Poliblogger called to my attention this Reuters piece (yes, Reuters -- the same organization that doesn't consider 9/11 to be terrorism). Marines are essentially investigating a report that Hussein's goons hid some chemical weapons in a school!
Now if this report pans out, I want to see Larry King, Chris Matthews and Phil Donahue (oh, wait...he's cancelled) ask Hans Blix the following two questions:
(1) Is hiding chemical weapons in a schoolyard indicative of "increased cooperation" on the part of Hussein's regime?
(2) Will you publicly state that the Bush Administration was correct all along?
A shout out to Boycott Hollywood -- that is where I saw the "Ignorance Is Blix" quote.
Special shout out to Boycott Hollywood for bringing this post to my attention (scroll to point #8). I used to hate Dennis Miller, as he pretty much ruined Monday Night Football for me. (God bless John Madden.) Now, I guess I gotta like the guy.
This is a great article about Terry Hughes getting fired at a Michigan NPR station (WEMU). Hughes was editorializing in support of the war and President Bush. He also was refusing to play NPR news bits and trashing NPR in general, telling people they get better coverage on FoxNews. I agree that he should have been fired, not for expressing his views, but for refusing to follow the station's protocol and not play the news bits he was supposed to. However, I just delight at this little guerrilla insurgency within NPR.
A shout out to BB for bringing this to my attention.
Apparently some folks at a Pearl Jam concert in Colorado walked out in protest of the lead singer's anti-Bush antics during the band's encore. (What better time to walk out than at the end of the show, I guess.) But an interesting exchange with the audience was observed to have gone on early in the show.
Before Do the Evolution, Vedder told the crowd the tale of a Vietnam vet who expressed severe reservations about war in Iraq to Vedder. The singer was incensed when someone in the crowd yelled, "Shut up!"
"Did someone just say, 'Shut up'? I don't know if you heard about this thing called freedom of speech, man. It's worth thinking about it, because it's going away," Vedder said. "In the last year of being able to use it, we're sure as (expletive) going to use it and I'm not gonna apologize."
Yes, Eddie. The dude who yelled "shut up" did hear of free speech. He was exercising it. Maybe Peal Jam can protest by putting some duct tape over their mouths.
FoxNews reports on more evidence of the linkage between Iraq and terrorism (with reference to al-Qaeda and Ansar al Islam). But here is the key sentence in the report:
There were indications earlier that Ansar al-Islam was getting help from inside neighboring Iran.
How do I know that the mullahs in Iran are crapping in their pants over this? They decided to turn over two members of Ansar al-Islam to the coalition forces. And people laugh when you tell them that what we are doing in Iraq will reverberate around the region, and that rather than inciting terrorism it may well help to reduce it. Hate us, but fear us.
A very eloquent editorial appeared by the once quasi-anonymous Poliblogger in the Birmingham News. (He linked it on his site so that I feel it is okay to reveal it here.) It is worth a read in that if provides the grand philosophic basis for our being in Iraq. He is absolutely right that the primary (and I would add secondary) motivations for this war are national self-interest. However, unlike perhaps any other nation in history, the way we fight serves to enhace the more altruistic goal of spreading the innate desire for human freedom.
Said the White Rabbit to Alice, "There are no US troops in Baghdad. There are no US troops near Baghdad. There are no US troops in Iraq. They were defeated and went home. There are no weapons of mass destruction. It is only me and I'm very, very late indeed!"
FoxNews is reporting that the Iraqi government is denying in-the-field reports and videotape that coalition forces have ringed Baghdad.
It appears as if there was another hijacking from Cuba to the US took place last night. Wonder what the anti-American protesters think about that. And as I noted below with amazing foresight, the US is not coddling hijackers, no matter how noble their ends are. This is the right call (see below for my reasons why).
Could these three hijackings be a replay of the "Paneuropean Picnic" in Hungary 1989? Let me be the first to declare a Pan-American picnic. I'll bring the Freedom Fries!
The Secretary of Defense to a reporter to task yesterday over the issue of "internal" criticism of/dissention about the war plan in what is perhaps the best instance of Rumsmanship yet. The entire news conference is worth a read, but here is the classic part (about 1/3 of the way down the page):
Rumsfeld: I think also it's useful to put it into some historical perspective. I don't think there's ever been a war where there haven't been people opining about this or speculating about that or second-guessing on something else. As I say, we're 10 or 11 days into this, and these things have kind of a rhythm to them, and right now we're hearing all of the complaints and concerns and questions. One of the ways you can get a sense of how knowledgeable people are is if somebody says that they were sent with half of their forces, which I read in one paper -- fact is, that's just not true. So if the person believes that, you can think, gosh, if he thinks he was sent with half his forces -- there hasn't been delays in any major thing.
Before this started, the president sat down in a secure video with General Franks and each of the component commanders before he made a decision to go forward, and he asked them a couple of questions. He said, "is this war plan a good one and will it win?" And each single person, every component commander, they said directly to the president of the United States on secure video, "absolutely."
Q: Well was --
Rumsfeld: Shh. Just listen. (Laughter.)
Then he said, "Do you have everything you need?" Simple question. These are adults. They're all four-stars. And they sat there, and they looked at the president in the eye and said "absolutely, we've got everything we need."
Rummy went on to tell the press just because one news source says something and 15 others mimic it, it doesn't make it true.
It appears as if the hijacking of a Cuban plane last night was the second in as many weeks. My vacation and Iraq news saturation meant that I missed the first one.
Sadly, there is a difficult moral dilemma that arises in this situation. Both sets of hijackers were apparently interested in fleeing repression in Cuba -- a noble goal. Unfortunately, I cannot approve of the means to achieve that end. Doing so would create a situation where any hijacking is up for definitional debate as to its legality (somewhat of a postmodernist definitional cesspool of shifting meanings, all of which leads to nasty politics). Excusing these hijackers from their actions would only encourage more hijackings, some of which could end disasterously. And since there are people on those planes who did not choose to be there to begin with (regardless of how much they may desire their own freedom in the US), it is not morally or legally proper to create incentives that put those innocents in such a position.
But the dilemma get more complicated. What do we do with the hijackers themselves? Repatriating them to Cuba is likely to result in torture and/or death for individuals who were trying to flee that to begin with. However, keeping them in US prisons (which are infinitely better than Cuban jails, and perhaps even Cuban "freedom") would create an incentive for more hijackings, which I noted above would lead to certain disaster at some point. For that reason, I must regrettably argue that the hijackers should be repatriated.
One possible alternative is to repatriate the hijackers to a third country that would punish them -- perhaps Chile or Panama. Again, this creates a "moral hazzard" problem (i.e., encouraging behavior you wish to discourage) as any potential hijacker might prefer Chilean prison to life in Cuba. A tough call and I'm not sure where I fall on this one. Another option would be to repatriate the hijackers, but allow the passengers to choose whether they want to return. Unfortunately, this might create an incentive for "martyrdom hijackings" wherein a friend or family member hijacks a plane without telling his companions in an effort to free them. In the current hijacking, this may be the motivation as it seems as if one of the passengers -- a little boy -- was the hijackers son (or other kin). [Another Elian Gonzalez case, I fear.] Again, another difficult call.
There is one lesson to take from this (as I noted below). Despite the view among many on the academic left that Cuba is a social justice paradise, it is amazing to what lengths people will go to escape this island -- boarding rickety rafts, crashing busses through embassy gates and now hijacking planes. To my knowledge, no one has ever hijacked a plane with the intent of fleeing US repression. I doubt anybody criticizing Bush or Ashcroft for "squashing" civil liberties will engage in such actions. They can just walk out.
Journalist Peter Arnett, covering the war from Baghdad, told state-run Iraqi TV in an interview aired Sunday that the American-led coalition's first war plan had failed because of Iraq's resistance and said strategists are "trying to write another war plan."
Well, it is certainly obvious that the best place to get a story about Pentagon strategy is in the city that the Pentagon is planning to invade. This is about as brilliant as blaming a munitions factory (that doesn't make munitions) for setting off a couple of kids to open fire in their school.
For an academic at this stage of my career, I have been fortunate to have given invited talks (lectures) at a wide array of pretty cool universities -- you would know them if I mentioned them, and most of them didn't make the NCAA tournament this year. Anyways, I just received an invitation to give a series of lectures in Turkey, the country. Oh, great. What spectacular timing!
Given that one of my major career goals has been to have a long career, I may try and postpone this trip for awhile.
An interesting NBC/WSJ poll just released shows that about 2/3 of the American population approve of Bush's handling of the war. Most people seem to think it will last longer than the media assumed; just goes to show who's smarter.
But what caught my attention is this little editorializing at the end of the story related to a question on the Bush tax cuts.
Perhaps independent of war concerns, Americans concerned about the economic downturn had low marks for Bush’s proposed tax-cut plan: 52 percent said Congress should not pass the plan, compared with 38 percent who said it should be approved.
The reporter here is clearly speculating about the reason for the apparent tepid support for the tax plan. If there was a question asking why a respondent didn't favor the tax plan, it would make sense to report those results. Instead, we get the odd statement that concern about the economic downturn (which has been upticking recently) means that people would want the government to keep (take) more of their money. Why? If you were concerned about your economic future, wouldn't you want more money in your pocket? The only rationale that tax cuts are bad during times of recession is that they might create a short-term budget deficit (holding spending constant -- a tenuous assumption) and that the deficit would "crowd out" financial capital leading to higher interest rates and less business investment. Unfortunately, that relationship doesn't seem to hold well over recent history, especially when the federal deficit is only a tiny fraction of GDP.
The less complex interpretation of those results would be that people are worried about the immediate cost of the war and are willing to forego a tax break to pay for it -- and this seems to be a rather patriotic, albeit poorly informed, response to the tax cut question. (I would first ask for spending cuts in non-essential government services to pay for the war. But I'm just a cold-hearted conservative.)