Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas!

Sorry for the light blogging. I'm enjoying an end-of-the-year break. So for now, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! See you in 2005.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Left2Right: A Critique

Left2Right is a new blog that was started by several Left professors in the aftermath of the election. Their stated purpose is to communicate Left ideas to the "common folk." You can well imagine how it's going for them.
This critique of the postings so far was a great read. The reviewer states he's not a conservative but a libertarian. Nevertheless, he seems to have a good grasp of conservatism. Here's a small excerpt:
So, if you want to be listened to in Washington, your problem (one which is general to left-wing intellectuals) is how to falsify conservatives' belief that you hate America and want to destroy it. This is not going to be possible at all as long as you express contempt for the values and reasoning ability of the majority of Americans that voted for George Bush.

But your problem runs deeper than that. To be listened to, you will need to demonstrate that you share what present-day American conservatives think of as their core beliefs,including but not limited to:

The practical and moral superiority of free-market capitalism over socialism and all other competing visions of political economics.

American exceptionalism — the belief that the U.S. is uniquely qualified by history and values to bring liberty to the oppressed of the world.

Islamic terrorism is an unqualified evil which cannot be explained or excused either by "root cause" analysis; further, that laying it to past failures in U.S. policy is a form of blaming the victim.

(Note that I am not endorsing these beliefs, simply pointing out that conservatives generally hold them.)

As long as conservatives believe that you do not share these core beliefs with them, they will conclude that your policy "help" on Iraq or the War on Terror would be an active detriment. And — here's the hard part — they will be justified in that belief (which, as you doubtless know, is not the same as the assertion that the belief is confirmably true).

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Bush and the World of Ideas

One of the main criticisms leveled against President Bush is that he is out of touch with the world of ideas. He supposedly doesn't read (he does, but does that even need to be said?) nor is his staff receptive to outside ideas. This Washington Post article describes the newly created Office of Strategic Initiative (OSI) who's stated purpose is to do historical research and interact with various thinkers in order to keep the president informed. While the office only has six staff members, they strive to identify historical and intellectual trends that the president should be aware of when making decisions.
I note from reading this article that such an office never existed before the current Bush administration. While some, no doubt, will look at Bush as needing someone to "think" for him, the creation of this office was arguably a good thing since the president can not keep up with current, let alone past, intellectual trends in the various disciplines.
On a side note, I'll be graduating soon. Think they need an IR specialist? Hmmm...

Monday, December 13, 2004

Post-Election Taiwan: the Future

Now that the DPP has been denied a majority in the legislature, what can we expect for Taiwan? The KMT managed somehow to retain enough seats to keep themselves afloat for four more years. They have narrowly escaped the possibility of investigations and the resulting airing of massive amounts of dirty laundry (on both sides considering Lee Tung-Hui's corruption) that would have surely sunk the party for good.
In trying to put that past behind them, the party may now get smart and realize that the relatively young mayor of Taipei, Ma Ying-Jou, gives the KMT the best hope of the future. Ma is widely recognized across the island as the only uncorrupt politician in Taiwan, an image he has maintained despite constant attacks from political enemies. Popularity polls show Ma attracting voters from all major voting blocks, a wide-spread base of support that would assure him a win in any election that he entered.
Despite his obvious electability, Ma was sidelined in the past presidential election earlier this year and he may be again if Lien Chan (the head of the KMT) and James Soong (the head of the PFP -- a KMT splinter group) can't forgo their belief that they are owed the ROC presidency. The antics they presided over regarding the presidential election results turned off many voters, and the KMT's best hope now is new blood in the form of Ma.
The DPP, meanwhile, will be stymied in any attempts they make to change the cross-Strait status quo. Chen Sui-Bian was largely a lameduck president before the legislative election of Saturday, but now that his party has been denied a legislative majority, the DPP will be unable to pursue any independence activities -- barring any massive political shakeup or the declaration of martial law again.
So the crucial window of opportunity to declare independence before the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics has past. Chen's promise to Lee Tung-Hui to declare independence for Taiwan before the latter's death will likely go unfulfilled. While Chen may think that he has nothing to lose now and may, therefore, pursue extremist rhetoric, he lacks the political power to effect any real change. The DPP long ago realized that the post-2008 era will leave China greatly empowered and they will have few restraints on their actions at that time. Declaring Taiwan independence after 2008 was never an option and now the pre-2008 era has been taken from the DPP as well.
All in all, this election was good for Taiwan. Change is best when it happens slowly and the results of this election will reinforce a slow reform of Taiwan's democratic institutions by sidelining the extremists. Overall, a victory for the status quo.

US vs. N. Korea 2003: A Close Call

Check out this report describing how close we came to war with N. Korea in 2003. Scary stuff.
President Bush came very close to actually launching an attack on North Korea in the spring of 2003. In March the U.S. moved a fleet of ships to the region, including the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson with its 75 aircraft. In preparation for the attack, 6 F-117 Stealth bombers were sent to South Korea and 25 F-15 Fighters and 24 B-1 and B-52 bombers were stationed in Guam. Plans to conduct air strikes were in place, Bush admitted to South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Pan Ki-Mun one year later. The danger of war was averted during the U.S.-South Korean summit in Washington in May 2003, when South Korean officials strenuously objected to the plan. As in 1994, the American public never knew just how close the U.S. came to war on the Korean Peninsula in 2003. South Korean opposition to military action only strengthened the Bush Administration’s conviction that it would be necessary to demonstrate the futility of negotiations before it could win the support of regional allies. It felt it could best accomplish that goal by presenting an image of negotiating without actually doing so.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Today's Taiwan Election: The Future of the KMT and Taiwan

Taiwan will today hold a legislative election that will probably determine the future of the KMT and which might allow the DPP to pursue independence. Both sides know that the stakes are high and so they are both trying their best to get their candidates elected. But, depending on the outcome, the future of one or even both parties may be in jeopardy.
The KMT has fallen on hard times in recent years. It has seen its monopoly on power slowly erode since Lee Tung-hui left office. As everyone knows, the KMT is the richest political party in the world and even though much of their money came with them when they fled China, a substantial part of their funds came from their seizure and use of assets in Taiwan. The DPP has long coveted those assets, and they may be poised to finally take them back if they can win a majority in the legislature in this election.
So the KMT is fighting not just for an election, but for its political life. If the DPP wins a majority, they will immediately call for investigations into the various assets that the KMT hold. Native Taiwanese that support the DPP have called for such investigations for years but were unable to break the deadlock that the KMT legislative majority posed. There's a saying in Chinese: the investigation can't go forward because it can't go upward. That impediment could be removed today depending on the will of the voters.
The DPP is also struggling because they have made the quest for independence their central goal in past years. That quest allowed them to rally the base and cast themselves as the opposition. Now that they are in power with Chen Sui-bian in office, they are engaged in a very delicate dance of trying to appease the independence-minded base while not angering the only Taiwan ally that counts: the US.
The past couple of weeks have clearly shown the difficulty of pleasing both the base and the key ally as Chen has made clear remarks about replacing "Republic of China" with "Republic of Taiwan" (despite promising not to do just that) while also calling for a new constitution. The US is clearly upset over these moves and Chen's administration has fallen back on the old Chinese trick of speak and double-speak in order to obscure what was actually said and meant. The Byzantines truly had nothing on the Chinese.
So as voters go to the polls today, the future of the KMT is at stake and with the DPP, the future of all of Taiwan may be at stake. The best possible scenario is that things stay exactly as they are, a likely outcome considering the bizarre accusations and ball-dropping antics of both parties in recent weeks. If by some slim chance the DPP wins a majority, then Taiwan will likely go through a very difficult period as the DPP seeks political payback from their foes. Investigations will be launched, some politicians will leave the country in hastily prepared vacations, and the DPP will become the new boss (same as the old boss). Then the independence talk may begin in ernest, depending on the stance the US takes toward the election. Considering all the talk of empire we hear these days, the US is amazingly gentle with Taiwan in a time when they should probably be more assertive. If the DPP goes too far, that assertiveness may eventually come out.
So keep your fingers crossed as another election holds the future of Taiwan in its hands.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The New Face of Outsourcing

Here is a very interesting story about Europeans working in Indian call centers. They are working for Indian companies, making local wages, and apparently loving it.

Folks, this is the new face of outsourcing. In the future, if you love a certain job (okay, maybe not call-center type stuff) you willl have to go where that job can be performed at a world-competitive wage. Jobs that can be outsourced are likely to move where the labor is the cheapest in order to offer the goods and services at the lowest price to consumers and maximize corporate profit. Welcome to the brave new world!

Before anyone gets too upset about this, I should point out some obvious benefits of accepting this part of outsourcing. Many foreigners travel and enjoy living in other countries. Outsourcing allows them to take jobs that otherwise wouldn't be available to them. The travellers/expats benefit from this as well as the companies that would seek to employ them. Just think, those call centers benefit from having native speakers work for them instead of paying them to teach the workers English. The companies get the benefit of the foreigners presence because they will spread recent English usage to the Indian workers. This is a very smart move on the part of the companies. The spillover effects of hiring Europeans make it worthwhile.

Moving to a foreign country or just taking one of these jobs temporarily can be an amazing cultural experience, but the pay can also be pretty good. As the article mentions, these call-centers pay fairly low wages but what it doesn't address is the cost of living in India: it's very low. These Europeans can take a job that, to them, would be fairly easy (speaking English all day) and take advantage of the job perks to save money.

While these workers are probably younger traveller types, I predict we will start to see some slow migration patterns of Western workers moving to where the jobs are. It will take some time, but I predict that some people will choose love of a certain type of job over location and move accordingly.

I guess we have to wait and see.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

What's Wrong with the Democrats: National Security

Kevin Drum has a excellent post here in which he discusses why the Democrats are not serious about national security. Some of the things he thinks dems need to discuss and have an answer to are the following:

Nuclear terrorism. A terrorist group with a nuclear weapon poses an entirely different threat than one without, so this needs to be treated as a danger all its own. How likely is it that a terrorist group could really acquire a nuclear weapon? And deliver it? And what's the best way to stop it? The fact that the Bush administration has been so lackadaisical on this score is going to make this a hard argument to deliver convincingly. If they don't take it seriously, why should anyone else?
Garden variety terrorism. Aside from the nuclear scenario, what's the actual danger from terrorist groups like al-Qaeda? 9/11 was due to luck and poor foresight, but now that we know the danger how much military harm can they really do to us? How much economic harm? And how likely is it?
Expansionism. Do Islamic extremists really have much interest in anyplace outside the Middle East? To the best of my knowledge, no Islamic country in the greater Middle East has ever invaded or shown the slightest interest in invading a country that wasn't a neighbor. Is Islamic extremism fundamentally expansionist, like fascism and communism, or not?
Oil. Nobody wants to talk honestly about this, but it's obviously the reason we care about the Middle East in the first place and don't care much about, say, sub-Saharan
Africa — and therefore care about Islamic totalitarianism but not sub-Saharan totalitarianism. The problem here is shared by both liberals and conservatives.

On the left, "no blood for oil" is childishness. Economic interests are and always have been a legitimate concern of national governments, and a steady supply of oil is plainly vital to the industrialized world. If a Taliban-like regime deposed the House of Saud and took over Saudi Arabia, for example, they might decide to tighten the taps because they figure they only need half as much oil money as they currently receive — after all, most of it just went to those decadent westernized royal princes anyway. The resulting oil shock would almost certainly cause a global depression of enormous magnitude. This would be a disaster, and one that would hurt the poor far more than the rich.

On the right, conservatives hypocritically refuse to admit that oil has anything to do with anything. It's all about democracy promotion, you see — despite the fact that our national policies have virtually nothing to do with genuinely promoting democracy. What's more, conservatives make a bad problem worse by practically sneering at the idea that anyone should take seriously the idea of greater energy conservation or alternative energy sources. Squawking endlessly about ANWR — which contains a minute amount of oil — just trivializes the whole problem.

This is the clearest thinking I've read from a dem commentator in a long time and shows what the Lieberman branch of the Democratic Party may be able to contribute if they can break free for the fringe elements.

Drum is correct, ideas like this need to be asked on both sides of the American political fence rather than acting as if the GWOT is a political football. Republicans must realize that the GWOT will be fought over a very long period of time spanning across multiple administrations that will inevitably be both Democratic and Republican. Thus, the GWOT is above petty political posturing and we must realize that scoring political points could harm the US ability to win the GWOT. That can't be allowed to happen because, quite frankly, too much is at stake here.

Unfortunately, a true bi-partisan effort is really difficult when the dems insist on a pacifist position in which any use of US military power is a priori evil. If you read the comments to Drum's two excellent articles on this topic, you will see the depth of the problem that hawkish dems face in reforming their party's position. The comments range from the usual BS "Bush is Hitler" to assertions that the GWOT and national security in general are not important topics to outright pacifism. If Drum ever needed greater proof of the enormity of the task he faces, he need look no further than the comment section.

No doubt, Americans on Nov. 2 asked and will again ask in the future if they trust the presidency to people who don't believe in assuring American national security.

Becker-Posner on Preventive War

Wow! Their first post is a really good one. This is one of the best defenses of preventive war I've ever seen. Here is a glimpse of what Becker had to say(emphasis mine):

... arguments about intent apply much more strongly to preventive actions against terrorist organizations and rogue nations. The conventional approach to war in democratic states favors retaliation after attacks. This was the rationale for the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine during the height of the Cold War: the US was prepared to unleash devastating nuclear destruction against the Soviet Union if attacked with nuclear weapons, and visa versa for the Soviets. That worked, although there were several close calls, as during the Cuban crisis.

But this approach is no longer adequate to fight terrorist organizations, states that sponsor terrorism, and dictatorial states that want to destroy their enemies. For it is becoming increasingly possible for terrorist organizations and governments to unleash biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons that will cause massive destruction. Retaliation may be slow and difficult if terrorists are widely dispersed so that it is hard to generate sufficiently severe reprisals to discourage their attacks. Rogue governments also are more capable of using these weapons surreptitiously, so that it might be many obstacles to determining who was responsible if they chose not to admit their responsibility. It is already difficult to know which groups are responsible for terrorist acts except when they brag about them.

In addition, many state-sponsors of terrorism often prey on the zeal of individuals who are willing to kill themselves in promoting what they consider a higher cause. These suicide bombers clearly cannot be punished after they commit their acts (although their families could be) because they forfeit their lives while attempting to kill and injury others. One can try to raise the probability that they will fail-through barriers, walls, and other protective activities- but free societies are so vulnerable that these can never be strong enough deterrents.

Moreover, the degree of certainty required before preventive actions are justified has been considerably reduced below what it was in the past because the destructive power of weaponry has enormously increased. Perhaps most worrisome, the power of weapons continues to grow, and to become more easily accessible. Critics of preventive wars and other preventive actions against rogue states and terrorist groups ignore these major changes in weaponry and their availability. Democratic governments have to recognize that they no longer have the luxury of waiting to respond until they are attacked.

Those who support a more "intelligent," crime-based approach to defeating terrorism refuse to deal with the points that Becker raises above. Globalization has changed many things, for the better and worse, and those changes must be reflected in our military and foreign policies. Sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that we live in an ideal world will not prevent enemies from attacking us.

An aside: Becker, the economist, made a law-based argument in his post, while Posner, the judge, made an economic argument in favor of preventive war. Interesting!

Monday, December 06, 2004

NYT Addresses Oil-for-Food Scandal

The NYT has decided to mention recent developments in the oil-for food scandal now that the story has become simply too big to ignore. Here's the full story, my comments are bolded:

The U.N. Oil Scandal
The assault on the United Nations is escalating. (Notice the use of violent language to elicit an emotional response) A Senate subcommittee has raised the estimate of how many illegal billions Saddam Hussein was able to amass under the noses of monitors hired by the United Nations. Several other Congressional committees are exploring the scandal. Norm Coleman, the subcommittee's Republican chairman, has joined a gaggle of conservatives (conservatives are never just a group like anyone else are they?) calling for the resignation of Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Mr. Annan, who drew the wrath of Republican Washington for opposing President Bush's war in Iraq, will have to face the judgment of United Nations members on how much responsibility he bears. But before the call for his scalp gains more political momentum, it is important to disentangle the mélange of charges swirling around. The United Nations bureaucracy does not bear the primary responsibility for letting Saddam Hussein amass a secret treasury estimated by official investigators at $10 billion to $21 billion.

There is no doubt that the United Nations oil-for-food program was manipulated by Saddam Hussein to generate substantial sums. The money was then used to buy forbidden goods or otherwise solidify Mr. Hussein's power. The most worrisome charge is that Benon Sevan, head of the program, received oil allotments from Iraq that amounted to a bribe. These charges need to be fully investigated, as they will be by the United Nations' own panel and other inquiries. (Will they? Considering the lack of the power of subpoena, UN "investigators" can't compel anyone to answer their questions. How will they uncover the truth?)

But the ever-shriller attacks on oil-for-food and on Mr. Annan play down this fact: Iraq accumulated far more illicit money through trade agreements that the United States and other Security Council members knew about for years but chose to accept. (Notice that the article says the US knew about the deals, not that the deals were with US companies, because they weren't for the most part. Oh, except for a certain someone pardoned by Pres. Clinton.) After the first Persian Gulf war, the United Nations imposed sanctions on Iraq that prohibited imports of military value and banned oil exports to deny Mr. Hussein money to rebuild his army. When it became apparent that Iraq's civilian population was suffering greatly, the sanctions were eased. The so-called oil-for-food program allowed Iraq to export oil under United Nations supervision, with the revenues funneling into a United Nations account to be used for food, medicine and other necessities.

By virtually all expert accounts, the sanctions, backed by United Nations weapons inspectors, and the oil-for-food program achieved their major goals. Iraq's programs to make chemical, biological and nuclear weapons disintegrated, its conventional military forces became a hollow shell, and the health of the civilian population improved. But right from the start, Iraq found ways to circumvent the sanctions, often with the tacit approval of the United States. (The French, Germans, and Russians were in bed with Saddam, but they aren't even mentioned.)

An analysis by Charles Duelfer, the chief American weapons inspector in Iraq, estimated that Iraq generated some $11 billion in illicit revenue and used the money to buy prohibited items, including military equipment. The main routes for these illicit transactions - $8 billion worth - were trade deals that Iraq negotiated with neighboring countries, notably Jordan, Syria and Turkey. By the Senate subcommittee's higher count, Iraq got almost two-thirds of some $21 billion through the trade deals or smuggling.

But these trade agreements had nothing to do with the oil-for-food program, and were hardly a secret. (Notice the red-herring here. By their own account, these deals were outside the oil-for-food scandal. Isn't this article about that program and the corruption it led to?) The United States actually condoned Iraq's trade deals with Jordan and Turkey, two allies whose economies suffered from the sanctions. This was a reasonable price to pay for maintaining their support on the main objective - denying weapons of mass destruction to Saddam Hussein.

American diplomats tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade Syria to stop buying Iraqi oil outside of the oil-for-food program, but did little to crack down on that trade. Syria became a major supplier of military goods to Iraq. This was a failure of American diplomacy, not Kofi Annan. (And would the NYT have supported the US applying military pressure to Syria?)

The United Nations bureaucracy had no power to prevent these illicit oil or arms deals outside the oil-for-food program. It was the responsibility of member nations to adhere to sanctions imposed by the Security Council. Those members with the most diplomatic, economic and military power were obliged to help enforce them. (Like enforcing Security Council Resolutions through the use of force? So the US is to blame for not militarily intervening earlier.)Thus the primary blame for allowing Iraq to accumulate illicit billions lies with the United States and other Security Council members that winked at prohibited oil sales, mostly for sensible reasons.

The investigations now under way need to determine to what extent United Nations officials could have detected and stopped Iraq's financial shenanigans in the program they did monitor, oil-for-food. Suspicions were sometimes voiced at meetings of the relevant Security Council committees, but they took a back seat to the main goal of preventing Iraq from getting weapons of mass destruction.

Kofi Annan's role will also have to be laid out fully. He has, unfortunately, issued inconsistent statements about the role of his son, Kojo Annan, in working abroad for a Swiss company that won a contract to monitor imports under the oil-for-food program. (Finally some doubt about Kofi's role.) The whiff of nepotism has set the hounds baying, and may bring grief to Mr. Annan, but what all that has to do with Saddam Hussein's illicit billions remains murky. It seems wildly premature to call for Mr. Annan's resignation.

So the NYT thinks that Saddam accumulating billions should have taken a back seat to stopping him from acquiring WMD. And just what would he have done with all that nice money, I wonder?

Turning this around to blame the US is the most surprising feature of the editorial IMO. The NYT can't bare to see that this scandal will blow their pet organization wide open so they try to pin on it on their favorite whipping boy: the US. Not this time, fellas.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

What's Wrong with the Democrats, part 2

I was going to leave this topic alone considering that I've blogged about it before. But I found a very interesting article on this topic from Michael Lind of the New America Foundation. That's the same foundation that Steve Clemons over at The Washington Note works for. Mr. Lind's critique of recent liberal positions is almost breathtaking considering that he is himself a democrat. Here's the article:
IN AN ERA IN WHICH MOST US POPULATION GROWTH is occurring in the South, West and heartland, American liberalism is defined by people in the Northeast. At a time when rising tuitions are pricing many working-class Americans out of a college education, the upscale campus is becoming the base of American progressivism. In a country in which most working-class Americans drive cars and own homes in the suburbs, the left fetishizes urban apartments and mass transit and sneers at "sprawl." In an economy in which most workers are in the service sector, much of the left is obsessed with manufacturing jobs. In a society in which Latinos have surpassed blacks as the largest minority and in which racial intermixture is increasing, the left continues to treat race as a matter of zero-sum multiculturalism and white-bashing. In a culture in which the media industry makes money by pushing sex and violence, the left treats the normalization of profanity and obscenity as though it were somehow progressive, making culture heroes of Lenny Bruce and Larry Flynt. At a time when the religious right wants to shut down whole areas of scientific research, many on the left share a Luddite opposition to biotech. In an age in which billions would starve if not for the use of artificial fertilizers in capital-intensive agriculture, the left blathers on about small-scale organic farming. In a century in which the dire need for energy for poor people in the global South can only be realistically met by coal, oil and perhaps nuclear energy, liberals fantasize about wind farms and solar panels. And in a world in which the greatest threat to civilization is the religious right of the Muslim countries, much of the left persists in treating the United States as an evil empire and American patriotism as a variant of fascism.
American progressivism, in its present form, is as obsolete in the twenty-first century as the agrarian populists were in the twentieth. If you can't adapt to the times, good intentions will get you nowhere. Ask the shade of William Jennings Bryan.

Wow! I don't agree with everything he says but most of his rants against liberal positions seem pretty accurate to me. Let's see if democrats who think like Lind will be able to influence their party.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

WSJ: Kofi Must Go

I haven't blogged much on the Oil For Food scandal because I have been really cautious about drawing premature conclusions. That puts you behind the curve in the blogger world but I think that waiting until more of the facts are known is still a good thing, especially in something this big.
Now, the chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations is calling for Kofi to resign. His subcommittee feels it has enough information that points to Kofi's culpability. Here are a few key graphs from the WSJ piece:
Over the past seven months, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which I chair, has conducted an exhaustive, bipartisan investigation into the scandal surrounding the U.N. Oil-for-Food program. That noble program was established by the U.N. to ease the suffering of the Iraqi people, then languishing under Saddam Hussein's ironfisted rule, as well as the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the U.N. after the first Gulf War. While sanctions were designed to instigate the removal of Saddam from power, or at least render him impotent, the Oil-for-Food program was designed to support the Iraqi people with food and other humanitarian aid under the watchful eye of the U.N.
Our Investigative Subcommittee has gathered overwhelming evidence that Saddam turned this program on its head. Rather than erode his grip on power, the program was manipulated by Saddam to line his own pockets and actually strengthen his position at the expense of the Iraqi people. At our hearing on Nov. 15, we presented evidence that Saddam accumulated more than $21 billion through abuses of the Oil-for-Food program and U.N. sanctions. We continue to amass evidence that he used the overt support of prominent members of the U.N., such as France and Russia, along with numerous foreign officials, companies and possibly even senior U.N. officials, to exploit the program to his advantage. We have obtained evidence that indicates that Saddam doled out lucrative oil allotments to foreign officials, sympathetic journalists and even one senior U.N. official, in order to undermine international support for sanctions. In addition, we are gathering evidence that Saddam gave hundreds of thousands--maybe even millions--of Oil-for-Food dollars to terrorists and
terrorist organizations. All of this occurred under the supposedly vigilant eye of the U.N.
Mr. Annan was at the helm of the U.N. for all but a few days of the Oil-for-Food program, and he must, therefore, be held accountable for the U.N.'s utter failure to detect or stop Saddam's abuses. The consequences of the U.N.'s ineptitude cannot be overstated: Saddam was empowered to withstand the sanctions regime, remain in power, and even rebuild his military. Needless to say, he made the Iraqi people suffer even more by importing substandard food and medicine under the Oil-for-Food program and pawning it off as first-rate humanitarian aid.
Since it was never likely that the U.N. Security Council, some of whose permanent members were awash in Saddam's favors, would ever call for Saddam's removal, the U.S. and its coalition partners were forced to put troops in harm's way to oust him by force. Today, money swindled from Oil-for-Food may be funding the insurgency against coalition troops in Iraq and other terrorist activities against U.S. interests. Simply put, the troops would probably not have been placed in such danger if the U.N. had done its job in administering sanctions and Oil-for-Food.

Giving Credit Where it's Due

Michael Moore has had a makeover. His recent appearance on the Tonight Show showed him in a suit, with a fresh haircut, sans baseball cap. Even more importantly, he seemed to shun conspiracy theories for once. Here's the Newsmax story on it:
Michael Moore: 'Bush Got More Votes'
Democrat conspiracy mongers currently pushing for a recount in Ohio in hopes of overturning the presidential election got no help last night from conspiracy monger-in-chief, Michael Moore, who told "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno that President Bush won the contest fair and square.
Asked why Democratic hopes went up in smoke on Election Day, Moore said simply, "I think Bush got more votes."
"The Republicans - I'll give them this - they had a story to tell," the Bush-bashing filmmaker conceded. "The Democrats, oftentimes, aren't very good at telling a story."
Moore explained: "And the [Bush] story was: Out of the ashes of September 11 rose one man. And he stood on the rubble of lower Manhattan with a bullhorn and he said, 'I will protect you.'
"And he did," Moore added, as the audience began to applaud. "And we were never attacked again."
Dressed in a business suit and clean-shaven for the first time in years, Moore couldn't resist inserting the caveat: "That has nothing to do with whether we will be attacked again."
Still, his advice to disgruntled Dems had nothing to do with recounts or stolen elections or voter disenfranchisement.
"[Bush's victory] was just a couple of percentage points," the chastened-sounding movieman said. "People who voted for Kerry shouldn't be depressed at this point. They should pick themselves up. ... There's another game in four years. And we'll come back and do the best we can."
I, for one, applaud his new look and what he's saying. Does he really mean what he says? Maybe, maybe not. But the simple fact that he changed his look and his speech shows a willingness to use logic and reason (plus a little respect and taste) to advance Democratic positions.

Ladies and gentlemen, this past election is the election that just keeps on giving. Who would have thought Michael Moore, of all people, would at least adopt an outwardly respectable appearance? This change shows that Conservatives are still winning big but the true winners are the American people. When Michael Moore does something like this, then there is a glimmer of hope that American politics can return to reasonable debate minus the BS conspiracy theories, minus the rhetorical devices of "liar" and "idiot," minus the infantile outrage of the vitriolic left.

And that is true progress.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

DOD Knew About Abuse Before Abu Ghraib

This Reuters story reports that the US Army knew about abuses one month before the Abu Ghraib story broke and yet, they did nothing about it. A confidential report had by that time already been submitted:
The confidential report by retired Col. Stuart A. Herrington, obtained by the Post, warned that arrest and detention practices used by CIA and other soldiers could "technically" be illegal.
Herrington's report also found that members of an elite group that included CIA members abused detainees at a secret interrogation facility in Iraq to hide their activities, the paper reported.
The report shows that U.S. military officials in Iraq knew of prisoner abuse at least a month before they learned of the Abu Ghraib acts in January 2004, the article said.
Notice the bolded area. Will DOD stick to its story that these were the acts of a few out-of-control lower enlisted soldiers? Apparently so:
A top-level U.S. inquiry blamed the military chain of command for creating conditions that allowed the abuses to take place, but only seven lower ranking military police and an intelligence soldier have been indicted so far.
The DOD's defense that there were no WRITTEN orders to perform such actions is simply laughable. In the years that I served, I was never, EVER given a written order. In the military, you are given your verbal orders and you move out smartly to carry out those orders. There was no way I could ever have produced a paper trail for anything I was ordered to do. No soldier could do that.
So when the axe falls, these lower enlisted soldiers, who we so desperately need to enlist and provide our security, get hung out to dry while the Chain of Command plays "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil." Different-spanks-for-different-ranks ensures that no one higher than lower enlisted will get punished. Amazing.
The Abu Ghraib soldiers were either ordered to do what they did or they were totally unsupervised. Either option implicates Chain of Command. There's simply no way that they were not involved and, therefore, were responsible for what happened. Based on the info that I have seen, I'm going with the idea that the soldiers were ordered to get information any way they could. They got creative in ways that they thought would produce the results their superiors wanted. And so the abuses happened.
It's really a pernicious kind of betrayal when your own side sells you out. You expect that from the enemy. But when you get sold down the river by your superiors, it just breaks a soldier's heart. If you can't trust your own side, then what are we fighting for?

Please pray for our men and women in uniform. They are beset by enemies both foreign and domestic. God bless them.