Friday, July 29, 2005

Victory is in Reach! We have turned the corner in the War on Terrorism. This wasn't from a tactical military victory or even our influence in Iraq. But Al Qaeda is losing the hearts and minds of their fellow Muslims.

How do I know? Well, I'm not talking about that poll showing Osama Bin Laden's withering support among Muslims. And this has nothing to do with the protests in Egypt and beyond after Al Qaeda struck there, or even the Egyptian government's fatigue of the terrorism.

The real indication that Al Qaeda is losing is that Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudia Arabia and Prince Nayef, the country's interior minister, have charged that Al Qaeda is a Zionist conspiracy. That's right, the royalty of Saudi Arabia are calling Al Qaeda a bunch of Jews.

Once that message becomes conventional wisdom, Al Qaeda will truly have nowhere to hide in the Middle East. Brian Keegan of Centerfield says we should help spread the Saudis' message far and wide. I guess we'll just have to confront the anti-Semitism in the Middle East at a later date.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Happy Ending: The Irish Republican Army has agreed to disarm. That won't mean much until it actually happens. And Northern Ireland will still face threats from the remnants of the organization, with "violent extremists" continuing to conduct terrorist attacks just because that's what they've always done. Old habits die hard.

But the agreement is significant. After decades of war and centuries of animosity, a bloody chapter in Irish history may be coming to a close.

Many factors probably went into the IRA's decision, not the least of which is that the public's tolerance for terrorism has gone down to zero, what with all the recent Al Qaeda attacks. No one confuses terrorists for freedom fighters anymore.

I hate to speak prematurely, because we have yet to see whether the violence really will dissipate. But the fact that the IRA is agreeing to disarm shows that a War on Terrorism can be won.

Winning the War on Terrorism won't mean that terrorism will cease to exist. That's never going to happen. But just remember, we won the Cold War against Communism, after decades of confrontation and deadly military operations, and Communism still exists. The point is that it's not a significant threat to us anymore.

If the agreement goes through as planned, the IRA will cease to be a terrorist threat. It took decades to get to this point. But this was an unconventional war, and both sides had to adjust to the changing realities on the ground.

We're still learning our enemies, and we have to face them on a global scale. There is no quick fix to our fight, but we can't enter the confrontation meekly. And in the end, I believe we'll not only be doing ourselves a service, but we'll be helping the people of the Middle East by slowly changing the culture there from one of violent desperation to that of prosperity and freedom. It may take awhile, but this is a fight worth waging.

Worldwide Conflict Against Big Meanies: I hope this is a bad dream. Is the Bush administration really going to stop calling our fight against terrorism a "war"?

In a subtle move, administration sources say they are moving rhetoric away from "Global War on Terrorism" and are beginning to say "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism".

The problem with "war", they say, is that it sounds like a military mission, and this fight against Al Qaeda and other Islamofascists can't be won simply with the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.

Well, no shit.

We've known all along that this won't be a typical war -- fighting against the government of one country until they submit to our demands for peace. But, unlike the "War on Poverty" and the "War on Drugs", this is truly a War. We were attacked, we will be attacked again, and we have to defeat our enemy in order to protect ourselves.

In addition to our military endeavors in Iraq and Afghanistan, we may have to send small units of special forces to destroy terrorist threats. The rest of the time, the CIA and the FBI will have to investigate small terrorist cells in order to prevent such attacks.

And just like any war, diplomacy and political posturing will play a big role. But just because our enemy has adopted cowardly tactics doesn't mean that the threat is any less real. They aim to destroy us, and we have to destroy their capabilities to wage attacks first. That's done through traditional military endeavors in addition to using diplomatic and cultural influences.

Even though the fight in Iraq hasn't gone as swimmingly as we would have hoped, that doesn't mean were not doing some good or accomplishing our mission. There's no reason to retreat from our strong rhetoric. Weakening the language makes it sound like we're not taking this fight as seriously as we should.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Man in the Mirror: Lately, newspapers and news broadcasts are spending more time telling the public what it wants to know and less about what it needs to know. Journalists need to remember that most people don't have time to do their own reporting and need to be shown the important, life-altering events that are going on throughout the world -- such as, what's going on in Darfur:


Two weeks ago, the Center for American Progress and the Genocide Intervention Fund launched a joint initiative known as "Be A Witness" built around a petition calling on television networks to increase their coverage of the genocide in Darfur.

As "Be a Witness" noted:

During June 2005, CNN, FOX News, NBC/MSNBC, ABC, and CBS ran 50 times as many stories about Michael Jackson and 12 times as many stories about Tom Cruise as they did about the genocide in Darfur.
This week, tireless Sudan advocate Nicholas Kristof took up the call and chastised the press for its lack of Darfur coverage:

If only Michael Jackson's trial had been held in Darfur. Last month, CNN, Fox News, NBC, MSNBC, ABC and CBS collectively ran 55 times as many stories about Michael Jackson as they ran about genocide in Darfur.
Shortly thereafter, Editor and Publisher printed a piece reporting:

New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof's attack on the press for underreporting the atrocities and genocide in Darfur, which ran in today's paper, has drawn the ire of some newspaper editors who said they are doing the best they can with what they have.
In this piece, USA Today Foreign Editor James Cox offered a partial but important explanation for the dearth of coverage:

Cox pointed to a two-day series USA Today ran in May on Darfur, stressing the difficulty the paper had in even getting a visa for reporter Rick Hampson to travel there. "It was excruciatingly difficult to get the permission," he said. "We had an application that had been stalled for months."
Sudan does not want journalists freely traveling around Darfur for the sole reason that their reports are going to reveal the true nature of Khartoum's genocidal campaign.

Considering this basic fact in conjunction with the efforts currently underway to expand the African Union mission in Darfur, it might behoove all involved to consider embedding journalists with the AU just as the US did during the initial weeks of the war in Iraq.

People want information about Darfur; journalists want access to Darfur; and the UN and AU want (or at least should want) to disseminate information regarding to crisis in Darfur as widely as possible.

The US and NATO are currently providing key logistical support to the AU mission and ought to insist that any reporter who wants access to Darfur be assigned to and granted protection by an AU patrol force.

Brian Steidle served with the AU in Darfur for six months before eventually resigning his position so that he could share his photos with the world.

Steidle is a hero for doing this -- but it shouldn't take personal acts of sacrifice and courage to make the world aware of the genocide in Darfur.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Error of Big Government: Just like with states rights, neither party can claim to be against big government. Both sides use it anytime they damn well see fit.

Republicans have always argued that free market can solve most problems, and that government just screws it up. Well, in Utah, environmentalists have decided to purchase land from ranch owners in order to protect the land from the cattle. And the ranch owners are happily complying, making money in the process.

But now the Utah government wants to step in and put an end to deciding such issues in the open market. And President Bush may even be supporting this Republican crack-down.

Republicans only support business interests when it furthers their interests, or "values", as they call it. Otherwise, they would let Hollywood produce anything that makes money, and wouldn't rant about social fabric, moral fiber, and whatnot. They only oppose big government when it interferes with what they want. Now that they are in power, they can use it to do whatever they want.

And just before you begin to think that the Democrats will now carry the mantra of "getting government off your back", don't get your hopes up.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Another Casualty: Shortly since I made my post about the need for racial profiling, critics are blaming such profiling for causing the death of a Brazilian man in London. British police apparently mistook him for a terrorist suspect and shot him dead as he ran onto a subway train.

Was this an overreaction on the London police? A simple mistake? Overzealousness? Something else entirely?

It's hard to say. You have to remember though, this man ran away to evade the police. The man even jumped a subway turnstile to get away. He was a suspect not just because of his dark complexion, but because of some other intelligence mishap. So you have a live suspect disobeying orders and running into a crowded train. What would you do?

If the man was indeed carrying explosives, the police chose not to shoot, and then a bomb he was carrying killed all the people aboard the train, well, you can imagine what the blog posts would be saying today.

Just like my post arguing that a group of Middle Easterners carrying large backpacks should rise to the level of "suspicious" and should trigger a brief search, criticism of racial profiling against the Brazilian victim rests mostly on 20/20 hindsight. It doesn't do much good if we state the obvious after the fact. But we can learn from what just happened to help us make the next decision.

From what it appears, the British police admitted its mistake and apologized, but they will still be vigilant against protecting against terrorism, using deadly force if deemed necessary. Sounds good to me, although this doesn't help the man's grieving friends and family.

There's a global war going on. It's taking place in America, England, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Israel, Australia, Spain, and beyond. Unfortunately the terrorists don't abide by customary rules of warfare. They hide like cowards and target civilians. We willfully restrain ourselves so as not to bow down to their level. But we have to defend ourselves against their tactics.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Wherefore art thou? I saw this quote as the sig of an e-mail:

We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.
-- Robert Wilensky

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Hell on Earth: Fortunately, at least one news magazine has decided to give some extra attention to the crisis in Sudan. The New Republic has turned over its blog to noted Darfur expert Eric Reeves. He has three posts, so far, here, here, and here.

His reports are troubling, as he relays the true devastation the Arab militia has wrought upon their African victims.

The consensus among Darfuris in exile, at least those who have access to sources on the ground in Darfur, is that approximately 90 percent of all African villages have now been destroyed. This more than anything else accounts for the decline in large-scale military activity in Darfur, at least between the major combatants, the two insurgency movements on the one side and Khartoum and the Janjaweed on the other. (Recently there has been much infighting between the insurgents themselves.) There are simply not enough remaining targets of opportunity to sustain the levels of violence that were recorded between spring 2003 and fall 2004.
Read the whole thing.

What The Hell! I've been silent through this whole Plame thing because I'm still convinced that it's much ado about nothing.

Still, Rove apparently lied. Bad Rover! No treat for you.

But, you know, I expect politicians to lie a bit to save their own necks. Both sides do it all the time. This is not news. In this case, Wilson has been caught lying, and Rove has been caught lying. I'm not convinced that any law was broken, so I'm having trouble caring.

However, when the news media collectively lies, I have no patience for that. And just about every newspaper and news broadcast has made claim that Bush has raised the bar for firing staff members over the Plame deal.

Bush never said he would fire any leakers. He only said he would fire anyone who has been found to have broken a law. That doesn't stop the mass media, the liberal bloggers, and Jon Stewart from lying about it and saying Bush is shifting from his previous pledge.

If you want to dislike Bush, that's fine. But at least stick to the truth when feeding your irrational hatred.

Here We Go: I haven't blogged for awhile, so it's time for me to piss everyone off.

We've all seen that image of four Middle Eastern, young-adult men carrying large backpacks getting onto the London tube, shortly before they blew themselves up -- along with many innocent Britons.

Given the current war on terrorism, that scene should count as "suspicious activity". I know this is based on nothing more than racial profiling. But I'm not saying we should detain all Middle Eastern men. However, when a group of them congregate as such with big bags, I wouldn't put it past a police officer to check at least one of their bags before letting them ride the subway.

Drudge has a link to an article about how DC subway riders may be subject to random searches, in the wake of the London and Madrid attacks. That's fine with me. And I hope the police will have enough discretion to interpret "random" so as to not bother searching a group of middle-aged white female tourists and instead will concentrate on searching people who look more like, well, me!

I'm a 28-year-old white guy. But I have short black hair and a somewhat dark complexion. Although I'm usually confused for Hispanic more often than Middle Eastern (I'm really Italian), my appearance should get a second look from police patrolling the subways.

And I've always been a privacy nut. But I'd rather let the police know what books I'm reading than for them to let by someone who intends to kill me and my fellow DC residents on the subway.

I hope nobody is so short-sighted that they will accuse me of racism after reading this post. In no way do I believe that all Middle Easterners or all Muslims are our enemy. But after the 9/11 attacks and the other bombings that have taken place around the world, we know the profile of our likely attackers. We need to use that to protect ourselves.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

PC War: Conservative are constantly having hissy fits about the terms used to describe our enemy. Newspapers can't say "insurgent" or "suicide bomber" without some right-winger correcting them with "terrorist" and "homicide bomber".

Sure, they are all terrorists, judging by the battle techniques they use of blowing up civilians using hidden bombs. And it is pretty ridiculous that news organizations such as Reuters and BBC refuse to use that term. But using a neutral term doesn't indicate bias.

For starters, there are two types of enemies in Iraq: the Sunni insurgency and the foreign Al Qaeda terrorists that are pouring across the borders to fight. The insurgency is becoming less of a menace now that the political dealings among Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis are taking away the insurgents' incentive to fight. This leaves Al Qaeda terrorists as our main enemy.

But conservatives get wrapped up in the word "insurgent" as if it's a compliment. Mr. Webster defines it as "a person who revolts against civil authority or an established government." These people are attacking the sovereign democratic government of Iraq with the hopes of overthrowing it in favor of an extreme Islamic dictatorship. How is that word inaccurate?

And "homicide bomber" is the most absurd term I've ever heard. The Bush administration started using it, and Fox News loyally began parroting the phrase immediately. The idea is that the term "suicide bomber" brings to much attention on the terrorist and not enough on the victims.

But almost all bombs are used for homicide -- killing human beings. "Homicide bomber" then becomes redundant. To accurately describe the killer as a "suicide bomber" doesn't give the terrorist any glory. It just shows how messed up these people are in the head.

Fox got caught in a mess by adopting the "homicide bomber" term after the British terrorist attacks were found to be conducted by suicide bombers.

The latest development backs the theory that the attacks were carried out by homicide bombers. There had been initial speculation that the explosives were detonated remotely, with timing devices.
So until we learned that the terrorists blew themselves up along with women and children, they had not conducted a homicide? Remote detonation of bombs doesn't count as homicide?

We have plenty to argue about in this war. Let's not get caught up in semantics.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Real Monsters: A terrorist killed 24 Iraqi children, as they were receiving candy from U.S. troops, just to murder one American soldier. This is beyond "collateral damage" -- the children were fellow Muslims, as far as the terrorists were concerned.

These terrorists routinely target civilians, use children as human shields, and murder anyone who gets in their way.

And then I get an e-mail from these guys calling the work we're doing in Iraq an "illegal and immoral war". Funny thing is my hotmail account automatically threw this e-mail message into the junk folder. Nice to see technology is improving.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Dark Matter: One of the first things you learn in Capitol Politics 101 is the difference between a bill and a resolution. People living both inside and outside the Beltway often use these terms interchangeably. But there is a subtle difference between the two that any political type should keep in mind:

A BILL is a proposal to amend current law or create a new one.

A RESOLUTION is a feel-good piece of crap that don't mean shit outside of Congress; see also CIRCLE JERK.
While a bill accomplishes something, a resolution merely "recognizes" it. Members of Congress usually pass resolutions congratulating whoever wins the Super Bowl each year. In Texas, the legislature once passed a resolution making buckminsterfullerene the official state molecule (there was a highly contentious fight between the "buckyball" and Texaphyrin).

Now, after President Bush and Congress declared the mass murder in Sudan officially to be "genocide", they have killed a bill that would have required a response. Instead, we get a resolution. The Coalition for Darfur explains.

A Prayer for the Dying

As Mark Leon Goldberg of the American Prospect reported back in April, the Bush administration was leaning heavily on congressional leaders and managed to stall, and probably killed, the Darfur Accountability Act.

As Goldberg explained, the bill:

[E]stablishes targeted U.S. sanctions against the Sudanese regime, accelerates assistance to expand the size and mandate of the African Union mission in Darfur, expands the United Nations Mission in Sudan to include the protection of civilians in Darfur, establishes a no-fly zone over Darfur, and calls for a presidential envoy to Sudan.
Because of this pressure, the bill appears to be trapped in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Relations, presumably never to be seen again.

So what is Congress going to do now that sanctions, a no-fly zone, and civilian protection are off the table? Apparently it has been reduced to "[encouraging] the people of the United States [to pray] for an end to the genocide and crimes against humanity and for lasting peace in Darfur, Sudan."

That's right, the US Congress has been reduced to calling on the American people to pray that somehow this genocide ends.

On July 1st, the US Senate quietly passed S.RES.186:

A resolution affirming the importance of a national weekend of prayer for the victims of genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur, Sudan, and expressing the sense of the Senate that July 15 through July 17, 2005, should be designated as a national weekend of prayer and reflection for the people of Darfur.
The House passed a companion resolution (H.RES.333) just yesterday.

The key portion of the resolution reads as follows:

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) supports the goals and ideals of a National Weekend of Prayer and Reflection for Darfur, Sudan;

(2) encourages the people of the United States to observe that weekend by praying for an end to the genocide and crimes against humanity and for lasting peace in Darfur, Sudan; and

(3) urges all churches, synagogues, mosques, and religious institutions in the United States to consider the issue of Darfur in their activities and to observe the National Weekend of Prayer and Reflection with appropriate activities and services.
This resolution appears to be the work of the Save Darfur Coalition, a vital organization that has done a great deal to raise awareness of the genocide -- but what does it say about the level of US commitment to address this situation when Congress is unwilling to do anything beyond simply asking the American people to pray for the dying people of Darfur?

If members of Congress are truly concerned about the deaths of nearly 400,000 Darfuris, or the fates of an estimated 3-million more, they are certainly capable of doing more than quietly declaring a "National Weekend of Prayer and Reflection."

Save Darfur deserves credit for getting Congress to even do this much, but this resolution cannot absolve Congress of its pathetic failure to adequately address the situation in Darfur. If anything, it only serves to highlight the government's utter lack of concern.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

We're All Targets: London was hit this morning by a small but deadly terrorist attack. As of now, it appears four bombs went off -- three on subway trains and one on a double-decker bus -- killing at least 40 people and injuring more than 300. Preliminary indications point to Al Qaeda.

To be honest, it amazes me that small-scale attacks on soft targets don't happen more often. Granted, there have been a number of attempts that have been thwarted. But if two dorks from Columbine can figure out how to make pipe bombs, then Al Qaeda terrorists should be able to finagle a car or backpack bomb with little trouble.

The truth is, it doesn't take much to garner international media attention. A shootout at the Capitol building with an extremist shouting "Allah Akbar!" would get 24-7 coverage.

I believe it's inevitable that another attack will happen on American soil. I expected one before the November elections -- fortunately it did not occur. The fact that there hasn't been an attack here for so long leads me to believe that our strategies in the War on Terrorism are succeeding. But, of course, that's debatable, and we've got plenty of time to argue the finer points of this war.

In the mean time, this is a moment that we should stand in solidarity with our only true ally, Great Britain. We're fighting this war together, and we mourn their loss. God Bless.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Chin Up, Eugene! For several months now, blogger Eugene Oregon has been writing posts about the genocide in Sudan and sending them out to more than 90 members of the Coalition for Darfur, all for the purpose of raising awareness and hopefully a little money to support those fighting back.

His efforts have been positively received. But, as you can imagine, it's tough to change the world one blog at a time.

I just want to publicly thank Eugene for all the effort he is putting into this. This story will never have a happy ending -- it's just too late for that. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't keep telling the story.

Instead of words from Eugene this week, he has sent us an article by Fergal Keane, a journalist, author of a book about Rwanda entitled "Season of Blood" and producer of a recent BBC "Panorama" episode on Darfur. Mr. Keane has first-hand experience of the horrors in Darfur.

Last November I was in a refugee camp in Darfur when it was attacked by the Sudanese police.

They wanted to shift the displaced people to another camp where they would be easier to control.

Many of these people had been driven from their villages by Sudanese soldiers and tribal militia. They had seen their fathers, brothers, sons murdered, their mothers, wives and sisters raped.

The police beat and tear gassed them.

The clubs and staves smashing into bodies already made weak by hunger. Stinging, choking gas sending infants into convulsions of coughing.

The world knew about this. There were observers present from the United Nations and international aid agencies.

At one point, as plastic bullets were being fired, the UN security advisers told their staff to leave. The situation was no longer safe.

To their credit the UN staff stayed. But the Sudanese police regarded us all -- unarmed Westerners with our notebooks and expressions of outrage -- with contempt.
Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Too Much: Looks like I missed out on a whole bunch of news while I've been away. I guess this blog was never meant to be comprehensive. So I'll just vent about the one thing that pisses me off the most.

Time Magazine is making a huge mistake by voluntarily giving up its source in the Plame case. The reporter, Matt Cooper, doesn't want break his promise of confidentiality, but the company is forcing him to. That's not only disrespectful to the reporter, but it hurts the entire journalism profession.

Would-be leakers now know that a reporter's word does not mean much, that a news agency can overrule the reporter at any time. And given just a little political and legal pressure, some organizations will crack.

The result will be fewer people leaking information to investigative journalists, fearing that the promise of confidentiality will not be a long-term agreement. And that will make it that much harder to expose wrongdoing in the government or other areas.

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