March 19, 2003
It's Time!

What time is it? It's 5pm PST (8pm EST) March 19, 2003 (4am Baghdad Time March 20) and it's time to you know what

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:00 PM
Terrorism 101

Today's San Francisco Chronicle carried a report about Washington's Evergreen State College, home of Rachel "Kill me with your bulldozer and make a martyr, please" Corrie. The report, by Jim Lynch of the Newhouse News Service, does not seem to be available online. Some extracts:

Headline: Evergreen College Cultivates Activists
Subhead: Student died in Gaza practicing lessons learned in classroom

Corrie was one of the most ardent student activists at the Evergreen State College, which, unlike most public universities, unabashedly encourages students not to wait until they graduate to get aggressively involved in local, national and even international causes.
The "aggressive involvement" tends to involve the use of physical intimidation and other illegal activities. In other words, the school is essentially a terrorist training camp, paid for by the taxpayers of Washington state.
So many Evergreen students participated in the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle that the Olympia campus was almost abandoned. Last year, 17 students and a teacher were expelled from Mexico after some of them carried machetes during a May Day protest with angry farmers. Earlier this month, 25 students cornered Evergreen's president in his office to demand that he publicly denounce a U.S. military invasion of Iraq.
To the president's credit, he did not accede to all of the extortionists' demands
Evergreen clearly attracts activist students, and the college suffers from the image that enveloped it after its student body picked convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal to give a commencement address in 1999
It's not immediately obvious what public purpose justifies the $60 million in (mostly) state and (some) federal grants [pdf] this terrorism "college" receives this year. On the other hand, maybe it's not a bad idea to concentrate all of these misfits and lunatics in one place. Especially if they are so easily persuaded to throw themselves against the heavy machinery of foreign armies.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:50 PM
Here and There, Mar. 19

Ze'ev Schiff says that Colin Powell made a big mistake back in 1991

the Iraqi army was in a terrible state. Some of the Republican Guard divisions were trapped in Basra, between the rivers. It was easy to corral them in the pocket and then bomb them from the air. There was no need for a sweeping invasion of Iraq or for reaching Baghdad. A powerful air attack would have been enough, and two or three days of a massive air assault on Iraqi forces would have led to a genuine victory, since the Republican Guards were always Saddam's main power base. But Gen. Powell rejected that opportunity. Now those divisions comprise the main force that Saddam Hussein has concentrated near Baghdad to conduct the major battle against the Americans. Fate ironically is punishing Powell for his mistake - what he didn't want to do in 1991 he'll have to agree to do now, at a much higher price.

After Baghdad and Pyongyang, the single most serious threat to our national security is in Redmond

An identified security vulnerability in Microsoft® Windows® 2000 could allow an attacker to take control of your computer.

Debra Saunders, the resident Woman of Clue on the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial page, interviews U.S. Ambassador to France Howard Leach.

by signaling that it would not authorize force, "All France did, in my opinion, is make military action more likely."

Why is France doing this?

"The French have a history of protecting Iraq. Why, I don't know."


When this is over, will France have a part in reconstructing Iraq?

That, Leach said, the United Nations will decide. He added, "Would France like a role? Yes. Will they have a role? I don't know."

"The United Nations will decide". Teehee. Chiraq is hoist, as they say, on his own petard.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:15 PM
Israel on the Eve of War

Commentary from my father, Hebrew University political scientist Ira Sharkansky

I sat by this machine this morning touching up some writing about the prophet Jeremiah while Varda was in the next room putting plastic sheeting on the windows. If you don't get the point, open up the Hebrw Bible and start reading. Jeremiah describes a setting when Judea was caught between Babylon and Egypt. The king and his court wanted to continue paying tribute to Egypt, while the prophet bet on Babylon. "Bet" isn't the right word. In characteristic fashion, the prophet screamed his message at the crowds and the elites. Babylon was further away, but more powerful and more insistent on running things in the neighborhood.

I expect that the US will be a more reliable ally. In Jeremiah's day, Egypt funked out and Babylon did its thing. The next chapter is in the Book of Lamentations.

Today is also Purim in Jerusalem. Twelve years ago the war ended on this day. I usually go to a synagogue only under duress, but not then. It was delightful reading the Book of Esther while the Iraqi Haman licked his wounds. This time the tension may remain until Passover. Perhaps the Iraqi Haman won't have a tongue to lick with when it's all over.

Tamar brought a costume to her army post this morning. Preparations for war shouldn't stop a Purim party. The cadets of Mattan's unit considered donning generals' insignia as a holiday gesture, but decided against it in order to avoid the possibility of military prison. It's never certain whether a sergeant will laugh or apply the rules.

We've heard the nonsense from Babylon: that the Israelis, Americans, and British are preparing to invade. Crowds in Europe and North America are echoing the same slogans urged on by ranking politicians and media personalities.

The Books of Jeremiah and Lamentations are suggestive, but misleading as to what is going on here and now. Present-day Babylon can commit suicide, and perhaps throw a bit of poison around the neighborhood as a final gesture. If attacked, today's Judea can destroy Babylon. But it will defer to the pride of the Americans and let them do the job. Israel will also seek to maintain its reputation for moderation and keep its heavy weapons in their bunkers. Among other problems, it wouldn't do to radiate American troops on their way to Bagdad. Our modesty won't keep the crazies of the west from blaming us for what happens to Iraq, but we can only guard our own sanity, not theirs.

It's been raining, and when I look to the east I see a rainbow over the Judean desert. Maybe there is peace at the end. When is the end?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:07 PM
Trading Places

I just realized this morning how many similarities exist between Baghdad (Iraq) and San Francisco (nickname: Baghdad by the Bay).

For example, you would not want to send your children to public school in either San Francisco or Baghdad. The Iraq Daily newspaper publishes incoherent editorials demonizing George W Bush as a warmonger while lionizing France, Russia, and China for their efforts to keep Saddam in power. The same can be said about the San Francisco Chronicle.

On any given day you can find thugs parading through the streets of both San Francisco and Baghdad expressing hatred of the United States and support for Islamic fascism. And anti-semitic riots occur not only in Baghdad but also in San Francisco.

The leaders of the two cities have a number of shocking similarities. For starters, both are snappy dressers with a fetish for silly hats:

San Francisco Mayor Wille BrownIraqi President Saddam Hussein
Willie Brown is an accomplished ladies man, as is Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein grew up in poverty and joined the socialist Ba'ath party as a youth. A master of patronage and intrigue, he gradually took over the Ba'ath party which became his personal machine for running Iraq as a one-party state. Likewise, Willie Brown grew up in poverty in East Texas and joined the socialist Democratic party as a youth. A master of patronage and intrigue, he gradually took over the local Democratic party which became his personal machine for running San Francisco as a one-party city.

Saddam Hussein distributes jobs and kickbacks to his clansmen from the "Tikrit mafia". Willie Brown takes care of his own homeboys. On the other side of the balance sheet, Saddam executes disloyal subordinates. Willie Brown uses admittedly more subtle means to destroy those who cross him.

Most intriguing is that both Saddam and Willie are facing term limits. Willie's term as mayor ends in January 2004. His recent attempts to find a new job have not been successful. Saddam's term ends on March 19, 2003 at 5pm San Francisco time. His future job prospects do not look promising. And therein lies the opportunity and the perfect solution to the various crises in Iraq and San Francisco: Let Saddam and Willie trade places! Willie Brown would be appointed military governor of Iraq, while Saddam would run for mayor of San Francisco. After all, only a country at least the size of Iraq could contain Willie's ego. Saddam, on the other hand, is a sure vote getter as the most popular man in San Francisco; witness the hundreds of thousands of people who fill the streets every weekend to demonstrate on his behalf.

Imagine some of benefits that would accrue to Iraq under Willie and to Baghdad (by the Bay) under Saddam. Take the respective police forces, for example. Willie could apply his San Francisco police management style to make the Iraqi secret police a little less zealous. On the other hand, Saddam could teach the SFPD a thing or two about foiling an investigation.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:35 AM

... felicitations and a hearty Mazal Tov are due to two friends of mine:

to Peter Wayner on the recent birth of his son, who is also called Peter Wayner!

and to Adam Finkelstein for being awarded tenure at Princeton! And while you're at Adam's website, be sure to follow the link to the hilarious spoof menu from Caffe Lardo -- Seattle's Least Visited Coffee House

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
March 18, 2003
Multinational Unilateralism Watch

Several more countries have joined the "unilateral" alliance to liberate Iraq, including Japan, Australia and Poland

UPDATE Colin Powell said today that 30 nations have publicly expressed that they would be part of the coalition, with 15 others indicating private support. The 30 nations are:
Czech Republic
El Salvador
South Korea
United Kingdom

UPDATE 2 the Telegraph reminds us that when you add in the various countries that agreed to overflight rights and troop bases, the list also includes:
Saudi Arabia
United Arab Emirates
Now how's that for Arab brotherhood!

Never before has "going it alone" felt so unlonely.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:01 PM
The Prime of Miss Rachel Corrie

I've been reading the various press accounts of Hamas soldier Rachel Corrie's weekend suicide by bulldozer. The following links are courtesy of the bravely anonymous "Hesiod" ( Charlotte Observer, Seattle Post Intelligencer, The Olympian, and International Solidarity Movement which organized her suicide vacation); There is also this report from NPR, and one from the San Francisco Chronicle

Most of these reports describe Corrie as a "peace activist" and/or a non-violent "organizer", and not, say, as someone who tried to use her body as a weapon to prevent an anti-terrorist military operation.

What would cause an otherwise promising young woman to flush her own life down the toilet on behalf of psychotic terrorists in a foreign country? As far as I can tell she was a victim. A victim of parents who failed to teach her the difference between right and wrong:

"We were very proud of her," said [her father] Craig Corrie. "We're very proud of her courage and what she stood for."

"I've raised my children to be independent and to make their choices," said Cindy Corrie as she held a photo of Rachel in front of her. "And I know that I couldn't tell her not to go."

Rachel was also the victim of her parents deluded sense of false security that the US government exists in order to protect overprivileged college children from their own decisions to join terrorist organizations
Rachel Corrie sent her parents e-mail updates that hinted at the danger she faced, causing them to worry that the U.S. government was not doing enough to protect American citizens.
Finally, the impressionable young Rachel Corrie was the victim of her (state-funded) social-activist anti-university, where Corrie was sent off to her death by her revolutionary professors, as was Mary McGregor in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
"I talked to her a couple of times when she was planning her trip," [Middle East Studies professor Therese] Saliba said. "She was a leader on campus and in the peace movement. She was a bright student and a clear-thinking person."

Evergreen professor Anne Fischel, who taught political economics to Corrie, said she was struggling to accept that a woman so devoted to peace had died such a violent, senseless death.

Maybe, Anne, you could teach the future Rachel Corries of the world that there are better ways to work for peace than to burn the American flag and defend the "rights" of Hamas to murder innocent people.

UPDATE (Mar 19) I have more on Evergreen State "College"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:33 AM
March 17, 2003
Here and There, Mar. 17

There is a chance that diplomacy and negotiations will resolve the crisis, after all.

A former Iraqi general who defected to Denmark has disappeared. Is he taking part in a covert operation to help topple Saddam? Or has he been kidnapped and murdered by Saddam's agents?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:34 PM
Talking Turkey

Turkey will soon reconsider a resolution to permit the US military to use Turkish bases to open a northern front against Iraq. A Der Spiegel report implies that this may be merely a formality. New Premier Erdogan, backed by the Turkish military, is believed to have already cut a secret deal with Washington. US supply ships have been unloading at the port of Iskenderun for several days now with long caravans of troops and equipment making their way toward bases near the Iraqi front. The English language Turkish Press website has part of the story.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:08 PM
Celebrities for Genocide

"One need not be a scholar of international law to know that war at this time and in this place is unwelcome, unwise and simply wrong." -- Martin Sheen, L.A. Times, March 17, 2003

"I am an American now, and I have been educated to respect the right to free expression by any citizen, a right no member of my family enjoyed when we lived in Iraq. I know from personal experience that the Hollywood actors who decry action against Hussein are really opposing the liberation of the Iraqi people. I wish they would praise the American troops in the field or just stay silent.

There is only one measure of comfort to be found in their statements: When Iraq is finally liberated, these actors will learn that they have never spoken for the people of Iraq." -- Iraqi-born American and member of Women For a Free Iraq Esra Naama, L.A. Times, March 17, 2003

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:51 PM
Womyn's Hystery Watch

Womyn's hystery professor , San Francisco Chronicle columnist and accidental comedienne Ruth Rosen says that the war in Iraq is all about oil, "explaining" that

George W. Bush, a Texas oil man whose inner circle has become reckless with dreams of American power, has now made the removal of Hussein the goal of our new pre-emptive war policy.

This is why many people now feel that American strategic concerns are too influential in shaping our foreign policy.

Rosen apparently feels that American foreign policy must never be shaped by American strategic concerns, and should instead by shaped by Iraqi and Chiraqi strategic concerns.
Our nation, add critics, would not be bribing and threatening other countries and preparing to violate international law if Iraq's major export were almonds.
If all we wanted out of this was oil, we would have an easier time of it by invading Canada, which long ago neutered its military and where (according to Michael Moore) the people don't even lock their doors. If Iraq's major export were almonds, it wouldn't be able to afford Chiraq's weapons in the first place, and none of this would have been necessary.

WOMYN'S HYSTERY UPDATE Do a google search for the phrase "womyn's hystery". You will find links to the Shark Blog entries that skewer Ruth Rosen. You will also find a link to Rosen's faculty home page at UC-Davis!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:50 PM
Democrats on National Security

Yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle compares the positions of local Democratic Congressmen Tom Lantos and Nancy Pelosi regarding the Iraq crisis. House Democrat leader Pelosi says

I do not believe that going to war now is the best way to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction
On the other hand she doesn't actually tell us what is the best way to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, so I assume that it entails, for example, keeping Saddam in power.

Lantos, on the other hand, says

The only rational question to ask is whether you prefer to confront (Hussein) before he obtains nuclear weapons, or after?
"Fifty-one million people died in World War II," said Lantos, who survived [the war] with the help of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. "Had Hitler been stopped in 1937, these men, women and children would have lived a lifetime in peace."

Ironically, Lantos believes the protests and opposition by nations like France, Russia and Germany have increased the chances of war by giving Hussein the mistaken impression that the world supports him.

"I am convinced that the peace position is a position of strength -- that vacillation and weakness . . . only encourages totalitarian regimes to be more aggressive," Lantos said.

You can add Pelosi to the list of those who make war more likely.
She argues that Hussein, while evil, does not pose an imminent threat, and that the United States -- and much of the world -- will be in greater jeopardy if Bush orders an attack.
Pelosi doesn't explain why she thinks we would lower the risk to our security by encouraging Saddam to accumulate enough serious weapons to really hurt somebody. But if the Pelosi Democrats ever regain control of US foreign policy, I think it's safe to say that the only people who will not be in greater jeopardy are the world's brutal tyrants who Pelosi is pouring out of her dress to appease.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:30 AM
March 16, 2003
Here and There, Mar. 16

American Hamas soldier Rachel Corrie opted to martyr herself today while bravely fighting for the cause of Islamic tyranny and terrorism.

Saddam Hussein denies having any weapons of mass destruction, while also implying that if attacked, he will hit back with weapons of mass destruction.

Delegates at a California Ba'ath Party convention booed loudly when North Carolina Senator John Edwards said he supported the use of force in a showdown with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. They briefly shouted down Edwards with cries of "No war! No war!". On the other hand, the delegates gave Tawana Brawley conman Al Sharpton a standing ovation for his impassioned plea to keep Saddam in power.

The front page headline of today's San Francisco Chronicle read Thousands protest liberation as hope for Saddam fades (Well okay, that's not exactly what it said. But I think my version is more accurate than the actual headline)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:32 PM
The Global Saddamite Conspiracy

Here are just a few pictures from the weekend's peace (for Saddam) rallies.

The intellectual leader of the San Francisco Saddam Fan Club, above; and his celebrity spokesman, below

Meanwhile, some of our friends in Japan have an innovative re-interpretation of 20th century history

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:38 AM
March 15, 2003
Here and There, Mar. 15

The San Francisco Chronicle suddenly departs from Mrs. Robert Scheer's pro-Saddam editorial policy with an actual front page report from Baghdad.

one [Iraqi at a Baghdad mosque] pulled aside a reporter. "Don't believe anything anyone says here, because we all know that your translator is a government spy," he said. "We'll only say good things about Saddam to you. But 90 percent of us want Saddam to go. We'll cheer the Americans if they come and get rid of him."

Looking nervously around him, he continued: "We want all these regime people to be killed."

Go figure.

Meanwhile, today's Chronicle has another story with the headline Germans across political spectrum tongue-lash America; Anti-war fever feeds distaste toward U.S.. As the careful reader will notice, the only "political spectrum" the story refers to is: political figures from the unpopular leftist governing coalition, a feminist, and a theologian who blames the United States for starting the Iran-Iraq war. It is true that a majority of Germans oppose the war, but this story scrupulously ignores the fact that the German political spectrum includes the opposition center-right Christian Democrats (who are troucing the governing coalition in regional elections and in national public opinion polls) and whose leaders support Bush and the war and are distancing themselves from Chiraq. To its credit, the article also contains quotes from Iraqi exiles in Germany who don't think much of the "leave Saddam alone" crowd:

When Family Minister Renate Schmidt, a Social Democrat from Bavaria, enthusiastically praised the Berlin marchers on another talk show for "standing up against a terrible, totally unjustifiable war," she was challenged by journalist Namo Azis.

"All these demonstrations are not in the interest of the Iraqi people, who for years have been terrorized, raped, brutalized," he said.

Looking at the flustered Schmidt, Azis added, "The German government is very short-sighted, and it's not surprising that Chancellor Schroeder and Foreign Minister (Joschka) Fischer have been cheered for their anti-war stance by Iraq's government-controlled press."

Go figure.

While the German government is still firm in its public opposition to the war against Iraq, it is also quietly preparing for a post-Saddam peacekeeping role, Der Spiegel reports. Which kind of suggests that (a) Schroeder has incomplete confidence in Chiraq's plan to keep Saddam in power, and (b) the anti-Bushies who keep whining about not having the support of the international community to rebuild Iraq really are as clueless as you always knew they were.

Gil Shterzer has an update on the e-mail from a Danish Jew I posted last week. Gil confirms the e-mailer's story that Muslims in Denmark are publicly inciting the murder of Jews, with only scant consequences from the authorities.

Bill Herbert finds that cartoonist Ted Rall has sunk to a new low. Which is quite an accomplishment given the depths to which Rall has already sunk.

Self-described Useful Fool John Moore says: The UN is worse than useless. The headquarters building is symbolic of the whole enterprise. Furthermore, it sitting on valuable real estate in the United States, is full of people whose diplomatic immunity allows them to commit crimes, and is a base for espionage. Moore is operating a contest on his blog: "WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH U.N. HEADQUARTERS?"

I agree that the UN is currently worse than useless, and mainly because some people ascribe too much importance to it. I still think we should keep it around, but only as a talking shop, and without the expectation that it can actually accomplish anything. The best part about keeping the UN Headquarters in the US is that it is a base for espionage -- a base for the US to spy more easily on everybody else.

Al Barger is improving on "Eat an Animal for PETA Day" by an order of magnitude. We will hold Al accountable to tell us which ten species he consumes.

As for me, I already did my part for the "Eat an Animal for PETA Day" by having a big-ass salami sandwich for lunch.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:14 PM
March 14, 2003
San Francisco Protest Watch

Dozens of Saddam supporters were arrested Friday in what the San Francisco Chronicle calls "nonviolent civil disobedience actions" that knotted up morning rush-hour traffic in the Financial District. I would not use the term "non-violent" to describe those who use physical force to unlawfully detain people from going about their daily business.

Where else but San Francisco would you find people who are so full of blind hatred of the United States that they would serve as unpaid shills for Jacques Chiraq and his oil and weapons franchise with Saddam Hussein? KQED radio, the local NPR affiliate, was reporting (not online) that another group of Saddam supporters has started "French Frydays", where they patronize French cafe Cafe de la Presse every Friday to drink French wine and eat French cheeses.

UPDATE The San Francisco Chronicle has the story of the San Francisco Chiraquistas here

"A toast!" Lenoir said. "To the French people, for pushing their government to support peace. Vive la France!"
I have no doubt that Lenoir would have said the exact same thing back in 1938.

On a saner note, KQED was also reporting that several dozen Iraqi immigrants were demonstrating in front of the Federal Building to support the war against Saddam. "The Iraqi people can't do this by themselves" one of them said on the air, "they need America's help".

I hope to be there when the pro-American Iraqi immigrants stop by to visit with the pro-Saddam demonstrators...

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:34 PM
The Regime of Oil and Blood

Der Spiegel 's Markus Deggerich has some very interesting reports from Baghdad these days. I translated the following report on Saddam's Baath Party, titled "The Dictator's Pool of Cadres". I add some comments of my own at the bottom

The Arab Social Renewal Party "Ba'ath" originally promoted Arab unity. Its founders stood for the freedoms of speech, assembly, belief and scholarship. But then came Saddam Hussein and turned the party into an instrument of power to control his own people.

Baghdad-- In the Baghdad slum called "Saddam City", there are only two places with any color: the market place with the fruit that most people can at best walk past with longing glances, and the freshly painted local Baath Party headquarters. Saddam's Baath Party: omnipresent as its secret agents that have inflitrated the society down to the last village. The modest prosperity that Saddam once bestowed upon his people was bought through the abandonment of freedom.

In every neighborhood the Party installs its administrators and inspectors. The "Mukhtar" serves as a kind of precinct captain. He is appointed by the Party. Necessary qualifications: He must have a good reputation in the neighborhood and at least a mid level education and be without a criminal record. Sama Heram is one such Mukthar, who sits in his garage and holds court. What is his role? "To regulate life", he explains tersely.

The citizens are monitored round the clock.

Whether one needs a school admission, to start a new job or to get a driver's license, everybody must first visit the Mukhtar to obtain proof of identity and address and for the incident to be recorded in a book. The Mukhtar also plays the role of small claims judge; and anybody in bad sniff with him can have a tough time in the neighborhood, for he is the safety net.

At the moment, the Mukhtars are busy preparing their neighborhoods for the war. They dig wells and clean their guns. They will have an important role to play when its time to impose a curfew on the city.

Baath, Iraq's nationalist and socialist ruling party, had big plans at first. The name translates as "rebirth" -- as in a renaissance of pan-Arab socialism. The Party's 1947 charter promises a political paradise on earth. "The Arabs form a single nation. It is their natural right to live in a single state and to freely develop their potential." The "Arab Fatherland" should be a "political and economic unit". The regime is founded on the sovereignty of the people. The freedoms of speech, assembly, belief and scholarship are sanctified.

That was the dream of the Party of Arab Socialist Revival that two Syrians brought to life early in the last century. The Orthodox Christian Michel Aflaq (1900-1989) and the Sunni Muslim Salah ad-Din al-Bitar (1912-1980) were taken with the ideas of European nationalism and wanted to revive the Arab nation. In practice, however, it led to a dearth of freedom and a lot of death.

Saddam Hussein used the nationalist and socialist Baath Party for his rise to power and then turned it into to an omnipresent instrument of power to control his people. In the party museum, which, in contrast to other architectural monstrosities of the personality cult, is surprising small, the party commemorates its revolutionary days. In front of the door is a 1954 VW Beetle that was once used for distributing pamphlets to the masses.

Rule by family clans

Baath, which actually wanted to organize itself as a pan-Arab movement, fell under the rule of family clans in Iraq and of officers in Syria. Saddam and his sons Uday and Qusay as well as their cousins and relatives have ruled Iraq with a firm hand. Next to the party headquarters there is still a statue of founder Michel Aflaq, who was powerless to resist the perversion of his idea.

Nothing is left of the promised "sovereignty of the people". Even [former East German dictator] Erich Honecker would have been envious of the few "elections" that take place in Iraq. In 1995 Saddam put out ballot boxes. That was the year his power was challenged by the defection of his son-in-law and cousin Hussein Kamal. Saddam was reconfirmed with 99% of the vote. He promised amnesty to his cousin, who was naive enough to return and be murdered.

High election returns have the disadvantage that they are hard to improve upon. Now that Saddam fears unrest in light of the American invasion, his subordinates had to confirm his leadership with 100% of the vote in October 2002.

Saddam simultanously holds the offices of State President, Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, and the Commander-in-Chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces. While his regime originally legitimized itself with revolutionary ideology and reverted to traditional Islamic or "anti-Zionist" parterns for legitimacy, in the 1990s the Iraqi leadership tried to legitimize itself more and more with formal democratic and constitutional means.

From a party to a pool of cadres

The politically powerless Iraqi National Assembly is comprised of 250 delegates, including 165 Ba'ath deputies. But Hussein is no longer interested in the Party and its ideology. In his personality cult it serves him only as a pool of cadres and a structure for discipline.

Nevertheless there is a wide range of attitudes among the people toward their leader. Before the dictator got it in his head to use the force of arms to persuade other countries of his abilities, Hussein had won over many people in Iraq for having one of the best education and health care systems and nutrition programs in the Arab world. The fact that all of that barely functions anymore, Hussein deftly blames on the UN sanctions, for creating intolerable conditions.

But certainly not for the elite. With oil smuggling, about one percent of the people keep living like kings. On the streets of Baghdad one sees the latest models from the auto factories of Stuttgart [VW/Audi, Mercedes] and Munich [BMW], while the common taxi drivers, for want of spare parts, hold their creaking jalopies together with sticky tape and prayers.

Iraq was once the intellectual center of the Orient. In the 1970s the country had the most people with academic degrees. In Baghdad the first center for political consultancy was founded. "Today it is very difficult to even get any books that are less than 30 years old", says Doctor Adi, who teaches at Baghdad University. The embargo has led to an intellectual genocide. His students, who once would have been the leadership elite of the future, are hungry for any sort of information. Any foreigner who wanders onto the campus would be warmly besieged and questioned, if only for the latest world soccer scores.

It is hard to get ahead in Iraq without a Party membership card. Many simply sign the application forms out of convenience, fewer out of conviction. The masses of members now fear that they'll have a tough time after a war. They casually ask foreigners whether the Americans will kill them all. After they hear about German de-Nazification or state pensions for former East German Stasi workers, they breathe a little easier.

An American attack would be seen as unfair

Many are simply tired. For twenty years they have faced the threat of the quick death of war, or the creeping death of the sanctions. Although they know the brutality with which Saddam holds on to power, they feel that an American attack would be an unjust war of colonization. After the months-long war of words, they simply hope that it will be over quickly.

Others portray a calm that is at odds with reality. Director Ahmad Saadoun plans to repaint and expand the Baath Museum. Too many interesting items of party history lie underappreciated around the country and are begging to be shown to the public, he says almost nostalgically. Iraq has also changed since the Kuwait war, and has become more relaxed and open, he says with hope in his voice.

It may be that after a war the history of the Baath in Iraq is finished and a completely different set of memories would be on display. Not everybody counts on it. For in Iraq, there have been too many wounded and too many people have simply disappeared. "Constitutional state" and "human rights" are foreign words for too many Iraqis. The prisons and torture chambers are notorious. Amnesty International estimates that since the Baath regime came to power in 1968, around three million people have been executed. Up to five million, or 15% of the population have fled from Saddam's bloodhounds into exile. Saddam's grandeur and welfare state are built on oil and blood.

I wasn't able to verify the claim of "three million executed" on Amnesty International's site. Amnesty has a whole page of links to documents on Iraq but I haven't yet come across such a concise box score. But whatever the actual headcount, the number of lives destroyed by Saddam and the Baath is overwhelming.

Which leads me to wonder about all the dire predictions about urban warfare and other doomsday scenarios of Iraqis fighting with gusto to uphold the Baathist nightmare. You have to ask yourself (yes, especially you in the "peace" movement): "If I were an Iraqi living under such perverse conditions, and I had the opportunity to choose, would I prefer to (a) risk my life to save Saddam's regime, or (b) do what I could to hasten his demise?"

If I were certain that Saddam would emerge from the war with his machinery of fear, oppression and death still intact [the outcome that Chiraq and the appeaseniks seem to prefer], I might be cowed into going along with the crowd. But if it looked like Saddam and his cadres had an excellent chance of being eliminated [which seems like a safe bet when the Allies do the right thing], would I go out of my way to obstruct that outcome? I don't think that I would.

And to assume that the average Iraqi would think and act differently would be to assume that they are incapable of the same yearnings for a normal decent life that all the other peoples of falling tyrants throughout history have demonstrated. And why is it that so many in the self-described "peace" movement seem to believe that Iraqis are that much less human than the rest of us?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:30 AM
March 12, 2003
Here and There, Mar. 12

This sounds like an episode of Nash Bridges:

German investigators are examining documents found in Don Johnson's car that list transactions totaling $8 billion, a customs official said Wednesday.

Johnson's car was stopped for a routine check as he entered Germany from Switzerland in November with two other men, said Wolfgang Schmitz, a spokesman for German customs.

Useless Idiot Watch: A group of Useful Idiots turn out to be not so useful after all:

Five volunteers who went to Iraq to serve as ``human shields,'' including two Americans, were forced out of the country because they were critical of the government's choice of sites to protect, the head of the group said Wednesday.

They had chosen locations ``essential to the civilian population,'' such as food storage warehouses and water and electricity facilities, said Ken O'Keefe, of Haleiwa, Hawaii.

But the Iraqi government wanted the shields in more sensitive locations, he said. He did not elaborate, but some earlier activists have also left Iraq, reportedly after being told they would be posted at potentially strategic targets, such as oil refineries and power plants.

Go figure.

And just when we thought that he had left the stage, our old friend and Chief Idiotaryan Juergen Moellemann shows again that he is the Energizer Bunny of German politics. Moellemann is about to release a new book Klartext für Deutschland, (Straight-talk for Germany) where he bids farewell to the FDP and argues for the establishment of a new populist party. The most intriguingly silly revelation from the book's pre-publication reviews is Moellemann's claim that FDP chairman Guido Westerwelle was blackmailed by the Israeli Mossad so as to prevent Moellemann from becoming German foreign minister.

I took a hiatus from updating the website a few months ago when it looked like he was simply getting expelled from his party. But now that he's resumed his delusional rampage, I am back on the case!

Meanwhile over in Santa Monica, Moellemann's comrade in Saddamy, Robert Scheer, claims that "When bombs fall [on Iraq], U.S. will join ranks of war criminals".

The maiming or killing of a single Iraqi civilian in an attack by the United States would constitute a war crime, as well as a profound violation of the Christian notion of just war. That is because the recent report of the U.N. inspectors has made indelibly clear that disarmament is working and that Iraq at this time poses no direct threat to the well-being of the American people.
I'm sure that the families of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis already murdered, maimed and "disappeared" by Saddam appreciate Scheer's concern for every last Iraqi civilian. But somehow one gets the feeling that Scheer is more interested in throwing spitwads at George W Bush than he is in obtaining justice for Iraqi civilians. Otherwise why would he want Saddam to stay in power? And why isn't he demanding that the UN punish Saddam as a war criminal? Furthermore, Blix' most recent written report states:
"Unmovic has credible information that the total quantity of BW [biological warfare] agents in bombs, warheads and in bulk at the time of the Gulf war was 7,000 litres more than declared,"
And the report dismisses Iraq's claims to have destroyed its stocks of the agent 10 years ago. If Scheer thinks that this makes "indelibly clear" that disarmament is "working", then he either has an unconventional definition of "working" or he is pleased that the charade of disarmament is working for Saddam.

This latest Scheer column also appeared in today's San Francisco Chronicle. If the Chronicle had any integrity they would print a disclaimer beneath it stating: "The above column is Scheer nonsense, but we carry it anyway because Bob's wife is the third-highest ranking editor on our masthead "

And while we're on the subject of hollow accusations of war crimes and pointless appeals to international law a collection of British teachers of "international law" (including the aptly named Matthew Craven) wrote an op-ed claiming that using military force against Iraq without Security Council authorization would be illegal. One of these very useful barristers, Philippe Sands, argues that British troops involved in a military campaign in Iraq could face prosecution for war crimes. To which I ask: Who is going to enforce all of these wonderful international "laws"? The UN? It's not like a crew of blue-helmeted Cameroonians are going to descend on Whitehall to cart off the generals who liberated Iraq, any more than they are going to do anything to protect anybody from the Butcher of Baghdad who started this whole thing in the first place.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:41 PM
March 11, 2003
Here and There, Mar. 11

Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda: Saddam Hussein has opened a training camp for Arab volunteers willing to carry out suicide bombings against U.S. forces in case they invade Iraq, Arab media and Iraqi dissidents said Tuesday. (US officials have indicated they have no corroborating information on this). The appeasement camp will undoubtedly say that this is a good enough reason to call off the war altogether. Hopefully such camps, if they exist, will be among the first targets for the MOAB. The Jihad campers will at least get their wish of committing suicide and earning whatever merit badge goes along with that.

The French-owned Sofitel hotel chain has pulled the French flag from its North American properties in order not to offend its U.S. customers.

Meanwhile, a number of American eateries, including the House of Representatives cafeteria have stopped serving french fries and french toast. Instead they are now serving freedom fries and freedom toast!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:28 PM
Scapegoat Watch

"It is untrue that I or anyone else in Germany wanted the war in 1939. It was desired and instigated exclusively by those international statesmen who were either of Jewish descent or worked for Jewish interests." -- Final Political Testament of Adolf Hitler, April 1945

"If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going and I think they should." -- Rep. James Moran, D-VA, speaking at a Reston appeasement rally , March 3, 2003

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:52 AM
Womyn's Hystery Watch

Ruth Rosen, the San Francisco Chronicle's resident womyn's hystery professor and unreheated 1960s leftover, amuses us twice a week with her virtual bra burnings. In Monday's column, entitled American Burqa, Rosen equates the Victorian corset worn by some fetishists to the Afghan burqa

[American women's problem] is their slavish submission to constricting fashions that turn them into static Victorian adornments.

Call it the American burqa.

And even though the corset fad was in full bloom way back in the good old days of the woman-centered Clinton administration, Rosen somehow blames the corset on George W. Bush
I've wondered about the sudden popularity of this Victorian fashion... Has the Bush administration's impending war in Iraq stirred up nostalgia for the 19th century imperial ideal of a genteel lady, laced up in a corset, teetering on high-heeled shoes, in a regal gown?

I have no idea.

What I do know is this:

Fasten your seatbelts, you are about to ride on the zaniest non-sequitur of the new millenium:
Last week, even models in Milan tripped as they tottered down the runways. Eighteen months ago, one young woman, who successfully fled the World Trade Center, had to remove her high heels to run down three flights of stairs and across blocks of broken glass in order to save her life. And now, when our government is rushing into a senseless war and is attacking our civil liberties at home, is no time for women to give up their place as serious participants in public life.
Well, Ruthie, many women are serious participants in public life. But as long as the country's founding mothers of feminist "scholarship" argue that a small minority of women who voluntarily adopt certain silly fashions is morally equivalent to a compulsory dress code imposed under penalty of death, you can be certain that your ilk of feminist will not have a serious role in public life in your lifetime or mine.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:43 AM
March 10, 2003
Here and There, Mar. 10

Michael Moore won the Writer's Guild of America award for Best Original Screenplay for Bowling for Columbine, marking the first time that a "documentary" was even nominated for a WGA award. Then again, this may have been the first time that a work of fiction was fobbed off on the public as a documentary.

Saddam Hussein apparently continues to spend his government's healthcare budget on reward checks to the families of Palestinian suicide murderers. Jealous of Saddam's rising popularity among those to whom Jew-killing is a form of entertainment, Yassir Arafat has resumed sending checks to the families of dead and injured terrorists.

And speaking of Michael Moore,

Michel Jalbert of Pohenegamook, Quebec, was arrested in October after he crossed the border into Estcourt and failed to check in with customs. Border Patrol agents also found a .20-gauge shotgun that Jalbert said he had in his car for hunting.
Doesn't Moore want us to believe that guns are a uniquely American (and not a Canadian) problem? The punishment I recommend for Jalbert -- he should be forced to watch Bowling for Columbine -- with his eyelids pried open, Clockwork Orange-style.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:05 AM
A Polish Perspective on Iraq

Even the San Francisco Chronicle occasionally publishes op-eds that make sense. The following is from Polish writer and economist Andrzej Lubowski, a one-time Senior Fulbright Scholar and Knight Fellow at Stanford, now a banker in the Bay Area.

EUROPE, OLD AND NEW: Remembering France's Betrayal of Poland
Warsaw days - a perspective from the 'new Europe'

In Warsaw, too, most people hope war can be prevented. But Poles seem to understand the price of appeasement, inaction and never-ending debate much better than the French, the Belgians or the Germans.

As I walked through the neighborhoods where, as a child, I played in the rubble, I recalled how very few of my playmates had known their grandparents.

We were, after all, growing up in a country that lost one out of every six of its citizens in World War II -- a war that would have never happened if the international community had shown more unity, courage and respect for its own words.

In March 1935, when, in open and obvious violation of the Treaty of Versailles, Adolf Hitler reintroduced conscription, the League of Nations responded with "condemnation." A year later, an encouraged Hitler ordered his troops into the demilitarized Rhineland. A few months later, during the Olympics in Berlin, the Nazi regime presented to the world the picture of peace-loving Germany.

read the whole thing

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:58 AM
An Israeli Perspective on Iraq

From Jerusalem resident Marc Zell, Princeton '74, who sent the following contribution to his classmates' email debate on the conflict with Iraq. This letter is now making the rounds

To the class of '74 -

For what it's worth, I offer this perspective from the Middle East. I read Verne's and Howard's comments with great interest and yet with growing despair. They like many others in the United States and Europe are wrestling with serious ethical, legal and moral issues concerning The propriety of war as an instrument of policy.

My reaction, as an Israeli and as an American, is that the debate in which you are engaged is a kind of luxury reserved for those who experience war in the abstract or as passive spectators of a media event. I have lived in this country (Israel) for 17 years with my wife and eight children. It seems as if it has been at least two lifetimes, primarily because of the whirlwind of events in which we have been trapped, usually as victims of a deep-seated, to a Western mind, inexplicable hatred aimed at our entire existence and way of life.

I remember hiding in our sealed rooms during the 1991 Gulf War wearing gas masks and putting, gas hoods on our babies all because the Iraqi leader, then as now, Saddam Hussein, decided that it was in his country's interest to incinerate Israel so as to weaken the US - led coalition of those years. I remember the shrapnel from the Iraqi Scuds plowing into the office building in Tel Aviv where I had my law offices then and the need to dash furtively for weeks on end from meeting to meeting carrying my anti-chemical warfare kit. I remember watching my practice wither for months while we sat hostages to Saddam Hussein's insane need to bulldoze over sovereign borders, committing rape and pillage and leaving behind an ecological disaster from purposely fired oil wells the vapors from which filled our lungs for weeks afterwards. I remember my neighbors in nearby Arab villages running out to the streets in sheer ecstasy as they watched the SCUD missiles re-enter the atmosphere leaving fiery trails on their way to targets in Haifa, Ramat Gan and Dimona.

I am now watching my 18-year old prepare himself for the mandatory three-year tour of duty in the Israel Defense Forces, ready to take his turn in the fight to keep suicide murderers away obliterating innocents in hotels, cafes, schools and synagogues. Last month alone, the radio reported today, 57 suicide bomber attempts were thwarted by our young men and women in the IDF-- none of which I am sure was reported on CNN or even Fox News. Even as I write, Israeli boys my son's age are scouring the deserts of western Iraq in search of mobile SCUD launchers together with their British and American counterparts in the hopes of saving our people from the hail of metal, poison and destruction from Iraq. Only this time we know that, if Saddam has his way, the threat of death will not come from the skies packaged in some guided missile, but rather in a suitcase or spraycan.

For us in this part of the world who are desperately trying to hold on to our Judeo-Christian values in a sea that repudiates those very values, the prospect of war and violence is not an abstraction in constitutional law or humanistic ethics -- it is an ever present reality. It is paradoxically a solution ... a promise of a better day..

When those of us in this sliver of a nation watched as the great steel and glass edifices on Manhattan's south shore disappeared into smoke and ash on September 11, we wept with you out of empathy, not pity -- empathy spawned by five decades (in my case nearly two) of having to cope with ever present terror and, yes, war. I watched with tears in my eyes as your President, my President, addressed Congress and the world in his soft-spoken declaration of war on terror. He warned us then that this war would not be like any other undertaken in modern history. It would be fought in unconventional ways, on unconventional battlefields, over Long periods of time -- often far from the penetrating view of television cameras and satellite telephones. We listened to his speech in the presence of an equally brave Prime Minister of Britain and thought, "Now our friends in America and Europe will understand what they are up against, what we have been contending with for half a century."

It has been less than two years since September 11, 2001 and judging from the proliferating news reports and well-meaning letters of protest, like those of Verne and Howard, the once impenetrable consensus has begun to disintegrate, at least in American intellectual circles and certainly on the European street. The resolve to fight the terror, the evil represented by Saddam Hussein and others of his ilk has weakened and is now threatening to put an all-too premature end to, what from this speck of a vantage point, appeared to be the most courageous development in American foreign policy since the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine.

Many of us here on the periphery of the debate watching the Europeans shrink from war to cleanse our region of the cancer called Saddam in the name of peace and other lofty principles cannot help but be reminded of another epoch in the not so distant past when the same people (indirectly aided by an indifferent American public) deluded themselves into sacrificing the tiny Czechoslovaks on an altar called Munich. Then, as now, a well-intentioned, heartfelt appeal was made to avoid the temptation to go to war, to bring peace in our time. Then, as now, the European masses cheered leaders who urged patience and restraint, ignoring cries of the firebrands. But as Winston Churchill, then a lone dissenter, later wrote of those fateful days: "there is no merit in putting off a war for a year if, when it comes, it is a far worse war or one much harder to win. These are the tormenting dilemmas upon which mankind has throughout its history been so frequently impaled." Millions of the human race paid dearly for the enlightened restraint of the West leaders of yore, among them the six million whose cremated corpses fueled the flames in which the State of Israel was forged. How easily mankind forgets.... to think it has been only 58 years.

I do not wish to delude myself into thinking that a few paltry words of an American-Israeli Jew will persuade you to reconsider the consequences of your elegantly argued philosophy of restraint. Who in his or her right mind does not crave peace? But I beg you to open your eyes to the world in which we are all living. It is a world in which all you take for granted and hold so dear is considered anathema by millions who would not hesitate for a second to send you and your families to hellish oblivion if given the opportunity, as they have tried and are trying daily to do in our small country. Your leaders in Washington have understood this and are trying to hold the line. A wake-up call was sent to you on September 11. Please, for God's sake, do not ignore it.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:47 AM
March 07, 2003
Here and There, Mar. 7

Robert L. Jamieson, Jr. of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says Signs of peace must be read, Mr. President. i.e. the President should listen to foreign policy statements written on yard signs and on placards carried by guys on stilts, such as:

"It's About LiberatIOn, Stupid -- OIL!" screamed a sign, which sought to set the record straight on why our country really wants to go to war.
Jamieson also believes, sincerely, the old Cole Porter song that "Fifty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong"
Public debate and an exchange of viewpoints are the hallmarks of democracy, yet many Americans and people elsewhere -- including France, Germany and Russia -- feel as if you are just giving them the royal White House brush-off.

They all can't be dumb, misguided or uninformed, can they?

I don't know, Robert, but if you had the opportunity to relive the last hundred years in, say, France, Germany, Russia or the U.S.A, which country would YOU pick, and whose judgment would you trust?

Must read: Josef Joffe, editor of the German weekly Die Zeit gave a lecture at Ben-Gurion University this week on the topic of "anti-Americanism, anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism". Ha'aretz has a summary.

Stinking Opinions Blog had a little fun with Photoshop yesterday.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:53 PM
March 06, 2003
An E-mail from a Danish Jew

From: Brian Burr
Sent: Wednesday, March 05, 2003 1:21 PM
To: undisclosed-recipients:

An open letter to Danish MP's, European MP's, the Danish and foreign press and defenders of freedom everywhere:

Gangs of muslim immigrants demostrated openly in the streets of Copenhagen yesterday to kill DANISH JEWS!!

Believe it: An open call to violence and terror in the streets of Copenhagen, confronting Danes with a call to terror against Danish citizens!!! This is not a hoax. It is horribly real.

The question remains if political responsibility and will still exists amongst Parliamentarians and the Courts to stop this here and now!!!

Now Denmark is saddled with a problem of radical, fundamentalist activity by a growing group of young muslims. They are being bred, fed, co-ordinated and inspired by foreign terror and hate cells in the Middle East and in other European cities. With birth rates that far exceed that of the Danish population, and an hostile ideology of world conquest and essentially "religious imperialism" this radical population now open calls for killing Danish Jews - a group they outnumber by 40 to 1.

Their overwhelming numbers and a suspended sentence of 3 months in jail for a radical Hizb-ut-Tahrir fundamentalist hate calls to "kill Jews where you find them" on their website, seems to encourage even more activity and calls for violence, terror and death in Denmark!!

Danes have to be able to walk their streets without feeling intimidated. Parents should not have to have their children see this kind of violence, hatred and sociopathy in the streets of Copenhagen. PArents shouldn't have to worry about their children's safety.

Danish politicians have to take upon themselves the responsibility of dealing with this! Without regard to consequences, a foreign population with a hostile ideology is being allowed to create a slow acceptance of violence and change in the Danish society.

The evidence is overwhelming of a growing violence in schools, a lower educational level, hostility and crime on the streets, an explosion of gang rape against Danish girls, economic crime and tax and toll evasion in the kiosk's and vegetable shops muslims have all but taken over, along with open calls of violence toward Jews is the result of a Danish invitation to a new chance, and a new life, in democratic Denmark.

This abuse of freedom must be stopped before lives and liberty are lost. Before Denmark is changed irreparably.

Legislators in Denmark have to do something NOW, before someone is killed and injured.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:22 AM
Here and There, Mar. 6

French Ambassador to Israel Jacques Huntzinger penned the following op-ed for Ha'aretz, titled "The French Position on Iraq" (please hold your applause)

France is not a friend of the Iraqi regime and it is not motivated by commercial considerations: In 2001, commerce with Iraq accounted for only 0.20 percent of French exports and 0.30 percent of imports.
The latter means that France's 2001 import/export business with Iraq was still worth more than $1.5 billion, and that ignores the value of expected future business. Oh, and by the way, guess who is Iraq's #1 foreign vendor, accounting for 22.5% of all goods imported by Iraq? [hint the name of that country's President rhymes with Irac ]. (It also turns out that the US is Iraq's biggest export market. oops. but at least we're taking responsibility for the problem)
What does France want now, along with Germany, Russia, China and - let us be clear about it - a majority of the countries of the world?
Sorry, Jacques, you're talking to an audience that has already figured out that the "majority of the countries of the world" will sign up for almost any idiotic position supported by Arabian despots.

The San Francisco Chronicle is troubled by the United States acting unilaterally to defend our national security interests. On the other hand, the Chronicle can be counted on to boldly sit down and campaign for unilateral surrender in order to appease demented tyrants

an international partnership for dealing with North Korea has failed to emerge. China and Russia declined to take part... The United States must act on its own to head off conflict that would endanger South Korea and the 37,000 American troops on the half-century-old truce line within easy range of North Korean artillery.
What kind of action does the Chronicle recommend?
Bush should stop hinting at a military strike, and start talks to head off serious trouble on the Korean Peninsula.
What kind of "talks" does the Chronicle have in mind? What would they have us offer the North Koreans? What are we to ask for in return? What reassurance do we have that they will keep their side of the bargain? What action would we take in the (certain) event that they break their side of the deal and make more threats? The Chronicle doesn't say. All I know is that if I were to make a career change into the extortion business, my first call would be on the gullible wusses over at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:51 AM
Real Man's Chain Letter

I got the following chain letter by e-mail yesterday. My wife told me to mention that I did not add my name to the list and send it on, because I am happily married.

This chain letter was started in hopes of bringing relief to other tired and discouraged men. Unlike most chain letters, this one doesn't cost anything!

Just send a copy of this letter to five of your friends who are equally tired and discontented.

Then bundle up your wife and/or girlfriend and send her to the man whose name appears at the top of the following list, and add your name to the bottom of the list.

When your turn comes, you will receive 15,625 women. One of them is bound to be better than the one you already have.

At the writing of this letter, a friend of mine has already received 184 women, of whom four were worth keeping.

REMEMBER this chain brings luck.

One man's pit bull died, and the next day he received a Playboy playmate.

An unmarried Spanish man living with his widowed mother was able to choose between a Hooter's waitress and a Hollywood super model.

You can be lucky too, but DO NOT BREAK THE CHAIN!

One man broke the chain and got his wife back again!

Let's keep it going, men! Just add your name to the bottom of the list below!

Bill Clinton
780 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10017

Billy Clinton
780 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10017

Billie Clinton
780 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10017

B. Clinton
780 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10017

William Jefferson Clinton
780 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10017

W. Jefferson Clinton
780 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10017

W. Jeff Clinton
780 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10017

W. J. Clinton
780 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10017

W. Clinton
780 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10017

William J Clinton
780 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10017

Wilhelm Clinton
780 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10017

Willie Clinton
780 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10017

Will Clinton
780 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10017

Mr. Hillary Clinton
780 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10017

Mr. Slick Willie Clinton
780 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10017

B.J. Clinton
780 3rd Ave.
New York, NY 10017

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:31 AM
March 05, 2003
Here and There, Mar. 5

Jacques Chirac is in Algeria this week, where he met with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was "elected" in 1999 with 73,79% of the votes, after all the other candidates were disqualified or forced to resign. Human Rights Watch says that Algeria leads the world in "enforced disappearances". Der Spiegel reports that Bouteflika praised Chirac for opposing a war against Saddam and proposed that Chirac be rewarded with a Nobel Peace Prize. The caption under the photo: "Chirac visits his colleague Bouteflika in Algeria". "Colleague" is an appropriate choice of words.

Mazal Tov to regular reader and frequent comment poster J. Lichty, who was blessed last week with the birth of his first child. The bris is on Thursday!

Happy belated birthday to old friend and regular reader Tom Allen. I meant to send my wishes a few days ago, but at my advancing age, such things are ever more frequently falling through the cracks...

The anti-American propagandists over at the Baghdad-by-the-Bay Ba'ath Party newspaper are praising Turkish democracy for that country's refusal to join the coalition to liberate Iraq. On the other hand, they leave out the part that Turkey's main interest is in holding the line on Iraqi Kurdish autonomy, in order not to, you know, give the Turkish Kurds Mountain Turks any bright ideas about asking for some of that democracy stuff too.

Back to the USSR: I discovered a whole page of Soviet-era "Radio Yerevan" jokes, already translated into English! (A page of the jokes in Russian is here) Some are dated (that would be a good thing), many others are still very, very funny.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:32 AM
March 04, 2003
"We See the Americans as Liberators"

A recent interview in Der Spiegel with Ahmad Berwari, the German representative of Iraqi Kurdish opposition group PUK.

Holger Kulick conducted the interview. I translate from the German

"We See the Americans as Liberators"
The Kurds from northern Iraq have mixed feelings about an American-British military attack. The want to see Saddam Hussein removed from power in any case, but they are also afraid of a Turkish invasion. The German peace position doesn't make sense to them.

Der Spiegel: A military attack on Iraq is imminent. Does this make the Iraqi exiles feel hopeful or anxious?
Berwari: You often hear Iraqi exiles say that they are against an American invasion, because the Americans are an outside force. But secretly most of them are in favor. The Kurds believe that Iraq's problems can be solved by removing Saddam Hussein from power. Therefore we are in favor of ousting Saddam militarily, although we won't take part in it.

Der Spiegel: That's perplexing. Why not?
Berwari: The Americans so far haven't offered us any role. Either they think we lack sufficient forces, or the Turks don't want us in. But we have to protect our own population from a possible retaliation by the Iraqi army -- for which, by the way, we're insufficiently equipped. Because Saddam Hussein's army doesn't need missiles in order to attack us with chemical weapons, their artillery alone would suffice.

Der Spiegel: But would you be protected from that?
Berwari: Unfortunately we don't have the defensive measures, like Israel or Kuwait have, although the Kurds have already been the victims of such an attack. They've only told us that we should prepare for the phase after Saddam Hussein's ouster. We've been left to handle the war on our own.

Der Spiegel: So there's no Kurdish-American military alliance?
Berwari: We view the Americans and British as liberators. The no-fly zone they're guarding in Northern Iraq has allowed the Iraqi Kurds to administer our own region since 1991. It comprises some 60% of the Iraqi Kurdish region with about 45,000 and about 3.5 million inhabitants.

Der Spiegel: As a semi-official Kurdistan?
Berwari: Despite the economic difficulties and blockades, the people there at least enjoy a certain freedom, and we're proud of that. They even have Internet cafes, cell phones and satellite receivers. The people in the rest of Iraq are envious of these freedoms and the standard of living outside of the authority of the Iraqi central government. We also have semi-diplomatic relations with European states, with the US, Arab states, Iran and Turkey. For supplies we get 13% of the Iraqi oil revenues in the framework of the UN Oil-for-Food program. That has helped make us practically independent.

Der Spiegel: Can the Americans and British count on the Kurds for rear cover?
Berwari: Not necessarily. The Iraqi Kurds would be opposed to a war whose aim is the destruction of Iraq's infrastructure. We would only accept a war that would overthrow Saddam and spare the people. That's why the Kurds are increasingly worried about Turkey.

Der Spiegel: Why is Turkey supporting the US? [the interview appeared a few days before the Turkish parliamentary vote that withheld permission from the US to use Turkish bases]
Berwari: It is increasingly apparent that they are using this conflict for their own purposes -- to bear down on the Iraqi Kurds. Until a week ago there were negotiations between Turkey and the US over Turkey's conditions for opening up a northern front against Iraq. Turkey was able to bring enough pressure to bear that they extracted a number of concessions. Now they'll be able to send in a few thousand of their own commandos into northern Iraq in order to control the Kurdish region and hold any attempts at autonomy in check. That threatens to put an end to the freedom that we worked so hard to create for ourselves.

Der Spiegel: What are the northern Iraqi Kurds trying to achieve? Their own state?
Berwari: The ordinary Kurd on the street would accept that immediately. But the Kurdish politicians are mature enough to realize that there is no chance of establishing an independent Kurdish state. The Kurds' best friends would quickly become our enemies. So it remains a dream. In reality, the Iraqi Kurds are striving for a democratic federal state -- within a united Iraq.

Der Spiegel: Would Kurdistan have a future as a federal state?
Berwari: As a federal state, or federal region in which we Kurds also see ourselves as Iraqi citizens. In any case this federal state would be constructed along the German or Swiss model. We consider this combination of democracy and federalism as the best solution for the Kurdish question and for the future of Iraq as a whole.

Der Spiegel: France, Germany and Russia are trying feverishly to avoid a war and to use diplomatic means to contain Saddam. Do you see this as an alternative?
Berwari: Everybody is against war. But we Iraqis have been living with a kind of war for 34 years. If Iraq now fulfills Resolution 1441, the main problem for the Iraqi people will not be solved. Saddam Hussein's regime would still be in power and continue its oppression.

Der Spiegel: The opponents of war argue that the UN must not strive for regime change.
Berwari: That is a uniquely German view from a government whose shifting positions we don't understand. Germany was a hawk in the Yugoslavia war, now it is a dove. That doesn't make sense to us. Was that because of the [German] elections? Or is Germany now in an economic position that it can't afford the billions for a war, as it did during the Gulf War over Kuwait? Maybe the German government believes that it's economically irrelevant whether Iraq is ruled by Saddam Huseein or not.

Der Spiegel: The German and the French characterize a military attack as too risky for the civilian population. Is that not a valid concern?
Berwari: Everybody claims that they have the interests of the Iraqi people at heart, without even asking them. It's certainly hard to do that in Iraq. But there are four million Iraqis living abroad who also have an opinion. As a rule they would say: Violence is a poor solution, but to not do something drastic at this point is no solution at all.

Der Spiegel: The conflict could destabilize the entire region.
Berwari: We are convinced that this war would last at most a week, until the Iraqi army would realize that Saddam Hussein's overthrow was inevitable. Then the majority of the soldiers would stop supporting Saddam because they have also suffered under his dictatorship. We are already in contact with a number of units from the army. They would give up at the first shot. In 1991 we Kurds captured 120,000 Iraqi soldiers -- who mostly gave up without a fight. We had no idea how we were going to feed them.

Der Spiegel: Wouldn't a regime change require a charismatic figure like Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan?
Berwari: That is a fallacy. Iraq is not Afghanistan, we have no little warlords or tribes that are pursuing their own power games and economic interests. Iraq is a country with a long continuous cultural history, where the first code of law was inscribed on tablets. If you wouldn't have confidence that such a country would know how to use such an opportunity for a new beginning, I would find it embarrassing.

Der Spiegel: Is this unity stable? There are reports of Islamist attacks against Kurdish politicians in Iraq.
Berwari: This comes from the Ansar al-Islam terrorist organization. They control eight villages to the east of Suleimaniya in northern Iraq on the Iranian border, and have 700-900 fighters. About 120 aren't even Iraqi, but came from the Afghan war. But we don't consider them a long-term threat, but believe that they're taking advantage of the security situation.

Der Spiegel: Aren't you afraid that scattered members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party will later operate as terrorists?
Berwari: No. After Hussein's ouster that would be barely imaginable. This dictatorship is comprised of an all-powerful head, which, if it loses its power, the whole system ceases to function. Apart from that, the people have too many day to day problems, like getting drinking water. They don't have time for such thoughts whether they want to be politcally active as pan-Arab, anti-American or radical Islamist. They want their peace and quiet and simply to live.

Der Spiegel: How much would people still worry about the long arm of Saddam Hussein's seven secret police agencies after a war?
Berwari: Those would also fall apart after Saddam Hussein's overthrow. They are controlled only by his regime. If that no longer exists, it would be similar to what happened in East Germany in 1989. Suddenly the whole ruling structure goes away.

Der Spiegel: You are very optimistic.
Berwari: No, I am a realist. Because I am an Iraqi and I know my own people. And they have other problems beside pursuing wild ideals. In this situation an American temporary military governor isn't even a problem for most people. Because they would ask themselves who is worse for their everyday life: Saddam Hussein or Tommy Franks? The answer should be obvious.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
The Vatican and Arafat

Glenn Reynolds has been discussing Vatican anti-Semitism/coziness with Arab dictators/handshakes with Arafat, etc. Lots of good comments from his readers, see here and here.

I recently came across the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop's Statement on Israeli-Palestinian Violence. It is a sewer of moral equivalence, implying that Israel's use of force to pre-empt terrorists is just as bad as the terrorists who murder civilians in cafeterias. This same ditziness was regurgitated in a recent San Francisco Chronicle op-ed by a local Monsignor Eugene J. Boyle.

"It is clearer now than ever before that the status-quo is unacceptable. Israeli occupation cannot be sustained -- militarily or morally -- nor can the indiscriminate use of force in civilian areas. Palestinian attacks on innocent civilians cannot be tolerated -- both because they are morally indefensible and because they undermine the legitimate claims of the Palestinian people. The deadly cycle of action and reaction, suicide bombing, and aggressive attacks must be ended."
True, the status-quo is unacceptable, but not because Israel is dismantling the genocidal monsters from Hamas. If anybody has any doubt which side the Monsignor is taking, notice on whose website his op-ed has resurfaced.

But what explains Catholic sympathy for Palestinian terrorists? Historical anti-Semitism notwithstanding (The Spanish Inquisition and Pius XII's appeasement of Hitler for starters), perhaps some in the Catholic hierarchy simply view Yassir Arafat as one of their own. [scroll down to #4]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:57 AM
March 03, 2003
Here and There, Mar. 3

Why am I the last to know? Today is 030303!

Another slap in the face for das Wiesel Gerhard Schroeder, as his Social Democrats lose big to the Christian Democrats in local elections in Schleswig-Holstein.

You too can play Catch the Weasel!

The Observer has published what it claims is a leaked NSA memorandum describing increased US surveillance of UN delegations related to the Iraq resolutions. Teehee. Sounds good to me. Going to the UN Security Council to ask permission to defend our national interests is all a parlor game to begin with. If we have to pretend to consult with the French-educated, election-stealing potentate of Cameroon on national security decisions, then we should do what we have to do to get the answer we need to get.

The Shark is a Crawly Amphibian! Most other sharks, on the other hand, are mere Chondrichthyes

I have discovered the refreshing antidote to Gretta Duisenberg. Welcome to the blog world, Pieter!
UPDATE Pieter has more to say on Duisenberg and the current Dutch antipathy to Israel

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:50 PM
Our NATO Allies

A carnival float shows paper mache figure of German conservative opposition leader Angela Merkel emerging from the buttocks of Uncle Sam during the traditional Rose Monday carnival parade in Duesseldorf, March 3, 2003. Merkel has strongly criticized the German government's anti-Iraq war stance and recently visited Washington. The Rose Monday parades in Cologne, Mainz and Duesseldorf are the highlight of the German street carnival season. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

[Reuters forgets to mention that Merkel and the Christian Democrats continue to toast Schroeder and the Social Democrats in both public opinion polls and regional elections]

Meanwhile, the top U.S. military commander in Europe said in Stuttgart Monday the United States is moving away from the Cold War focus on Germany and western Europe, and establishing smaller bases in eastern and southern Europe.

The loss of the tens of thousands of family members and civilian support staff who currently accompany the U.S. troops to their German bases could mean a considerable drop in income for many regions where local economies are heavily dependent on the Americans' contribution.

Nevertheless, Jones sought to quash speculation that the presence reductions were designed punish opposition to war in "Old Europe," namely Germany, to reward countries in "New Europe," like Poland and Hungary. The main reason is that maintaining the tens of thousands of mostly Army units currently based in Germany are too costly for today's threats.

In other words, the Europeasers are certainly free to continue maintaining their silly and inefficient "welfare state", but not by stiffing the United States with the cost of their defense.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:49 PM
March 02, 2003
Anybody read Danish?

The Shark Blog was mentioned on a Danish discussion board One member linked to my Psychotic Death Cult Photo Album (a collection of Hamas photographs)

Og her nogle billeder af mindre heldige unge mænd...

Guantanamo er ikke lige så effektivt, når det gælder målet...


Then somebody else replied:
Det er en fed side han er ligeså blød som de svenske nazier haha!
Fedt link Jacob!
Can anybody tell me what this means?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:19 PM
Here and There, Mar. 2

The King of Bahrain joins the Shark Blog's Virtual March on Baghdad!

Ze'ev Schiff lays out three good reasons for the offensive against Hamas.

The Sunday Telegraph reports that Saddam may have killed one of his own missile engineers, in order to prevent the man from disclosing information to the UN inspectors.

On CNN last night I saw a report from Sheila MacVicar, who visited Jordan, Syria and Syrian-occupied Lebanon to ask the locals for their thoughts on the impending liberation of Iraq. None of her subjects expressed support for the U.S. But the most telling moment was when Jordanian foreign minister Marwan Muasher tried to change the subject and claim that the bigger problem in the region was the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. "The longest occupation in the world", he called it. I wish MacVicar would have challenged Muasher on at least three points, e.g. (1) "wasn't it Jordan that attacked Israel in 1967 and led to the occupation in the first place?" (2) "Why didn't Jordan agree to take back the West Bank when Israel offered to return it shortly after the 1967 war?" (3) Kind of beside the point, but hasn't the Chinese occupation of Tibet lasted more than a decade longer than the Israeli occupation of the West Bank?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:34 AM
March 01, 2003
Here and There, March 1

The Turkish parliament has just voted to allow the basing of US troops on Turkish soil to open a northern front against Iraq. Turkey is the latest of the two dozen or so countries to join the US in its "go it alone" campaign to liberate Iraq.

Oops. It looks like the aforementioned Turkish vote has just been nullified by the speaker of the Parliament. Well, maybe the Turks aren't going to mind having an independent Kurdistan on their southern border after all.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:28 AM