George Soros, or one of his foundations, helped sponsor the "Velvet Coup" in Georgia. It was back in February that billionaire financier George Soros began laying the brickwork for the toppling of Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze.
That month, funds from his Open Society Institute sent a 31-year-old Tbilisi activist named Giga Bokeria to Serbia to meet with members of the Otpor (Resistance) movement and learn how they used street demonstrations to topple dictator Slobodan Milosevic. Then, in the summer, Mr. Soros's foundation paid for a return trip to Georgia by Otpor activists, who ran three-day courses teaching more than 1,000 students how to stage a peaceful revolution.
Soros is popping up quite a bit in the right-wing press after he pledged to "put his money where his mouth is" to defeat Bush. Some conservatives are shocked, shocked, to find a billionaire playing a role in American politics. Since Soros is exactly the man central casting would send over for a mini-series based on The Protocol of the Elders of Zion, anti-semitism was inevitable. Soros is, in the vulgar ravings of the conspiracy theorists, the natural heir to the Rothschilds.
Soros can't even get a break from other Jews. Some basically inocuous remarks he made to the effect that the unpopularity of Israel's occupation of Palestine helped -- I emphasize, helped -- inflame anti-Semitism in Europe led some on the right to attack him as a "self-hating Jew." One of the most familiar rantings of the anti-Semites is their attacks on Jewish "speculators." Milton Friedman once suggested that making money through exchange -- as opposed to manufacturing or agriculture -- seemed like alchemy to those ignorant of economics. Jews, barred from other fields, were able to thrive in finance, and so were associated with this economic "witchcraft." The slur of "parasite" was thus used against Jews from the medieval guilds to Henry Ford and beyond.
In an article published this week, Jackie Mason, who used to be funny, and Raoul Felder write:
There is also the moral problem that we have with the way enormously rich people make their money. Other than wealth created by virtue of an invention, such as Edison and electricity, the acquisition of wealth is not a guiltless process, nor certainly is it a profitless and harmless transfer of monies. Notwithstanding Soros`s professed interest in helping people via his charities, there is the fact that speculation in foreign currencies — a la Soros — can beget economic havoc in countries. In 1992, Soros earned one billion dollars in a one day by betting that the British pound would fall. Although Soros denies it, there are some who accuse him of causing the 1997
Asian economic crisis by his betting against the Thai baht. When these sorts of things occur it ultimately filters down to the humblest of a country's citizens.
If it weren't enough to invoke Edison, Henry Ford's old crony, they continue that, "we would happily consign him to our private hell peopled by hypocrites, windbags, and assorted parasites and blowhards." (my emphasis)
I have a great deal of respect for Soros, and firmly believe that the world is at least marginally better for his presence in it. Not too many people can say that. But even if Soros did not make such an effort to be a Force for Good, we would still be able to know his worth by the arguments that his enemies use against him.
¶ 6:29 AM
And speaking of Laura Miller...
Her typically condescending take on historians dealing with the legacy of slavery, especially annoying because the subject is so important, includes this little cliched pearl:
While not the kind of work that leads to Guggenheim and MacArthur grants, researching such books rousts a scholar out of Ivy League university libraries. It means driving around the countryside where history actually happened and meeting the descendants and neighbors of the people who built and inhabited those great houses. Historians do not typically spend their days in university libraries, Ivy League or otherwise. They spend the bulk of their time in the archives and in the field trying to find undiscovered sources; going over the published literature- the stuff in libraries - is usually done to sketch out what is not already known.
I don't mean to nit-pick, but this strikes me as typical both of Miller's inability to ever find the best way to word even the simplest concept, and of her satisfaction with the simplest, or tritest, concept.
¶ 10:24 AM
Get the hell off of my side of the argument! David Brooks came out for gay marriage, but in such a way that he pissed off people who support gay marriage. It's a gift that he has.
Anybody who has several sexual partners in a year is committing spiritual suicide. He or she is ripping the veil from all that is private and delicate in oneself, and pulverizing it in an assembly line of selfish sensations.
And that's just the first graf. He goes on to claim that American marriage is in "crisis", though, in fact, divorce rates peaked in the '70's and have declined since then. But evidence isn't Brooks' strong point:
Today marriage is in crisis. Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. Worse, in some circles, marriage is not even expected. Men and women shack up for a while, produce children and then float off to shack up with someone else.
Marriage is in crisis because marriage, which relies on a culture of fidelity, is now asked to survive in a culture of contingency. Today, individual choice is held up as the highest value: choice of lifestyles, choice of identities, choice of cellphone rate plans. Freedom is a wonderful thing, but the culture of contingency means that the marriage bond, which is supposed to be a sacred vow till death do us part, is now more likely to be seen as an easily canceled contract.
Men are more likely to want to trade up, when a younger trophy wife comes along. Men and women are quicker to opt out of marriages, even marriages that are not fatally flawed, when their "needs" don't seem to be met at that moment.
Really? "Quicker to opt out"? Quicker than what? Any data to back this up?
Even on an anecdotal level, nobody I know has jumped the broom thinking it an "easily cancelled contract." Friends of mine who have gone through a divorce found it gut-wrenching; to suggest that they ended their marriages because of fleeting whims is ignorant and insulting.
Beyond Brooks' inept phrase-making ("culture of contingency"- ugh) and lazy assumptions is his attack on men and women who enjoy sex, even if they are not in a commited relationship. In his close, he refers to hook-ups (or, in his stilted neo-Puritan prose, "intimate and sacred relations") as an "abomination."
The word that Brooks should use for those that he is attacking, though he does not, is "sluts". I thought that feminism had, if nothing else, caused us to move beyond the concept. I am enough of a feminist to object to the idea. When I consider that Brooks is referring to women that I care about, even love, as "spiritual suicides," then the feminist in me combines with my inner Texan, and I want to thrash the smug bastard.
¶ 10:02 AM
It's those hysterical anti-Bush radicals that keep criticizing the Iraq Occupation:
The retired American general who headed the first occupation government in Iraq said Wednesday the United States made major mistakes, including disbanding the Iraqi army, putting too few troops on the ground and failing to explain the goals of the war.
Jay Garner, in his most critical comments yet, said in an interview broadcast Wednesday that the series of mistakes began in April when the U.S. military did not act quickly to maintain law and order and preserve the buildings needed for the government ministries.
¶ 8:19 AM
Vaclav Klaus is an pragmatic economist, and taught us how to build a standard parliamentary democracy, based on competition of diverse political ideas and concepts. He built our leading conservative-liberal party, ODS...He's an over-achiever, the single most successful Czech politician of our era. His amazing victory this year when he got elected President by our bitterly divided Parliament proved he's still strong and eager to grow.
If by "eager to grow" TK means willing to use the support of the Communists...
¶ 1:56 PM
"Ah! Finally I locate the huge painted sun-puppet -- that's us" An activist nit-wit writing a diary of direct action in Dade County for Salon manages to sum up the movement quite well.
¶ 12:50 PM
Ann Coulter is off her meds again:
"This is a religious war, not against Islam but for Christianity, for a Christian nation,' Coulter said. "When this nation was founded, there was nothing like it. Our founders said there is a God and we are all equal before God. The ideal of equality and tolerance is like nothing that has ever existed in the world before. That, too, is a Christian value. The concept of equality, especially when it comes to gender equality, was not invented by Gloria Steinem -- it was invented by Jesus Christ. As long as people look long enough, they will always come to Christianity."
The odd thing about this story is that Eminem may become the first rapper in the history of hip-hop to actually apologize for attacking African- American women.
¶ 12:05 AM
Thursday, November 20, 2003
More on Atta/Praha, this time from Newsweek:
The memo invokes the by-now hoary claim -- first reported by Czech intelligence-that Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague in April 2001. But it concedes that the FBI and CIA ?cannot confirm? that such a meeting actually took place. In fact, the Iraqi agent in question, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, has been in U.S. custody for months and, according to U.S. intelligence sources, denies ever meeting Atta -- a denial that officials tend to believe given that they have not unearthed a scintilla of evidence that Atta was even in Prague at the time of the alleged rendezvous. via Josh Marshall
¶ 10:25 AM
Instapundit has really bad taste:
I've done a number of posts attacking things that Glenn Reynolds has written on Instapundit, but I'm trying to break the habit. Life is short, and I doubt very much that on my death bed I will wish that I had spent more time blogging. Moreover, the volume of his writing makes pointing out his errors like an updated labor of Hercules.
But I thought that Reynolds revealed a great deal about how he views the world when he printed this letter from one of his readers:
Saturday night, I had a real feeling that maybe conservatives are doing even better than they think in the culture wars. I was walking out of Master and Commander which is a compendium of what used to be called the manly virtues. Courage, honor, tenacity, loyalty and tolerance are all on display without a whiff of irony. Even an appreciation of the arts and education are included without any astonishment that warriors could value those things. Master is not an anomaly. Black Hawk Down and They were Soldiers Once and Young were both straightforward depictions of heroism unaccompanied by knowing smirks.
At the moment it is almost impossible to imagine Hollywood producing a Mash or Catch 22 or Doctor Strangelove ( Although I hasten to add Strangelove will always be in my top five movies.) It wouldn't dare. They may still smile knowingly over their designer water at home but not in their films.
Are things really going as well as all that?
Well, De Gustibus non est disputandum and all that, but note, beyond the bad taste that Reynolds seems to agree with, there is also Instapundit's evident pleasure in the possibility that films like MASH and Dr. Strangelove couldn't even get made today. That's victory for them in their "culture war."
¶ 6:28 AM
The Gettysburg Address was delivered on November 19, 1863. This I forgot until this morning. Remembred freakin' National Ammo Day, but forgot the 140th anniversary of one of the great moments in American oratory. To make amends, here is the complete text. Take the time to read it again.
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
Heard any good rape jokes lately? Alas, it's starting to look like Michael is in danger of becoming the new fair-skinned androgynous inmate who can really hit a high note when prodded. One can only hope that if he moonwalks down the cell block, he looks where he's going.
Bush's visit to London, which officially begins today even though he got there last night, is a win-win for the president.
If the visit goes well, he does the Pomp-and-Circumstance thing with the Queen, gets the benefit of Tony Blair's eloquence, and may even have the chance to look popular abroad-- though the last is unlikely. Certainly some good photo ops, and a chance to look more like a statesman. After all, he could hardly look like less of a statesman.
But if the visit goes badly -- London shut down, riots, Bush burned in effigy, and so on -- even better. Nothing can get more sympathy from the typical American than getting screamed at by foreigners. Every shout of "Bush is for shite!" will win him another vote in the heartland. The worse it gets, the better for the re-election campaign.
Recall Nixon's 1958 visit to Venezuela. The images of the vice-president's motorcade being stoned by anti-American
students in Caracas greatly increased Nixon's popularity. Nixon ate out on the story for years, making it the second of his 6 Crises.
I don't think that the White House would go so far as to manufacture an incident. The Secret Service takes its job very seriously. But if, after the elaborate security arrangements for this visit, President Bush is confronted face-to-face by a jeering mob, then Karl Rove was behind it.
¶ 3:51 AM
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
The long-awaited Edward Jay Epstein story on Atta/Praha is up at Slate. The major on-record source: Jan Kavan.
On my trip, I spoke to Jan Kavan, who in 2001 was foreign minister and coordinator of intelligence. According to Kavan—who to my knowledge has not spoken publicly about this episode before—al-Ani had previously been spotted taking photos of the headquarters of Radio Free Europe. In this context, the restaurant meeting suggested that al-Ani might be recruiting someone to resume the bombing plot. Adding to the tension, the BIS lost track of the "student." So Kavan decided to act: He ordered al-Ani out of the Czech Republic.
Well hell, if Kavan says it then it must be true!
Bottom line: we still know nothing:
Czech intelligence services could not solve this puzzle without access to crucial information about Atta's movements in the United States, Germany, and other countries in which the plot unfolded, but it soon became clear that such cooperation would not be forthcoming. Even after al-Ani was taken prisoner by U.S. forces in Iraq in July 2003 and presumably questioned about Atta, no report was furnished to the Czech side of the investigation [...]
Without those missing piece -- including cell phone logs, credit card charges, and interrogation records in the FBI's possession -- the jigsaw puzzle remains incomplete.
The Iraq connection remains vague and murky. But we do know that Mohammed Atta needed to be in Prague on May 30, 2001. Nobody knows why.
¶ 2:01 PM
"A model investigation" -- propoganda from The Atlantic Media Company
From any perspective, the Lackawanna Six case reveals how the war on terrorism is being fought, and, on some fronts, won. Career federal investigators -- people like Ed Needham -- simply do their jobs, aided by new legal tools and a top-level commitment to share information among agencies. "People ask how you fight terrorism; well, it's doing exactly what we did," says Needham.
Though it might seem unremarkable, this paragraph is really quite elegant. "...How the war on terrorism is being fought, and, on some fronts, won..." invites, without actually saying it, the reader to think that the Lackawanna Case was a "win" for the home team. Note how he uses "Career federal investigators," then drops, in dashes, Needham's name, so that you think that it was Needham's job that protected us.
Closing by quoting the man himself, and letting it stand without any critical evaluation, caps it nicely.
The graf was written by Jason Peckenpaugh, a staffer at the mag Government Executive and published in the most recent issue of The Atlantic as part of a section devoted to the finalists of the Service to America Medals, a program to salute outstanding work by federal employees, including Ed Needham. Needham was the FBI Special Agent in charge of the taskforce that made the case against a group of Yemeni-Americans near Buffalo, NY (the Lackawanna Six) who were convicted of providing material support to terrorist groups.
Peckenpaugh's full-page write-up of Ed Needham (not available on-line) claims he "crossed law enforcement boundaries to bring the Lackawanna Six to justice -- and raised the bar in the war on terrorism."
The citation also notes that, "the Lackawanna Six case...is still making headlines."
Quite. The headline Peckenpaugh is thinking of is "Unclear Danger," the title of an exhaustive and compelling story last month in the NY Times. According to the article by Matthew Purdy and Lowell Bergman, it is not clear that the Lackawanna Six ever presented any danger to the US.
The six men, out of some mix of curiosity and religious fervor, travelled to Afghanistan, trained at an Al-Qaeda camp, even met personally with Osama bin Laden, but there is no evidence that they ever actually did anything to support terrorism when they got back to the States. Indeed, it seems that their experience convinced them that they wanted no part of a jihad.
The FBI was tipped off to the Afghanistan expedition, and, after 9/11 became obsessed- not without reason- by the possibility that they had found a "sleeper cell" of Al-Qaeda terrorists. The fact that the men seem to have led completely normal lives didn't alleviate their suspicions. "That's the purpose of a sleeper cell, to not draw attention," one of the investigators told the Times. The Times continued:
On the ground in Buffalo, the Lackawanna men presented a thicket of ambiguity. But as the case made its way through the pressures and heat of Washington's counterterrorism apparatus that summer, they emerged as a clear and imminent danger.
At times, the investigation bordered on the comic:
When investigators intercepted communications about an upcoming soccer game, C.I.A. analysts saw them as possible code for an attack; part of the discussion involved using M-80 firecrackers to create a diversion while a trophy was spirited away. "Some analyst interpreted that to mean that they were going to use explosives," said a law enforcement official familiar with the case. What that analysis apparently did not take into account was that the Yemen Soccer Field on Lehigh Avenue was at least as important in Lackawanna as the mosque a few streets away.
Communications about a coming marriage alarmed C.I.A. analysts, since Al Qaeda has used "wedding" as code for an attack. In fact, one suspect, Mr. al-Bakri, was about to be married.
All that the task-force was able to prove was that the men had trained in a terrorist camp. It was enough. On the legal theory that their presence in that camp constituted "material support" for terrorism, the federal government indicted the
six. Faced with additional charges stemming from their terrorist training- prosecutors threatened a federal weapons charge for having shot at a firing range in Afghanistan- all pled guilty. Sentences TK.
The FBI did not engage in a "witch hunt." For one thing, there actually are witches- that is, terrorists. The Lackawanna Six did not help themselves by not going to the FBI when they got back to America; even after 9/11, they never told authorities about their recruitment and training (they thought that it might get them in trouble).
But the fact remains that the federal government, at the highest levels, claimed as a victory in the "war on terror" the imprisonment of men were not actual terrorists, nor planning to be.
Needham told the Times We were looking to prevent something, and we did. Obviously nothing happened. So we all did our job.
Quite a standard of success in the "war on terror", 'no?
The Atlantic Media Company, which includes The Atlantic, National Journal, and Government Executive, sponsored the award; it gave the space in one of its magazines to print a citation that minimizes the controversy- and the possibility of injustice- in the case; it even had a staffer at Government Executive write it up. The Atlantic, calls it a "special advertising section" but that is ambiguous. They are one of the sponsors of the award: did they sell the advertising space to themselves?
If they want to praise the Justice Department for this "success" then they have an obligation to do more than give a passing mention to the controversy that surrounds it.
Both The Atlantic and Government Executive are lessened by their association with such evasive and misleading writing.
¶ 7:01 AM
Monday, November 17, 2003
The great lesson of Czech history, it seemed to me from what I knew from my parents and what little I had read, was the sheer impossibility of there being any positive change in the world, or at least the part of the world that the Czechs occupied. I suppose some part of me believed that until November, 1989.
On a purely personal level, the Velvet Revolution, which began 14 years ago today, was a shock to me. I had been to Czechoslovakia in 1986, and I could not imagine that the people that I had met could ever take to the streets. Black jokes, despair, and beer were, I thought, the extent of Czech resistance; open defiance couldn't happen.
True, there had been the East Germans holed up at the embassy in Prague, but I didn't think that a revolution in Czechoslovakia itself would follow. I imagined most Czechs would shrug, and say, as did one the papers quoted, "I wish there was a West Czechoslovakia."
But then there was the footage on CNN. Almost every hour, it seemed, brought news, or at least rumours, of something happening. Most amazing to me were the pictures of the city seeming to burst with a vigor-- and an anger, and most especially with a sense of joy-- that had been buried for years.
The revolution was more than just political. Photos of Prague before 1989 can be difficult to tell apart by era. Vaclavska Namesti in 1932 didn't look that different from Vaclavska Namesti in 1982, save for changes in clothes and such (as well as the more subtle differences in commercial signs from the First Republic to those allowed in the time of communism). It is difficult to remember now what Prague looked like in 1989, before the casinos and the McDonald's. I have never approved of (the too damn many) visitors to Prague who speak of how beautiful the city must have been before 1989. The "unspoiled" Prague came at the expense of the crippled lives of its inhabitants. And, even as Vaclavska Namesti has become a little too much like the pre-Giuliani Times Square, it does also have some of the same seedy vitality that 42nd Street used to have.
Perhaps the whole nation is like Vaclavska Namesti; it gets a little harder every year to remember what it was like before the revolution.
¶ 2:50 AM
Be sure to read this column by Fred Hiatt. It is a very clear and concise statement of the perils of over-optimism in Iraq:
This at-least-the-oil-wells-aren't-on-fire speech was inadequate even last spring, when it was used to deflect criticism of American troops' failure to stop the looting of virtually every office and factory in the country. Today it serves only as a reminder of the failure to prepare for the real challenges of occupation. Worse, it raises questions about the administration's commitment to meet those challenges now.
Yes, good things are happening in Iraq. Markets are bustling, traffic is snarled. Iraqis are taking advantage of new freedoms with newspapers, political parties, town councils.
But the progress is not sustainable if the United States loses the war that is still being waged against it. And at the moment, in key ways, it is losing.
¶ 12:19 AM
Sunday, November 16, 2003
"French winemakers try to counter anti-drunk driving push"
The 18 billion-a-year wine industry is fighting back against a government campaign to discourage drunk driving. It claims the government is scaring people away from ordering a glass when they go out and points to a 15 percent drop in wine sales at restaurants.
¶ 6:11 AM
Well somebody needs to run out and get 20 copies of this morning's Washington Post. I won't comment on the actual observations Jennifer Howard makes, partly because everyone on the Old Hag's blogroll will, but mainly because the piece itself does such an excellent job of explaining why nobody has ever heard of Howard's site. Until today.
The sad thing, for me personally, is that I was in the next graf of the post that Howard quotes to show how incestous the blogosphere is. The site traffic that might have been. Tak...
¶ 5:47 AM
KidRad is still among the living, and has rejoined the blogging.
¶ 5:16 AM
Atta in Prague:
The Weekly Standard runs a story on a CIA memo that purports to show extensive contact between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda.
This is the section that deals with 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and his visits to Prague:
And then there is the alleged contact between lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague. The reporting on those links suggests not one meeting, but as many as four. What's more, the memo reveals potential financing of Atta's activities by Iraqi intelligence. The Czech counterintelligence service reported that the Sept. 11 hijacker [Mohamed] Atta met with the former Iraqi intelligence chief in Prague, [Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir] al Ani, on several occasions. During one of these meetings, al Ani ordered the IIS finance officer to issue Atta funds from IIS financial holdings in the Prague office.
And the commentary:
CIA can confirm two Atta visits to Prague--in Dec. 1994 and in June 2000; data surrounding the other two--on 26 Oct 1999 and 9 April 2001--is complicated and sometimes contradictory and CIA and FBI cannot confirm Atta met with the IIS. Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross continues to stand by his information.
It's not just Gross who stands by the information. Five high-ranking members of the Czech government have publicly confirmed meetings between Atta and al Ani. The meeting that has gotten the most press attention--April 9, 2001--is also the most widely disputed. Even some of the most hawkish Bush administration officials are privately skeptical that Atta met al Ani on that occasion. They believe that reports of the alleged meeting, said to have taken place in public, outside the headquarters of the U.S.-financed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, suggest a level of sloppiness that doesn't fit the pattern of previous high-level Iraq-al Qaeda contacts. Whether or not that specific meeting occurred, the report by Czech counterintelligence that al Ani ordered the Iraqi Intelligence Service officer to provide IIS funds to Atta might help explain the lead hijacker's determination to reach Prague, despite significant obstacles, in the spring of 2000. (Note that the report stops short of confirming that the funds were transferred. It claims only that the IIS officer requested the transfer.) Recall that Atta flew to Prague from Germany on May 30, 2000, but was denied entry because he did not have a valid visa. Rather than simply return to Germany and fly directly to the United States, his ultimate destination, Atta took pains to get to Prague. After he was refused entry the first time, he traveled back to Germany, obtained the proper paperwork, and caught a bus back to Prague. He left for the United States the day after arriving in Prague for the second time.
This does not really add that much information beyond the Respekt story or Edward Jay Epstein's stuff.. Aside from the clarifying the number of meetings, the CIA could just have phoned in this story by Brian Whitmore.
With control of Iraq, the US still hasn't gotten enough information to fill in the blanks? We must have captured something, or someone, that could give us a more complete picture.
¶ 4:42 AM
Saturday, November 15, 2003
Nicmoc found, God only nows how, a hysterically funny story on missionaries from Indiana building a church in the Czech Republic. They learned so much from the simple Czechs...Jesis Maria!
The paper that ran it, The Linton Daily Citizen, ("Web site was recognized by the Hoosier State Press Association as one of the best in the state of Indiana") is difficult to distinguish from The Onion.
See especially, "Man says he was 'done wrong' by store":
A patron who likes to sit, drink coffee and smoke cigarettes for hours at a Bloomfield convenience store claims he was "done wrong" when the manager asked him to leave the business Wednesday night.
And, speaking of the contemporary Czech novel... Alex Zucker, who translated Topol's City Sister Silver (with which Bookslut posed for a photo shoot) has just added what he describes as "a whole mess of links on Czech lit and Jáchym Topol" to his blog, Stickfinger.
Also very much worth a look.
¶ 12:27 PM
"We are all alone" Italy has suffered its worst losses since WWII. Japan is hesitating. Korea has backed off. Turkey won't send troops (though that's not entirely bad). The Brits look just thrilled to welcome Bush. Read this post by Eurosavant on how the Poles- the "new Europe" if you recall- view the situation now. A weary Josh Marshall concludes:
In this whole unfortunate business, the White House took our preeminence and mistook it for omnipotence or something near to it. And by treating our preeminence as omnipotence they've put our preeminence into question.
¶ 4:21 AM
The "friends" of Sylvia Plath I had a great deal of sympathy for a young woman I met in a bar a few years ago who asked me, in a tone that suggested that my answer could be a deal breaker, "You don't read a lot of Nietzsche, do you?"
After I assured her that I had read Friedrich N only under qualified professional supervision while an undergrad philosophy major, and that since leaving university I had not so much as hummed Also Sprach Zarathustra, she explained to me that she had had "bad experiences" in the past with his fans.
"I'm thinking of starting a support group for women who dated men who quoted Nietzsche," she said.
I have heard the same thing from other women about boyfriends who showed an inclination for German philosophy. There is even a discussion board where women discuss which books, in the possession of a lover, would cause them to leave, never to darken the (usually Tom Clancy) reader's doorstep again. Bukowski pops up a lot, too.
While I never, as a rule, ask a lady I'm thinking of asking out to list the contents of her library (though perhaps I should start), the one author that strikes fear in my heart is Sylvia Plath.
Let me clarify that I do not have a problem with women who read, and were impressed with, The Bell-Jar. It is valuable, as is some of her poetry. I mean girls who are reading it, or worse yet, reading it again. I mean the women who are apt to bring her up in conversation, and then won't let the subject of her "genius" be buried again.
It started in my younger days, when I would frequent poetry readings to meet girls. In return for the standard opening compliment/pick-up line ("The imagery in your poem was striking"), I would get an earful about Plath. Saint Sylvia, patron of literate teen-age girls, gas-ovens, and romantic self-destruction. I can smell the clove cigarettes even now.
I don't know if it was Plath's work they admired or the idea of her. There was so much that was valuable in her writing, so little in her life. She was self-absorbed to the point of narcissism, right up until the pathetic end that they saw as romantic. The Romantic delusion that genius and self-destruction are inextricably linked has always sold better than the more accurate linking of depression and death, and the very young seldom understand that there can be nothing romantic in waste.
I have, thank God, more or less put my encounters with Plath's more hysterical fans behind me; most of them grow out of it, just as most men grow out of Bukowski. But, in Salon this morning, I saw this teaser:
Diane Middlebrook talks about why the marriage of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes was a soaring success despite his infidelity and her suicide -- and why promising to be sexually faithful is folly. (my emphasis)
It would not seem possible, but the article that follows is actually worse than the lead-in would have you believe.
The subject of the interview, Diane Middlebrook, has just published a 406 page account, Her Husband, of the marriage of Plath and Ted Hughes. Middlebrook's interviewer, one Kamy Wicoff, is herself "writing a memoir about my experience getting married." After meeting at a "book salon in London," Wicoff writes, "...Middlebrook knew immediately that we would have a lot to talk about, and she was right."
Some excerpts, with the "questions" in bold:
Most people know what went wrong in the marriage of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. He fell in love with another woman, leaving Sylvia with their two very young children; she fell into a deep depression and took her own life. It ended notoriously badly. But in the book you argue that it was an extraordinarily productive marriage for both of them, even a lucky one. Well, the marriage was about two things: One of them failed and the other succeeded. What failed was the formation of a new family. It failed because Sylvia Plath was not psychologically prepared -- and by that I mean something quite respectful and descriptive -- to absorb and accommodate a dimension of the man she was married to, which was just as characterological in him as her refusal of it was in her. His need to ... His need to have sex partners outside the marriage for the continual restimulation of his creative powers.
"Characterological"? There's more:
...They had rough sex.
Well, Kamy, may I just politely observe that "abusive" is another loaded cultural term? It's a huge umbrella! And it doesn't fit very well over sexual transactions, it seems to me. Because aggression is very important in people's sexuality, one way or another. In the spectrum of possible aggression-expression in sex, they seemed to have been on the heavy-duty end. But there is no sexual encounter that does not have some aggression in it. None! According to Freud, according to experience! And their sexuality seemed to have been most gratifying when it licensed some expression of the primitive. This is where D.H. Lawrence is very important.
We should talk about that. Lawrence was very important to both of them.
Like Lawrence, Hughes held the view that the authentic experience of sex is an expression of animal force, vitality -- animal vitality, that is. And in his lexicon there's a metaphorical violence to it. But sex is not experienced in words. It's experienced in physical sensation and the urge to do it! What flows from that intensity is language, of course, because we need to capture it. But I don't think the terms "abusive" and "violent" and even "masochistic" and "sadistic," "S/M," I don't think they can justifiably be applied to the register of their sexuality. It definitely was an expression of great importance -- given the frequency -- to both of them.
I love the New Year's resolution to have Friday afternoon blowups, followed by makeup sex.
That's right! Friday afternoon blowups, because the sex is better when you've had a blowup to stimulate you!
And they seem to be in sync.
Very much. And the pleasure principle seems to be the point there. I personally think that people who are trying to put together a brief against Ted Hughes can go to those things and say "violent and abusive," missing the point entirely. Their sexuality was a core expression of their bond, and it had a lot of intensity and negative charge in it.
And mutuality. That's probably the most important thing.
It is the most important thing.
And so on.
Perhaps, in their view, the real tragedy of Plath/Hughes marriager is not one life ended, another damaged, and the motherless children left behind. No, it was that they were unable to have make-up sex after she gassed herself.
While it has been a while since I read Nietzsche, one of his more brutal lines that sprung to mind when I read the Middlebrook/Wicoff colloquy:
Women are considered deep-why? Because one can never discover any bottom to them. Women are not even shallow.
Not true of women, of course, but for Wicoff & Middlebrook, it will do.
Comparing the occupation of Germany with the occupation of Iraq is misleading The absolute last post I will make on the subject
I have written about this a lot, and I beg the forgiveness of my readers who have grown tired of it. I've grown tired of it too, but I want to see it to the end.
Justin Katz (who, I should stress, is not a yahoo, despite what I wrote in the previous post) ends his comments on the Rice's infamous "Werewolves" remarks by quoting the Heritage Institute in its defense of Rice:
Werwolves weren't the only problem. Violent crime, thievery and black-marketing were rampant. Germans incessantly complained to U.S. military officials about inadequate public safety. And these threats paled in comparison to the physical privations. Many feared masses of Germans would freeze or starve to death in the first winter after the war. To suggest that the first year of occupation was anything less than a dreadful, harrowing experience for many Germans is just bad history.
Except for the bit about "Werewolves", that statement is correct. It is not controversial to anyone familiar with the period known as the "rubble years," but it is not widely known for a variety of reasons. The eventual resurgence of Germany after the "economic miracle" and the Marshall Plan helped the world, including Germans themselves, forget the earlier suffering. The atrocities of the Holocaust made it unlikely that anyone would want to dwell on the sufferings of the perpetrators of history's greatest crime. And, adding to the last, the Germans found it perhaps easier to wipe the entire period from their collective memory. (I suggest Robert Moeller's excellent War Stories for more detail on this)
But, to avoid digression, we all agree that the occupation of Germany involved suffering and death. Some of the causes were beyond Allied control, notably the 15 million or so refugees who poured in from the East. And, in the last years of the war, German agriculture had been destroyed. So was Germany's transportation infrastructure; what food they had could often not be distributed.
Iraq, judging by the news reports that the right claim are so biased, is free of these problems. But Iraq has major problems of its own that Germany did not have; notably an active and growing opposition that was blowing shit up.
Katz notes a Pentagon report that claims that 45 Americans were killed by "enemy action" in 1945-46, after the surrender. I confess that I am not familiar with this report, and I find the number shocking. I could only guess what it refers to, and I will refrain from doing so here. But, even if those are actual, according-to-Hoyle combat casualties, they are inconsequential when compared to US deaths before May '45. In Iraq, as we all know by now, more soldiers have been lost after we took Baghdad than were killed before. Things are, based on the numbers that Katz brings up, moving in the wrong direction.
Now, if you agree with the graf from the Heritage that Katz concludes his post with, then you realize that press reports that the occupation was not going well in 1945/46 are NOT exagerrated. We were in trouble in Germany after the war, as I think that we are in trouble now, although for different reasons and under vastly different conditions.
Katz writes, " one can speculate how such occurrences would be played in the same paper [the NY Times] today." I know that if American soldiers were getting in bar brawls over whores in Baghdad it would get much less press than the almost daily fatalities from roadside bombs and mortar attacks get now. I also know that the deaths of American soldiers in combat during a war merits more attention than the handful of incidents that took place between GI's and German civilians after the war.
But some continue to make this forced comparison. Reynolds' link to one of them includes this:
...a piece by Walter Lippman on Germany that reads like, well, a piece from today -- except that Lippman's a better writer. "Our experience with the German occupation is a striking illustration of how a nation gets into trouble when it fails to balance its commitments and its power to carry them out."
Exactly. And our experience now trying to do a war and an occupation at the same time, with less international support-- and with the rest of the "Axis of Evil" still to fight, and Afghanistan still on our plate, and the rest of the "war on terror"-- makes me less than optimistic.
¶ 11:27 AM
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
Are these people idiots? Or have they grown so frenzied in their attempts to equate post-War Germany and US-occupied Iraq that they are beyond the grasp of reason? A blogger posts an article from 1945 by the NY Times.
Headline: "AMERICANS' CLASHES WITH GERMANS CROW" (sic). The story recounts how, according to rumor, "a gang of Germans attacked and mutilated three American soldiers."
I don't think that I need to point out that the "rumor" of a couple of Americans getting "mutilated" (what does that even mean?) is, to say the very least, a long way from the 47 American soldiers who have already been killed this month.
But consider how desperate they are to find anything good to say.
Andrew Sullivan links to it and says that it puts thing in Iraq, "in some kind of sane perspective."
Instapundit finds the clippings to be "fascinating," and also links to some yahoo who continues the same ridiculous forced comparison. Reynolds has the nerve to call this a counter to "war critics' ignorance of history."
The Iraq-optimists are growing very desperate. All I know is that if someone can't tell shit from tuna salad, don't eat in their kitchen.
¶ 6:10 PM
Wyethwiredares attack the students of the Free State. Baseless libel, sir, this is scandalous, an outrage.
But the coupon might come in handy. Thanks.
¶ 2:28 PM
Crying into my beer Old Hag started it, damn her, and now I'm drawn in. She called for lists of films (books, songs, public-policy statements, whatever) that made her readers to break down in tears.
For me, it will always be Vittorio DeSica's neo-realist classic, Umberto D. Yes, I realize that I am a pretentious art-fag, but deal.
An elderly man in post-War Rome is utterly lost in poverty and loneliness. But he has a dog. A dog that he can't afford to Rome. So, for 90 minutes, De Sica follows along as the man tries to get rid of his dog. Which is all that he has.
At the end, as he has failed to find a new home for his only friend, he carries the dog to the tracks (NO!) as a train approaches (whimper) , and...whaaaaaaa! I want my mommy!
I don 't even like dogs, and it's been at least a couple of years since I've seen it, but I can feel the tears in my eyes even as I type this.
By the way, just so you know, he doesn't throw the dog, or himself, in front of the train.
And, just so you know, Rosebud is a sled.
¶ 1:54 PM
Yes, it could Could it be that the explanation of a crime as self-defense -- in a state with a legacy of frontier-style justice handed down from the time when it was truly the Wild West -- succeeds in Texas when it might not in other parts of the country? -- NY Times, reporting on the surprise aquittal of Robert Durst, scion of a wealthy NY family, yesterday in Galveston. Durst had admitted up hacking up the body of an elderly man after shooting him in the face, but he claimed the shooting happened during a struggle over the gun. He dumped the dismembred corpse in the Galveston Bay, a method that the Westies, an Irish gang from Hell's Kitchen who pioneered the technique, called "the Houdini."
Tucker Graves, a prominent criminal defense lawyer in Houston, said, "In Galveston, as opposed to Houston or Dallas, I'd guess the jury pool was mostly comprised of native Texans, people who are very familiar with the concept of self-defense."
Hell yeah. I grew up in Galveston, and find that a little bit of a stretch. Galveston is a small town, to be sure, but it also has the University of Texas Medical Branch, so it shouldn't be too hard to find some people from outside the Fair Republic.
A stretch, yes, but not one requiring a lot of yoga. We also had our share of gun-nuts, meth labs, and genuine lunatics. And, in fairness to Times-man Susan Saulney, if you spent six weeks in Galveston in October and November, you would be a little judgemental about the place too.
UPDATE: The NY Post might have the best quote of all, from juror Deborah Warren: "I wouldn't ask him to escort my daughter to her senior prom, but Durst isn't the only crazy person in Galveston."
"History is not a cafeteria"
The debate about the pace of progress in Iraq continues to feature lots of historical analogies. Bad ones.
Roger Simon (and most of what I have come to think of as the "Iraq optimist" clique) linked to a 1945 memo written by Allan Dulles that is harshly critical of conditions in Germany. Earlier, the optimists fell over themselves linking to a 1946 Life magazine story that warned we were "losing the peace."
The argument is that conditions now are similar to conditions then; therefore the outcomes-- peace, stabillity, democracy, etc.-- will be the same. There is also the implication that the problems in Germany weren't really that bad; thus we can continue to believe that everything is just ducky in Iraq now, and it is only the media that exaggerates things and focuses on our difficulties to the exclusion of our problems.
The blogger who dug up the Life story, Jessica of Midland, TX (a place that even I won't defend) makes this explicit:
I guess things never change and that there is nothing new in the world...
Maybe the author of the main article, John Dos Passos, was the Robert Fisk of his day. Maybe Henry Luce had it in for Harry Truman. This is a discussion for more knowledgeable people than me.
The last line is where I come in. As my regular readers (both of you) know, I have had to make these argumentsbefore, but bear with me.
Conditions were that bad in Germany during the "rubble years". The real improvement came in 1948-49, after the Marshall Plan, a badly needed currency reform, and, perhaps most important, the onset of the Cold War meant that we needed a strong Germany-with a strong army- to guard "our" border with the Communist Bloc.
Before then, things were bad indeed.
Worse than they are in Iraq now? I don't know how to answer that. Nobody is starving in Iraq and the markets have goods, which is quite different from 1945 Germany. On the other hand, Germany was completely pacified. The problems, while massive, were basically ones of logistics. No matter what Condi Rice says, the biggest risk to American soldiers in Germany after the war was the clap, or drunk-driving . As Fred Kaplan wrote earlier today, "'Postwar Iraq' is just another term for 'Iraq War Phase II.'" We are still in a shooting war.
What was our policy when we occupied Germany? As Dulles noted, we didn't really have a coherent strategy, or even consistent goals. The Morganthau Plan- a favorite topic for Nazi apologists who claim that the Allied occupation was genocide against the Germans- called for Germany to be conquered and reduced to an agrarian society that could never again threaten the world. The Morganthau Plan was never fully implemented, of course. The Allied commanders were shocked by the extent of the damage to the German infrastructure, and, especially to German agriculture. With as many as 15 million refugees from the East to feed, it took their best efforts, as well as those of humanitarians like Herbert Hoover, to prevent mass starvation. Dulles noted that the adult ration in the American Zone was 1500 calories, "but this figure has not been realized."
American policy lurched along until the 1948 Marshall Plan, after two years of suffering.
Oddly, at least one blogger has come to the conclusion that the strength of our policy was that we didn't have a plan, and is our strength now:
There has been a lot of criticism of the Iraq invasion because the coalition forces did not have a plan. There is not much one can say in response to this, which is why it is such a damaging, and therefore repeatable, meme.
Every once in a while somebody repeating the meme gets the notion that the US has not learned from history. Then we get to tell a funny story. After WWII, we put a lot of folks in charge in Germany and Japan who had never had civilian authority before and a few who had. But Washington never sent in a plan for them to follow. Part of this is because after Roosevelt's death, a lot of things were left unfinished. Most of this was because Harry S Truman had been a combat commander and knew how to trust competent subordinates. One of the results of this is that we now talk about the Marshall Plan, the vision of a trusted subordinate who handled a problem excellently, after he had seen the problem on the ground.
The mind boggles! Suffice it to say that because of terrible conditions caused, in part, by our lack of a plan, General Marshall, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in Washington, proposed a plan that was passed by Congress and signed by Truman- also in Washington, btw.
Now look at Iraq. We don't need to ship food there to prevent a humanitarian disaster, but we also have not established a level of security that is needed for international aid organizations to operate.
There are other important differences. For one, a basically Christian country administering an Islamic country will have problems that we did not face in Europe (though, in fairness, I should point out that we were able to rule and rehabilitate Japan, despite profound cultural differences).
We had allies in Europe, as well as the just founded United Nations. Not so today.
Perhaps the most important distinction we should note is that while we occupy Iraq, we did not conquer it. I do not mean that there is an active resistance. I mean that we stated throughout that our war was with Saddam Hussein, not with the Iraqi people. We came to liberate them. In World War II we fought to liberate occupied Europe from Germany, and it was to that end that we conquered Germany. We had to do it, and our subsequent behaviour was just and humane, but it was a just and humane administration of a conquered territory. The Germans may not have been happy with our staying, but they did not have a whole lot of choice in the matter.
If the liberated people of Iraq think that they should have some say in our administration of their country, or even have the right to end the association, it is difficult to blame them. (Josh Marshall made a similar point in March)
Does this mean that there are no lessons from history that we can apply now? Of course not. We must realize the importance of aid in rebuilding Iraq; we don't have the luxury of fiddling about for two years before coming across with serious money.
Some specific aspects of the occupation, especially, I think, de-Nazification, are worth studying as we try to figure out the best way to root out the Baath Party and deal with its former members
But the most basic lesson to be learned from history is that you should try to learn from history. It was something that the White House has been reluctant to do. The scandalous lack of planning for what would happen after Baghdad fell is the prime example of that.
A few years ago, I interviewed a prominent, if controversial, historian named John Haynes. He told me that: "History is not a cafeteria. You can't pick and choose what evidence to use and what to throw out. You have to eat your spinach." (or words to that effect)
Many of the same "optimists" who reference post-war Europe to reassure themselves about how well things are going, object to any comparison to the Vietnam War. This is curious, because they tend to write things that, well, remind you of the Vietnam War. Consider right-wing blogger Dean Esmay remarked that, "our guys are taking out nearly eight enemy combatants for every one that we lose."
Instapundit quoted the WSJ:
The death of an American soldier is front page news, while the death of his attacker is buried deep inside the paper, if reported at all.
A favorable "kill ratio" in attacks where our enemies have the initiative. Sounds like 'Nam to me. And, as an added bonus, blame the media for not reporting on how well things are going. Isn't it a shame that these guys weren't around to explain the Pentagon Papers to us?
Is the Iraq War like Vietnam? Of course not. It's not the Philipines or Germany either. But there are lessons to be learned from our defeat in Southeast Asia, just as there are lessons to be learned from Germany's rebirth. But we can't choose the lessons that reinforce our beliefs and ignore the rest. We have to study all of the lessons of history. We have to eat our spinach.
Tired of Iraq war-blogs? Take a break with the original war-blogger. If nothing else, the site makes clear why you don't often hear the phrase, "consolations of history."
¶ 6:10 AM
Never trust the British press, including the Independent! Elsewhere, there were brief lapses of restraint, or judgement. The New York Times's website carried a dispatch, on Friday, from its London reporter Sarah Lyall, which went into some detail about the allegation, but only for 20 minutes. According to the Drudge Report, America's most respected internet news service, its editors simply panicked soon after the copy had landed
Stopping drunk drivers is a laudable goal, of course, but somehow I don't think a message on, "eventually...100 billboards nationwide" is going to do the trick.
Moreover, if David Binar, the spokesman for Becherovka, really wants to "improve alcohol makers' corporate image," he might look into pulling the Extreme Auto Race from his company's game site.
¶ 5:32 AM
Remember "Flypaper"? I don't think it's quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip-up, but the events of this weekend, lead me to think that maybe, just maybe, there are some flaws in your strategy, Mr. Sullivan.
UPDATE: Sullivan finds the silver lining:
...in the context of the West's declared war on them, this strikes me as a new and fundamental error on their part. Maybe it's because our success at knocking al Qaeda off-stride means they have no option but to hit soft targets in the Muslim world, rather than hard targets over here. Maybe the pressure on them in Iraq is now forcing them to display some kind of "success," even if it means murdering Muslim women and children. But whatever the reason, this is a propaganda coup for the good guys...
So, a murderous attack means that things are going well. The absence of another murderous attack means that things are going well.
He has done this before. When he outlined the "flypaper" strategy two months ago, Sullivan approvingly recounted a conversation with someone "close to the inner circles" of the White House:
If the terrorists leave us alone in Iraq, fine, he said. But if they come and get us, even better.
Sullivan needs to sit down with some works by Karl Popper until he grasps the concept of "falsifiable".
And he ought to remember that every silver lining means that it's going to fucking rain.
¶ 1:11 PM
Saturday, November 08, 2003
I couldn't care less about the British royal family, or the sex life of any member of it. The allegation, by a former servant, George Smith, that Prince Charles had sex with Michael Fawcett, one of his staffers, is of no interest to me. I would prefer, particularly since I just ate, to avoid imagining the Prince of Wales in any type of sexual congress. I don't understand how people can accept an inbred polo-playing tampon-wannabe as their future ruler, but the possibility of a gay inbred polo-playing tampon-wannabe could "rock the monarchy."
Fleet Street lives for times like this, but because of the restrictive libel laws on the sceptered isle, the British press can only hint at the allegations without coming right out and saying what they are. As a result, readers are treated to ledes like this:
The crisis facing the Royal Family worsened yesterday when allegations about the Prince of Wales, which British media organisations cannot report, were published around the world.
The Guardian was helpful to its readers:
In Britain, the Popbitch email bulletin also broadcast details of the rumours, while television stations added to the sense that Clarence House was losing control of the story by flashing up images of Corriere della Sera, the Italian newspaper which was one of the first to publish.
To be fair to the Guardian, they didn't print that it was popbitch.com. It must have delayed their inquisitive readers by seconds. American papers did the almost the same to reveal the name of Kobe Bryant's accuser, though that was not printed to protect rape victims.
In the US, we do not have a monarchy. We do have the Bill of Rights. So when the NY Times' Sarah Lyall wrote a story for today's paper on the royal mess and the Brit press, she had this sentence:
The allegation (although no one has said so publicly) has to do with purported sexual contact between Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, and Michael Fawcett, one of his closest advisers.
But, according to Matt Drudge (and no, I am not proud to be linking to him):
The story appeared on the TIMES's internet website for 20 minutes -- before top editors ordered it immediately removed, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.
"This should never have been published!" a top newsroom source explained Friday evening.
The story that the Timesdid run does not report on what exactly the British press can't report. It's meta-censorship, or meta-something:
[former Royal servant George Smith] also claimed to have witnessed a compromising sexual encounter involving a member of the royal family.
At the time, Mr. Smith's account threw the ravening British tabloid press into an almost unbearably frustrating quandary, once they figured out who was said to be involved.
Yearning to print the rumors but restrained by the law, the newspapers went the suggestion route, continually printing the same odd photograph of Prince Charles standing with another man in a field, without explaining why the photograph had any significance.
But Lyall's story, as published, doesn't explain why the photograph of Charles would have any significance either. Unless you know that Charles was (allegedly) sleeping with Fawcett, the article is as evasive as the stories that the British tabloids are reduced to running.
The United States was created by a revolution against the tyranny of the British monarchy. Our forefathers killed Fat George's Redcoats and his foreign hirelings
so that we could damn well read unsubstantiated rumours about the royals in our press, unlike those oppressed Guardian readers who live under the Windsor boot of censorship through libel laws.
The editors of the Times sold out our birthright.
¶ 6:33 PM
Read Wesley Clark's plan for Iraq. There are serious questions (can we really get our allies to kick in 50,000 troops? Can we turn it into a NATO operation?) about parts of it. Parts are vague ("General Clark will look at whether adding forces will help the effort in Iraq."), but that is, to some degree, understandable. Overall, it strikes me as a reasonable outline that takes into account the reality of our situation.
Clark's web site notes that "early exit means retreat or defeat." The plan goes on to define the mission:
Our mission is to create a secure, stable Iraq with a representative government. Only this will make America more secure and enable our troops to come home. Success means that Iraq is strong enough to sustain itself without outside forces but is no longer a threat to its neighbors; that representative government has taken root so Iraq can be a model for democratic hope in the Middle East; and that Iraqi society and the Iraqi economy are healthy enough so that Al Qaeda cannot recruit there.
Frustrated by the lack of quick progress on the ground and fading political support at home, Washington is now latching on to the idea that a quick transfer of power to local troops and politicians would make things better. Or at any rate, it would lower American casualties. It was called Vietnamization; today it's called Iraqification. And then as now, it is less a winning strategy than an exit strategy.
The Bush team has a clear talent for, shall we say, optimism. Creative optimism, perhaps. Those who worry about the Democrats bailing need to take a long, hard look at the current administration, its previous failures to plan in Iraq, and the short-sighted policy that it's pushing now. Is Bush the man for the occupation?
I should note that while I disagree with Simon and Totten, and many others, on this topic, I do respect them. They are trying, as are we all, to figure out the answers in what is a crucial test of our country. I know of no way that one can show greater respect for an idea, or the person who expresses it, than to engage it in honest debate.
Let me turn to Andrew Sullivan. He wrote: CLARK ON IRAN AND SYRIA: He wants to engage the Baathists in Damascus and the Islamofascists in Tehran. He doesn't want them to feel threatened. And he wants to "internationalize" a force, while few foreign governments have either the means or the will to help out. I'm glad he's not moving toward Kucinich-style isolationism. But what this amounts to is an end to a war on terror, which targets states as well as terrorist entities. It's back to the 1990s. Which means, in reality, back, at some point, to another 9/11.
Clark's actual speech:
Today Iraq is a magnet for every jihadist in the Middle East who wants to take a free shot at an American soldier. We have to stop outside infiltration or intervention. Closing the borders will require real cooperation from the countries bordering Iraq. We should engage with the Syrians, the Iranians, and the Saudis, with clear carrots as well as sticks. We have other issues with each of these countries. But right now, closing those borders is most urgent. Unfortunately, this administration has made the region wary of working with us. We must convince them otherwise to show them that cooperation with us is in their interest and will help their region, not with more wars but with more progress.
In both Bosnia and Afghanistan, we recognized that you cannot put a country back together if its neighbors are committed to tearing it apart. In both those cases, we engaged all of the neighbors, no matter how objectionable we found their policies or regimes, in our effort to stabilize those societies. We have yet to initiate such a regional dialogue with Iraq's neighbors.
Sullivan is not debating with Clark's position, though it is eminently arguable. He simplifies it into something less than a caricature, the buzz-words "engage" and "not feel threatened." Clark, right or wrong, is laying out an argument. These are serious issues, and they deserve a serious response. We need thinkers from every idealogical persuasion to grapple with the reasoning of their opponents, so that some policy can emerge from the crucible of debate.
Sullivan just ducks the argument.
¶ 3:04 PM
You don't change your Commander in Chief in the midst of a war, unless you have an exceptionally good reason. Otherwise you will tell your adversaries that they are winning and they should continue to prosecute their actions.
I am glad, really, that someone has come out and said what I am sure many are already thinking, and what may emerge as a major theme of the election. "You don't change horses in mid-stream," as the saying goes.
Let us leave aside the question of the Bush administration's competence to carry out the re-building of Iraq. I have argued at length that it has been more of a fuck-up than it needed to be, and that may be by itself a "sufficiently good reason" to kick him out of office. But there are other matters here, even if think that the occupation is going so well that you are planning to name your first-born for Paul Bremer.
First, why have elections? Simon is not calling for the election to be cancelled, but, since he states that a vote against the incumbent will encourage America's enemies, isn't suspending the vote a reasonable step? Better that then to have almost half, perhaps more, of the electorate encourage our adversaries. Simon doesn't say that voting against Bush is treason, and I am sure that he doesn't believe it, but someone will say it before we're done, and their reasoning will not be markedly different from his.
On a more direct level (do you mean that you're dropping the straw man argument you were making?- ed.), does this not put us at the mercy of our enemies? Will suicide bombers dictate our votes? If I pull the lever for Bush, then the terrorists really did win.
There are also potential benefits to the occupation if we replace Bush. Everyone acknowledges that we could use more international support in Iraq: money, debt relief, and troops would help. Bush's reputation with our friends and allies is considerably short of stellar. His supporters blame the international community for this; his opponents blame Bush himself. Either way his perceived arrogance will make it harder for us to get the help that we, and the Iraqi people, need. A new president, without Bush's baggage, will be in a much better position to talk to the UN, NATO, the Tattaglias, and all the heads of the five families.
If nothing else, Bush's defeat would change the discussion from being about endorsing the invasion of Iraq, to which Bush is so personally tied, and make it about aid for the Iraqi people now. Even if you don't trust the French, or even like them, it would be much more difficult for them to refuse assistance if the excuse of Bush is taken away.
We should also consider what booting Bush would do in Iraq. I do not believe that the invasion of Iraq was an imperialistic exercise, but, as I have said before, I don't know if the Iraqi people are as convinced as I am on that point. It is their hearts and minds that must be won. I have heard it said that "only" 3% of the Iraqi population is actively fighting the occupation, but we must convince the bulk of the population to support-- not just tolerate-- our administration of their country. Removing Bush will help dispell the doubts Iraqis may have about US motives in their country, and therefore go a long way in gaining their support.
Defeating a sitting president would show Iraq how a democracy works, something that it has not seen in many years. Given the fragile and uncertain state of affairs there, it would be good to show the strength and resilience that free nations possess.
¶ 12:52 PM
If I hate any class of men in this world, it is evangelical Christians with their bellicose stupidity, their childish belief in devils, their barbarous hoofing of all beauty, dignity and decency. But even evangelical Christians I do not hate when I see their wives.
¶ 1:15 PM
"Hmm. Who gets to have Layne/Welch-style fun in whatever the Mideast version of Prague is, in a few years?"
I sincerely hope that sentence is the dumbest thing that I read all day. Read the whole damn post, by Instapundit.
¶ 4:27 AM
Thursday, November 06, 2003
How much for the little girl?
The controversy over reports of child prostitution on the Czech-German border continue.
I had taken the report at face value, but, as Pavla Horakova of Radio Prague points out, no one in the press has been able to find these huge numbers of child prostitutes.
The report itself was issued by UNICEF, but the research, if that is the word, came from a non-government group called KARO. Looking around the KARO site, I couldn't find anything that looked like hard data, or even a number. Nor are there any numbers here. One who did provide a number, although without any evidence, was Adolf Gallwitz, a "police psychologist", who, according to a BBC story last week, estimates that 100,000 Germans cross into Czechia for hookers, and that half of these Germans are pedophiles there to rent children.
Half? 50,000 pedophiles? As easy as it is to believe the worst about the Germans, I find it difficult to imagine that 50% of the johns are child-molestors. If so, it is a remarkable proportion. (The 100,000 number of clients is, alas, not nearly as difficult to believe.)
There does not appear to be any hard basis for the report, and UNICEF's own figures for the Czech Republic indicate that the basic premise of massive child exploitation in the nation are unlikely. It is perhaps telling that the Czech UNICEF web-site features pictures of starving children in Africa, not sexually abused children in Cheb.
So, Germans make up lies about the Czechs. What else is new? But I think that this is part of a pattern of imagining the Czech Republic to be a place of women and girls, available at easy prices.
...businesses out there making their money by presenting Czechia as a developing country where you can purchase white meat for a very low price and take it with you to your motherfucking home country.
White meat is a Czech terminus technicus for women for sale. Today, we're not talking about prostitutes, though, the subject is women seeking a bright, rich and tender husband from the West.
He goes on to look at the particularly hilarious copy of the "cheepo Czech bride" outfit Hand in Hand.
Steve, of PragueBlog, whose post on this you should read in full, adds more detail about Hand to Hand, and recalls its founder,
Joe Weiner, he is from New York and an older fellow, retired once already. He came to Prague, he saw an opportunity, he took it. Here's Joe (please imagine the following in a thick New York accent; I'm seeing a cigar in the picture): "In the Czech Republic, all the women are good-looking. And they're not feminists. They're quality women!"
Outfits like Hand in Hand are based on two truths: Czech women are hot, and money can add to any man's appeal. What makes it a business is the delusion that cash helps more in Prague than in, say, Baltimore; add the desperation of men who are incapable of meeting women in a bar or through friends, and who blame this on feminism and Americam culture, rather on their own failings, and bingo-- you're an entrepeneuer.
Kohl writes that these introduction services argue that the Czech Republic has not "entered the developed world." Taken in conjunction with the child prostitution stories, it may seem that many foreigners are willing to believe it hasn't.
There is a long tradition of the wealthy viewing poor countries as places of sexual freedom and, inevitably, of readily available perversion. Sex tourism arguably started with Gauguin. The German attitude seems similar to the fascination rich whites used to have with Harlem, or, to use a more current example, the view many Texans have of the "other side" in Mexico.
The (Czech/Thai/Mexican/Harlem/Russian/etc.) girls are at once pure, un-corrupted, closer to the earth, passionate, nurturing, not materialistic, not feminist...and they're for sale. You can buy anything there. Buy the whore, madonna thrown in free, keep whichever you like.
I wrote earlier about the American television program The Next Joe Millionaire. While I hate to give reality television shows any sociological significance, it might actually be relevant to this discussion.
The premise is simple: a charming, handsome, but broke guy is put in a posh mansion and introduced to lovely young women who are told that he is rich. The young women then compete for his attention. Every episode, girls are eliminated from the competition, until one "winner" remains; only then is she told of the humble means of her catch. If any of the contestants asked why a rich hunk would elect to meet women through, in effect, a game show, it didn't survive the editing room.
After the incredible ratings success of the first season, the producers realized that they were unlikely to find 14 more American women to fall for the gag, so they launched the "International Affair" with 14 European girls. As I noted earlier, 4 of the women were Czech.
The reason I bring it up here is that the Czech girls are treated as a part of the European Union, competing against French, Swedes, Italians, Dutch, and Germans. The show does not treat them as starving, but beautiful refugees, who would do anything for a green-card. (Actually, that is an idea for a tv show: Who Wants to Marry An American Citizen- any American Citizen?) The cesky zeny were presented as typical European gold-diggers, not desperate super-models who needed to be saved.
Perhaps, and I realize that I will be the only person on this earth to say this of it, but perhap Joe Millionaire 2 represents a step forward for the Czech people.
UPDATE: Petr has some observations on what he calls the "Cupid slash voluntary livestock market slash fucking wannabe Prince Charming" industry over at the Daily Czech.
¶ 5:44 AM
The "Green River Killer" confesses to killing 48 women. Gary Leon Ridgway (why do they always have three names?) will serve a life-sentence because of a plea agreament. Some speculate that:
...the plea bargain with the Green River Killer could make it all but impossible to win a death sentence against another murderer in Washington state.
The question raised by Gary Ridgway's plea is this: If the state is not going to execute someone who has confessed to murdering 48 people, how can it execute anyone?
It is not widely known, but the infamous serial killer and death penalty poster-boy Ted Bundy was offered a life without parole deal in Florida. As David von Drehle reported in Among the Lowest of the Dead, the best book written on the death penalty in contemporary America, the prosecutors had a good, but not unshakeable case against Bundy. One of their chief pieces of evidence, a match of Bundy's teeth to the bite-marks found in several of his victims, had never been used in a criminal trial before, and they were unsure if a jury would convict on it.
Bundy, being, after all, crazy, passed on the deal. His lawyer quit, saying "I represent people who want to live."
¶ 1:09 PM
Random thoughts on the 2004 election
It is hard to remember that the primary season used to start with Iowa. The endless press coverage tends to make us all forget that nothing actually happens until the votes are cast. That doesn't even begin to happen until January 19, and it is a long way from there to the convention in Boston in August. And then there is, you know, that general election thing. Every election in modern memory has had a lot of really interesting things happen between Iowa and the inaguration, and it is a good idea not to get too caught up in the "inside baseball" strategems and exchanges that are going on right now.
Howard Dean was terrible at the Rock the Vote "youth forum" last night. The press coverage lead with Dean's defense of his "I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks" statement. He sounded cold, arrogant, and racially insensitive-- all at the same time. His opponents pummeled him, and they were correcct to do so. The transcript does not convey the disdain that the other candidates have for Dean. The former governor didn't sound much better later on when he gave a rambling and condescending answer to a question on gay rights that left some audience members with their mouths agape.
Whoever survives the inevitable shake-out after New Hampshire stands a decent chance to beat Dean, despite his money advantage. The Anybody But Dean movement will have some backers.
Clark sounded very smooth; he could very well be the last one standing. It is difficult to believe that Dean could win a one-on-one debate with him.
The Republicans used to hate it, just hate it, when Clinton would adopt one of their policy ideas and make it his own. Since the Democrats all call for greater UN involvement in Iraq, what are they left with if Bush goes back to the UN and gets some type of international supervision? Screaming "I told him to do that months ago!" won't win them any votes, provided of course that Bush doesn't look desperate when he goes to the UN.
Four years ago this time, I was already betting money that Bush would be elected. It seemed obvious to me that, barring any disastrous error, he would have the electoral college sewn up.
Now, I am not ready to make any bets. The situation is too unpredictable, and too much can happen.
¶ 12:46 PM
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
George Orwell wrote, in response to Auden's poem Spain,
"So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don't even know that fire is hot."
Orwell was refering to the Communists and fellow-travellers of his own day, the kind of people who could accept, even admire, the Soviets for being brutal. Their brutality was a sign of serious intent and unstinting commitment. Alger Hiss was able to tell Whittaker Chamber that Stalin "played for keeps," and he meant the hideous understatement as praise.
Some aspect of this attitude, this studied callousness with the lives and freedoms of others, survives in the left. But it has never, of course, been just a feature of the left alone.
David Brooks wrote today in the NY Times
The fact is, we Americans do not like staring into the face of evil. It is in our progressive and optimistic nature to believe that human beings are basically good, or at least rational. [...]
It's not that we can't accept casualties. History shows that Americans are willing to make sacrifices. The real doubts come when we see ourselves inflicting them. What will happen to the national mood when the news programs start broadcasting images of the brutal measures our own troops will have to adopt? Inevitably, there will be atrocities that will cause many good-hearted people to defect from the cause. They will be tempted to have us retreat into the paradise of our own innocence. [...]
The president will have to remind us that we live in a fallen world, that we have to take morally hazardous action if we are to defeat the killers who confront us. It is our responsibility to not walk away. It is our responsibility to recognize the dark realities of human nature, while still preserving our idealistic faith in a better Middle East.
What does Brooks mean by this? What can he mean other than to endorse war-crimes?
Brooks is not alone in what Atrios called his "'We may have to rape, torture, mutilate, kill, and bomb the village in order to save it' article."
Trent Lott said:
If we have to, we just mow the whole place down, see what happens. Youâ€™re dealing with insane suicide bombers who are killing our people, and we need to be very aggressive in taking them out.
Dean Esmay, a right-wing blogger, ups the ante:
I don't particularly want to see a millions of dead Muslims (with assorted Christians, Jews, and others joining them in the smoking craters). But let's get real: Americans, and the current administration, have been highly restrained since September 11. Furthermore, we are not and never have been the kind of people who launch indiscriminate nuclear attacks. But one or two more major attacks on American soil and the gloves will come off.
I have urged that we need a constructive policy in Iraq, and argued that the obligation to face the urgent reality of the situation is greatest on those who supported the invasion. I didn't think that anyone would run "the horror, the horror" as a plan. Surely those that have defended this as a war to liberate the Iraqi people will step up to condemn Brooks' "make a desert" doctrine. Won't they?
¶ 8:52 AM