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December 31, 2003

The Year that Was

Bill Watson pulls no punches in his end-of-year column:

Among the most trenchant Canadian writing of all time on public policy matters, I put at the top the mid-20th century economist, Harry Johnson, whom I've been re-reading this year. Johnson wrote about "the two-faced character of anti-Americanism in Canada -- the desire to enjoy the emotional jag of indulging in hatred, envy and greed while maintaining the pretense that one is being very restrained and reasonable ... It is a subject on which the Canadian talent for genteel hypocrisy comes to its finest flower ... Mean and underhanded anti-Americanism ... serves many Canadians as an excuse for their failure to accomplish anything worthy of genuine national pride ... It is closely connected with a certain immaturity in the Canadian national character, expressed in the unwillingness to accept the fact that Canada is, except from the geographical point of view, a small country. Unlike the citizens of other small countries bordering on large countries, Canadians are not prepared to content themselves with the advantages that can be derived from small size, but set themselves the impossible aspiration of equaling the United States, and still more impossible, of getting the United States to treat them as equals. In the nature of things such aspirations are doomed to disappointment; and their disappointment almost inevitably curdles into resentment against the United States for its effortless imperviousness to the Canadian challenge ..."

Ouch. I expect some flak for reproducing that, but it's worth it. Also, for the record, I'm not the student in this anecdote:

I think the very best thing I read this year may have been on an exam I was grading two weeks ago. Referring to some controversy or other, one of my students wrote that such-and-such didn't prove anything: It was really "a mute point." A mute point is best made, presumably, in a dialogue of the deaf.

At least I sure hope I'm not. Watson's always a good read, and this one's a crackerjack piece.

Posted by David Mader at 09:50 AM | (0) | Back to Main

December 29, 2003

Getting it Wrong, Getting it Right

Mark Steyn looks at the year 2003 in British punditry:

Although my confident assertion that Adrien Brody would win the Best Actor Oscar required a tiny modicum of prognosticatory skill, almost everything else I predicted was perfectly obvious - or, as I put it in The Spectator of March 29, "Let me go out on a limb here: the Anglo-Aussie-American forces will win." A week later, in an otherwise hilariously pessimistic issue of the Speccie, I reckoned Baghdad would fall within the next seven to 10 days. It took six.

But look, don't all stampede to shower me with Columnist Of The Year awards. That fall-of-Baghdad thing should have been as simple as predicting that at his next press conference Tony Blair will be wearing trousers. Might be navy, might be grey, but the trousered nature of the occasion should not be in doubt...

The more interesting question is why the smart fellows cranked out columns like "Baghdad Will Prove Impossible To Conquer". That would be Simon Jenkins in The Times, March 29.

It would be cruel to scoff at Mr Jenkins's column that day ("The coalition forces confront a city apparently determined on resistance. They should remember Napoleon in Moscow, Hitler in Stalingrad, the Russians at Grozny," etc), so let's move on to scoff at his column from four days later: "I Predict The Pundits Will Carry On Getting It Wrong", by which he meant the gung-ho neocon Zionist patsies with our predictions that Baghdad would fall within the week. Instead, Jenkins was still recommending that we "prepare for Beirut, the West Bank or Stalingrad". Our boys will be "trapped far from home and in hostile territory, like the Russians in Chechnya."

Oh, well.

Read the whole &c.

Posted by David Mader at 09:41 PM | (0) | Back to Main

No Relation

Thank goodness. I'm all for economic opportunity and whatnot, but really: if anyone's put the poor toddler in harm's way, it's his mother, not the township.

Posted by David Mader at 09:32 PM | (2) | Back to Main


What can one write about a natural catastrophe that claims the lives of tens of thousands of people? The reports of the earthquake in Bam are terrible in their - what to call it? - their subtlety. There is no shocking news to be obtained, no grand revelations. The climax of the event, to give it such a base term, occurred before any report hit the wires. What we read now are, in an odd way, their own aftershocks. Over time, the enormity of the tragedy gradually comes across, not in the headlines but the constant reports, not in the individual accounts of destruction but in the seemingly infinite number of such accounts.

That aid is pouring in from all quarters is both a story and a non-story. There is humanity in this world, in perhaps the most unlikely of places, and it's comforting to juxtapose evidence of human kindness with evidence of nature's fury. At the same time, though, humanitarianism in the wake of disaster ought not be particularly remarkable. Of course the United States is sending aid, and those surprised by it - as James Lileks points out - don't understand the US. By the same token, of course divers nations from Africa to Asia are sending aid, in whatever possible capacity, and those surprised by that must not understand the basic tenets of humanity, the fundamental and uniting sense of compassion.

And yet the most interesting comment on the earthquake comes from Oxblog's Josh Chafetz, who notes:

Earthquakes are natural and random and meaningless. But the devastation is not -- it's a factor of poverty and poor political management.

Now is the time for aid and comfort, of course, but while we assist we do no harm by asking why the tragedy was as great - and how it might be avoided in the future. Pointing out that prosperity will reduce liability involves pointing no fingers. Nor need it translate directly into a condemnation of Iran's current governing regime (although they are worthy of their own criticism). Despite the current regime, Iran enjoys quite a developed governmental system and a substantially literate populace (about 80%). To the degree that the current theocracy is breeding dissent, anti-government sentiment tends (or appears) to be more rather than less democratic-minded.

Preventing another Bam by assisting in the economic development of Iran's under-developed areas need not involve, then, a complete restructuring of Persian society either from without or within. Although I desperately want to see the removal of the current regime, and though my libertarian inclinations suggest to me that death is not the worst of evils, it seems at the very least possible that the human tragedy of Bam can be addressed before and without a still-necessary regime change.

How might this economic development be realized? Well, that's the question. But the answer might not be foreign aid and open markets and education - although each of those is vital. The real answer may already be in Iran; it may already be in Iran's underdeveloped areas; in fact, Iran's 'poor' may be sitting right on top of it. Development - the type of development that would allow the construction of safer dwellings - may just be possible, and soon, by simply recognizing the tools the 'poor' already possess to allow them to capitalize on their potential.

It's an idea - one that I'm thinking quite a lot about, and which I'll be writing about quite a bit in the near future, I imagine.

But the real task now is to help, in whatever manner possible, the people of Bam and of Iran to address the tragedy that's befallen them.

LATER (21:35 EST): An interesting piece from the Telegraph suggests that some Iranians are being far less charitable towards the current regime.

Posted by David Mader at 09:00 PM | (0) | Back to Main

December 25, 2003

Merry Christmas

Sorry about the light holiday blogging. Dan's in from Toronto, I'm here from Montreal and so it's a big Mader Family bonanza. I hope, though, despite the anxiety over a very potential terrorist attack, that you all are also spending more time with your families and less with the blogosphere this holiday season. Merry Christmas to all.

Posted by David Mader at 10:48 AM | (0) | Back to Main

December 23, 2003

The Turkey Bruhaha

Let me start this post with a disclaimer. When I first saw, on Drudge, some weeks ago, a story claiming that the turkey the President held in the (now) famous photo with the troops in Baghdad wasn't actually served to them, I said - out loud - to the screen: "This isn't a story." I was somewhat apalled, actually, that Drudge was giving it so much space. Maybe it's a partisan thing, maybe it's a mistaken judgement of news-worthiness, but of all the things to report, that didn't seem properly to be one of them.

But many have latched on to the 'fake turkey' story because it offers more or less the only element of the Thanksgiving visit that critics can, well, criticize. That the President's political opponents have taken to shrieking about a turkey in order to attack him for visiting troops in the field is - or ought to be - rather embarrasing; nonetheless, they persist.

There always seemed to be two degrees of the 'fake turkey' myth. As I recall, the first report I read - the story Drudge pumped, for whatever reason - said that Bush had posed with a 'display' turkey, being a dressed whole turkey laid out on a platter. Of course, the turkey served to the troops was pre-cut, because carving hundreds of turkeys would have been time-consuming and inefficient.

At some point - fairly early on - some critic obviously saw the term 'display' turkey and assumed that such a turkey would have to be artificial. Whether 'display' first became 'fake' and then further interpreted to 'plastic', or vice versa, isn't clear (and I haven't nearly the patience to go digging through all the old stories). But I think it's safe to say that such was the general trajectory of the myth. Since then it's spread like wildfire among critics of all stripes.

The fact that these critics spend so much time castigating the President as a buffoon and a moron makes their own stupidity - for what else can we call it? - all the more poignant. To see a report about a 'display turkey', to assume that a display turkey is an artificial, plastic prop, and to turn around and disseminate the interpretation when even a simple fact-check would have shown otherwise smacks of a startling simple-mindedness. I'm embarrassed for these supposed intellectuals, their half-wit displayed for the world to see; and yet I suppose they will simply add the 'plastic turkey' to their pantheon of selected truths which define an increasingly surrealistic intellectual atmosphere.

But while the particular (and supposed) 'plastic' nature of the turkey defines the expansive strain of this meme, there is a more restricted - and far more legitimate - point of criticism which suffers only from being unfathomably petty. The turkey which the President picked up before the troops was real, but the fact remains that he picked it up in ordeer to be photographed with it. He was mugging with the troops - it was a joke, and they got it - but those searching desparately for something to criticize, and particularly those with no humor and no emphathy for 'regular' guys, might very well declare his actions inappropriate.

And into this latter category falls, I think, Greg Easterbrook. His actual remarks - reproduced here - mention a 'fake' turkey but not a 'plastic' turkey. Easterbrook - who's admitted to his own sloppiness with words before - may have meant 'fake' in the sense that the turkey was not meant to be served, but was used only for display. That interpretation is somewhat undone by his (remarkably inane) contention that the White House flew the turkey to Iraq expressely for the photo op. Still, it's possible that Easterbrook didn't fall for the 'plastic' canard, but does feel that posing with a display turkey - and posing as if he was serving it - was improper.

(Ad hominem warning; proceed with discretion.) Of course I don't think Easterbrook deserves any benefit of doubt. When you say a stupid thing once, people will generally write it off as an anomaly. When you keep saying stupid things, though, there's at least an off-chance that you're stupid. I hate to use such juvenile language, but I can't think of a better, more diplomatic term for the contentions made by Easterbrook above and by the 'fake turkey' conspiracists. And I don't mean it in a juvenile sense; I mean, it displays a fundamental lack of intellectual rigour.

Still, I await Easterbrook's inevitable clarification or defense, and I imagine it will resemble the points made above. Criticisms of the President for posing with a plastic turkey are based on incorrect assumptions; criticisms of the President for posing with a display picture are petty, and involve some rather absurd assumptions, but are at least grounded in reality.

Posted by David Mader at 11:45 AM | (0) | Back to Main

December 22, 2003


Ten thousand people have taken to the streets of Port-au-Prince to protest the government of Jean-Bertrand aristide. Gunmen opened fire on part of the crowd, killing one man and raising the total number of those killed in anti-government marches since September to 23.

Haiti presents no terrorist threat. It has no WMD program. It is neither a hotbed of Islamist extremism nor a center of funding for extremist groups. That Haiti is not an Administration priority is both understandable and proper.

But Haiti, if nothing else, is the home of thousands upon thousands of people yearning to breath free. She is a direct inheritor and exemplar of the 18th century spirit of rebellion and liberty that informed the American revolution. Nor is the connection so historical - aristide was returned to power by the US following an attempted coup in the early 1990s.

I hate to sound like I'm preaching - I hope my readers know that these exhortations to vigilance and concern regarding off-the-radar countries are directed at myself as much as anyone, as I've spent most of my life shamefully unaware of the condition of my neighbors and my peers.

Haiti's in bad shape. It's not our 'white man's burden' to help - it's just the right thing to do.

Posted by David Mader at 09:09 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Libya, Continued

The Wall Street Journal repeats a point I made yesterday:

[W]e'd offer two caveats amid all of the cheering over the Gadhafi news. One is that the dictator continues to be responsible for killing hundreds of innocents, many of them Americans. In international relations and especially in the age of terror, moral trade-offs for the sake of security are sometimes necessary. But Mr. Bush's promise on Friday that Colonel Gadhafi "can regain a secure and respected place among the nations" goes too far in our copybooks. He may be giving up his weapons but he isn't becoming a democrat. We'd still like to see him tried for his terrorism, a la Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam.

Absolutely. The more I emphasize this point, the more I feel like an out-of-touch idealist. But the more I think about the issue, the more convinced I become of the necessity of continued pressure on Libya for further - and real - internal democratic reform. No, Libya is not the most tyrannical of regimes, and the domestic situation can hardly be called a civil rights nightmare when compared to the conditions south of the Sahara. Yes, sometimes a soft approach and a gradual program of reform will bring about more and better developments than a strong program of demands. As clause III.3 of our Statement of Principles says:

Democratic governments must make every attempt, using peaceful methods when possible, and military means when necessary, to reduce and eliminate threats to human rights and democracy worldwide, and, consequently, to expand and secure democracy and human rights worldwide.

There are many tyrannies in the world, and no one strategy or approach will lead to reform in each one.

But the trend must be towards reform. The Journal is right to criticize the President's remark foreseeing a return for Libya to a place among nations. Unless the Administration - and the country - remains committed to real reform and democratization, the President's grand vision of the advance of liberty as the calling of our time will be shown empty.

Making Ghadafi 'our son of a bitch' - if he has indeed come around, which remains to be seen - is a considerable geo-political and diplomatic coup. But he remains a tyrant, and his people unfree. In our celebration and our advancing security, we mustn't forget that.

Posted by David Mader at 05:28 PM | (3) | Back to Main

A Present From the WSJ

Opinion Journal's James Taranto is taking the holidays off, so his regular Best of the Web feature is quiet. In its stead, though, Opinion Journal is giving readers a peek of their new subscriber e-mail newsletter, the Political Diary. It's fantastic, and it makes me wish I had more disposable income. Those similarly liquidity-constrained should head on over to Opinion Journal to take advantage of the freebie; I particularly recommend this piece in today's Diary on Howard Dean's early climax and the reasons many Democrats are beginning to think twice about the Vermont governor.

Posted by David Mader at 05:02 PM | (1) | Back to Main

December 21, 2003

Blogs, Coffee and the Public Sphere

If you're interested in the role of blogs and similar participatory websites in the creation of a new public sphere of discussion, I recommend this article from the Economist on coffee houses. I think folks tend to have preferred historical analogies for weblogs - I like to compare blogs to mid-17th century English pamphlets - but the Economist does an admirable job of explaining the role of coffee houses as centers not only of political discussion but of all sorts of information transfer, leading to commerce as well as revolution.

[Via Slaps Society]

Posted by David Mader at 06:42 PM | (0) | Back to Main


The announcement that Libya will disclose and dismantle its WMD program is welcome. And yet there's something missing in all the official responses to the announcement, and indeed in the 'deal' which brought this welcome development about.

London's Telegraph makes the point:

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, insisted that the successful negotiations with Libya and Iran demonstrated that Britain would never have gone to war with Saddam Hussein had he agreed to comply with the UN resolutions on the inspection and elimination of his weapons of mass destruction. "People were sceptical about whether we were serious," Mr Straw said, "but if Saddam had come to us a year ago or more, and said to us 'We will comply completely' - rather than refusing even to allow the inspectors to operate in his country - the situation in Iraq would have been a very different one, and we would have welcomed that."

Every sane person would prefer it if the war had not been necessary, but Mr Straw's assertion gives the lie to his and the Government's claim that an important part of the reason for the war was to "liberate the Iraqi people from Saddam": it was for their sake, the Prime Minister has said, that British soldiers were sent to Iraq. Mr Straw's implication that Saddam would still be in power if only he had allowed the inspectors unrestricted access to sites in Iraq suggests that in fact we did not go to war to improve the condition of the Iraqi people, or to free them from Saddam's tyrannical grip.

The Telegraph is right, even if their conclusion ("Nor should we have done so") is reprehensible. There's reason to think that after a point, the removal of Saddam Hussein himself, and of his Ba'athist regime, became a fundamental component of any war-averting deal.

Unfortunately, a similarly liberal requirement doesn't seem to have been part of the Libya deal. On the contrary; Ghaddafi, having played ball, now appears secure in his position.

That's a terrible shame. Aside from the international mischief-making of its extravagant leader, Libya tends to stay off of the radar. It remains, however, a military dictatorship, melding an absolutist socialism with a particular state Islamism all maintained by martial state power. It is not a social democracy; it is a tyranny. In the words of Human Rights Watch:

Over the past three decades, Libya's human rights record has been appalling. It has included the abduction, forced disappearance or assassination of political opponents; torture and mistreatment of detainees; and long-term detention without charge or trial or after grossly unfair trials.

No, Libya is not the worst tyranny in the region; nor is it clear that, given the opportunity, the people would choose a radically different form of government. Nonetheless, Ghadafi's particular brand of authoritarianism cannot but corrode the security of and respect for the human rights of the Libyan people, and therefore the human rights of all people. To perpetuate this government is only to defer a fundamental ideological and pratical conflict between freedom and tyranny.

In his announcement, President Bush said:

Should Libya pursue internal reform, America will be ready to help its people to build a more free and prosperous country. Great Britain shares this commitment, and Prime Minister Blair and I welcome today's declaration by Colonel Ghadafi.

The implication is that, having capitulated on WMD and terrorism, Ghadafi will be freed, at least for the forseeable future, from pressure for internal reform. Maybe that's unfair, but the absence of a public declaration on the illiberality of the Libyan regime seems to support the argument. The announcement on WMD is good, but in the long run it's not good enough. Obviously the US cannot apply the same pressure and tacticts to all illiberal regimes. Perhaps - in fact quite probably - the perpetuation of Ghadafi's rule was the cost of compliance on WMD. It's vitally important, therefore, that those committed to the liberal ideals the President himself has recently presented continue to pressure our own governments to work towards the liberation of the Libyan people from their tyranny.

Eliminating the threat of rogue-nation proliferation is a fundamental component of the war on terror. Victory will neither be absolute nor final, however, unless those rogue states are reformed. The WMD announcement is to be cheered, but the question now is: what's next?

Posted by David Mader at 06:01 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Dead Tree Blogging

In Chapters today - it's the CanCon version of Borders - I noticed a print version of Salam Pax' wartime blog posts. It's not a new book, but I hadn't heard about it before, and it caught be off guard. (It had even been formatted to resemble the blogger template, and hyperlinks were altered to footnotes [mentioning the site rather than the particular page or blog-post]).

What really surprised me was the title - not "The Clandestine Diary of an Ordinary Iraqi", as had been used for an earlier edition, but simply "The Baghdad Blog". In fact the substance of the book seemed to be a simple transfer of the soft blog posts to a hard format.

I don't know whether it has been successful, or whether any such a project could be successful - though I suppose it's no different than picking up a print edition of Pepys' Diary. In any case it was neat to see. Sometimes I think I overestimate the importance of blogs, given the amount of time I spend wandering around the blogosphere. But a certain amount of cultural diffusion does indeed seem to be taking place.

Posted by David Mader at 05:02 PM | (0) | Back to Main


I'm back in beautiful Ottawa, now, so Montreal area readers will kindly not rob my apartment. Also, if you've e-mailed me at the maderblog.com address, I haven't been able to access it, so if you really need to contact me please leave a message in the comments. The blog has hardly been quiety since I left, though - a combination Windsalanche and second-degree Instalanche. More of that fresh-brewed Maderblog punditry coming right up, to satsify your blogging needs.

My general policy, after having taken a couple of days off, is not to go back and try to blog all the stuff I missed - the major stuff being, in this case, Libya. Instead, I'll take it from here.

Posted by David Mader at 04:39 PM | (3) | Back to Main

December 19, 2003

In Transit

I'm on the road today, just in time to fail completely to capitalize on a veritable Windsalanche of visitors - Happy Hannukah to you, Joe! And Happy Hannukah to all my Yiddishe readers. More holiday greetings to come, in good time. I have no idea what blogging will be like over the next couple of weeks, but let's all hope and pray for a peaceful and quiet festive season.

Posted by David Mader at 09:51 AM | (1) | Back to Main

December 17, 2003

Another Busy Day

If you're looking for something to read, start with Miranda Devine's column in the Sydney Morning Herald on sympathy for Saddam:

Reuters reported yesterday the words of Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican's Justice and Peace department, on seeing footage of Iraq's former tyrant Saddam Hussein being examined by a US doctor. "I felt pity to see this man destroyed, [the military] looking at his teeth as if he were a cow. They could have spared us these pictures."[...]

Less saintly people than Martino might look at Saddam and feel pity, not for him, but for the voiceless thousands he and his regime pals tortured, shot, gassed and buried in mass graves.

After all, being videotaped with a tongue depressor in your mouth seems less grim than being hung upside down and beaten on the soles of your feet, or having bits of your body cut off, or just living each day in fear of capricious arrest.

There were so many ways for a person to be "destroyed" in Saddam's Iraq.

Read the whole thing. Then swing over to Opinion Journal, where Mark Steyn deconstructs the Bike Path Left:

So what does get the Dean juices going? A few days later, the governor was on CNN and Judy Woodruff asked him about his admission that he'd left the Episcopal Church and become a Congregationalist because "I had a big fight with a local Episcopal church over the bike path." I hasten to add that, in contrast to current Anglican controversies over gay marriage in British Columbia and gay bishops in New Hampshire, this does not appear to have been a gay bike path: its orientation was not an issue; it would seem to be a rare example of a non-gay controversy in the Anglican Communion. But nevertheless it provoked Howard into "a big fight." "I was fighting to have public access to the waterfront, and we were fighting very hard in the citizens group," he told Judy Woodruff. Fighting, fighting, fighting.

And that's our pugnacious little Democrat. On Osama bin Laden, he's Mister Insouciant. But he gets mad about bike paths. Destroy the World Trade Center and he's languid and laconic and blasé. Obstruct plans to convert the ravaged site into a memorial bike path and he'll hunt you down wherever you are.

You should really read the whole of this thing, because it goes well beyond contemporary politics into a reconsideration of nineties-liberalism that's very, very interesting.

[Thanks to my father for the Devine pointer]

Posted by David Mader at 11:54 AM | (0) | Back to Main

December 16, 2003

Second Thoughts

McGill Professor William Watson has a solid peice in the Gazette on Canadian reactions to Saddam's capture:

Can someone tell me why Canadians are happy to see Saddam Hussein captured? True, he's a vicious, torturing tyrant directly responsible for the deaths of maybe a million people. But only a couple of hundred days ago our position was he had every legal right to be as vicious, torturing and tyrannical as he wanted...

Perhaps our satisfaction at Saddam's removal is belated recognition our policy was wrong. With CNN having free access to Iraq, the true extent of Saddam's evil is now clear. The mass graves, the torture chambers and the solid-gold bathroom fixtures (we Canadians always deeply resent rulers' self-indulgence with tax dollars) have demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt Saddam was as bad as Iraqi exiles had claimed.

Of course, Canadian policy (and probably opinion) hasn't changed, and Watson says it's time to face our mistakes and recognize our errors.


Posted by David Mader at 03:16 PM | (5) | Back to Main

Somebody Put This on a Campaign Poster

Kevin Lamarque - Reuters

Posted by David Mader at 12:13 AM | (0) | Back to Main

December 15, 2003

Time for a Change

Mark Steyn:

The one consistent feature of the post-9/11 era is the comprehensive failure of the international order. The French use their Security Council veto to protect Saddam. The EU subsidises Palestinian terrorism. The International Atomic Energy Agency provides cover for Iran's nuclear ambitions. The UN summit on racism is an orgy of racism.

All these institutions do is enable nickel'n'dime thugs to punch above their weights. The New York Times, sleepwalking through the 21st century on bromides from the Carter era, wants the UN to run Saddam's trial because one held under the auspices of the Americans would "lack legitimacy". Au contraire, it's the willingness of Kofi Annan, Mohammed el-Baradei, Chris Patten, Mary Robinson and the other grandees of the international clubrooms to give "legitimacy" to Saddam, Kim Jong-Il, Arafat, Assad and co that disqualifies them from any role in Iraq. I've come to the conclusion that the entire international system needs to be destroyed.

"Sleepwalking through the 21st century on bromides from the Carter era." It has a better ring to it than 'All the News That's Fit to Print.' More accurate, too.

Posted by David Mader at 11:26 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Get Your Geek On

Pardon the indiscretion, but Josh Chafetz at Oxblog mentions the favorable critical reception of the last installment of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film adaptation. I thought I'd note that as of right now, 22:51 EST 12/15/03, rottentomatoes.com lists 32 positive reviews and no negative reviews, for a fresh/rotten rating of 100%. It almost sounds too good to be true.

Posted by David Mader at 10:52 PM | (0) | Back to Main

The President's News Conferenece

An interesting contrast, perhaps, to Dean's speech below is the President's news conference today. If you have the time, I really recommend that you read it. Dean's speech seems to mark an attempted shift from anger to professionalism. The President's remarks are infused with kindness and vision and humor - right down to the parting joke. I'd like to see the video, but from the transcript it really does seem like a relaxed back-and-forth of the sort I don't think the White House Press Corps has seen in a while.

I don't think you can escape the sense that the President really believes in what he's doing. This exchange was fascinating:

Q Mr. President --


Q -- when you asked the American people for their support three years ago, there was no way anyone could have imagined the nature of the job you would have before you. If you had known then what you know now, sir, would you have wanted the job? Would you have had any hesitation --

THE PRESIDENT: That's an interesting question.

Q -- about asking me the American people for it? And I have to ask you since we're here, sir, have you chatted with your Dad since Saddam was captured?

THE PRESIDENT: He called me -- let me answer your first question. I absolutely would have wanted the job. I have come to realize this job is a magnificent job, because you have a chance to use the position of the United States of America to achieve peace and freedom. And that is a rare opportunity for any person. I put together a fantastic administration to help me with this task. I feel very comfortable in the job because I've got great advice and advisors to whom I -- get good advice from great advisors to whom I listen. I am comfortable delegating the awesome responsibilities of -- in this administration's case, war two times to incredibly capable and brave people.

At home, this job affords the opportunity to capture what I call the American spirit, and to call people to serve in their communities and their neighborhoods, and to help people who hurt. It's a fantastic opportunity to try to lift up this country so everybody can realize its full potential. I absolutely would seek the office again, and I intend to do so in '04, by the way. (Laughter.)

On top of his repeated reference to the Iraqi people, their great day, their capacity to deliver justice, the transformative nature of Iraqi democracy, and so on, I think this demonstrates quite clearly that Bush doesn't at all lack the 'vision thing'; on the contrary, he seems to grow more confident in his vision over time.

On the issue of candour, which David Brooks so wonderfully highlighted over the weekend, get a load of this:

Q Mr. President, do you believe that the capture of Saddam Hussein will bridge some of the differences, the bitter differences that have arisen in the world over Iraq? Or do you believe that the Iraq war marks a dividing line, perhaps a long-term dividing line, between those countries which fought to topple Saddam Hussein and those which did not?

THE PRESIDENT: Interesting question. I think that -- well, first of all, as I want to repeat, there's over 60 nations involved in the reconstruction of Iraq now. So there's a -- a lot of people are participating, and we're out working to encourage others to participate.

You're talking -- what you're talking about is France and Germany, truth be known, if I might clarify your question to me. Look, France and Germany -- I have reached out to them; they've reached out to us. It's in our national interests we work together. A whole and united and peaceful Europe is in this country's interest. And we look forward to working with them on a wide range of issues, whether it be intelligence-sharing, or the reconstruction of Afghanistan. I want to remind you, Germany has committed troops to Afghanistan. It's in this country's interest that Afghanistan emerge as a peaceful country. Germany is contributing to that effort. There's a lot of areas where we do work together.

"What you're talking about is France and Germany." Don't pussyfoot; come out and say it.

I also liked this line: "when there's a hole in the ground and a person is able to crawl into it in a country the size of California, it means we're on a scavenger hunt for terror." Indeed.

As I say, it's a very interesting exchange, and well worth a complete read if you have the time.

ONE MORE THING (19:18 EST): I bet some folks in Ottawa are pretty happy with the President's response to the first question asked:

I shared my sentiments today with Prime Minister Martin of Canada. He asked me about Saddam Hussein and his trial. I said, look, the Iraqis need to be very much involved. He was the person that -- they were the people that were brutalized by this man. He murdered them, he gassed them, he tortured them, he had rape rooms. And they need to be very much involved in the process. And we'll work with the Iraqis to develop a process.

Anyone know the last time Bush said the words "Prime Minister Jean Chretien" in public? I'm guessing it's been quite a while. And yet Martin gets a nod on his first Monday in office. Everyone talks about America's 'squandered goodwill' after September 11, but there's a book to be written about Canada's squandered influence, thanks largely to the haughty incompetence of that bumbler from Shawinigan.

AND FOR GOOD MEASURE (00:14 EST 12/16/03):

Kevin Lamarque - Reuters

Posted by David Mader at 07:14 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Dean's Speech

I take it from blogosphere buzz that this speech by Howard Dean at the Pacific Council is, or ought to be, big news - although GoogleNews seems to think otherwise.

I've read the whole thing, and while my analysis can't hope to match what other pundits will give you, I think the speech represents a hard rightward tack on Dean's part. In fact the basic message seems to be "I'll do what George Bush is doing, but I'll do it more." From military funding to border security to AIDS, Dean promises to 'improve' the 'inadequate' level of the current administration's funding/attention/etc. As a result, a lot of the Dean speech isn't so much a critique of Bush policy as a series of suggestions as to how Bush policy could be made sounder. That may appeal to centrist voters - which is, I think, the point of the speech - but I wonder how much it will work with the Democratic base. Perhaps Dean assumes the nomination is in the bag; usually a centrist tack comes after the convention.

For all of that, though, I couldn't get past this passage:

The difficulties and tragedies we have faced in Iraq show that the administration launched the war in the wrong way, at the wrong time, with inadequate planning, insufficient help, and at unbelievable cost. An administration prepared to work with others in true partnership might have been able, if it found no alternative to Saddam's ouster, to then rebuild Iraq with far less cost and risk.

That's instructive. Not an alternative to war, but an alternative to Saddam's ouster. What's the grievance, then - that America went to war, or that Saddam was removed from power? And what does it suggest about a Dean administration's approach to the same situation? Well, I'll tell you: it suggests that a Dean administration would have let the Iraqi people continue to suffer under brutal tyranny as long as Saddam gave Hans Blix the full tour. As Joe Lieberman so candidly said yesterday: "If Howard Dean had his way, Saddam Hussein would still be in power today."

I think this is a point worth stressing: Does Howard Dean support the removal of tyrants, or does he not? I think it's a question we all should ask ourselves. If we could somehow remove all tyrants from power - in Korea and Zimbabwe and Haiti and everywhere else they currently terrorize 'their' people - if we somehow had the power, the resources, the political capital - would we do it? In short, is tyranny to be accomodated, or to be removed? For all Dean's subsequent bluster about security, that's a basic difference from President Bush. So much for liberalism. So much for progress.

Some other excerpts, quickly and inadequately fisked:

I also will get America's defense spending priorities straight so our resources are focused more on fighting terrorism and weapons of mass destruction and honoring commitments to our troops and less, for example, on developing unnecessary and counterproductive new generations of nuclear weapons.

Pop quiz, Governor. It's 2005. You've located Iran's nuclear weapon production facility, deep under a mountain outside of Tehran. Since the regime went martial and closed the borders, there's been no way to get people in or out of the country without sparking a land war. Your vaunted improvements in intelligence show you that the Iranians don't have the Bomb, but that they will by next week, latest. Your intelligence strongly suggests that if they get the Bomb, they'll use it; but it also suggests that a serious setback would destabilize the regime enough to bring it down. Your normal bunker-busting bombs won't be able to take out Iran's nuclear-weapons production facility. But a newly-devised low-radiation concentrated-blast nuclear device will. Do you give the go ahead?

You can't. You cancelled the program. So now your only option to save Baghdad - or Tel Aviv - is to invade. Too bad you withdrew all those troops from Iraq. Oh, well. There's always negotiation. Besides, maybe this will provide a lasting solution to the Israeli problem.

Now, some say we shouldn't worry about eroding alliances because, whenever a crisis comes up, we can always assemble a coalition of the willing. It's nice when people are willing, because it means they will show up and do their best. It does not, however, guarantee that they will be able to accomplish all that needs to be done.

"Hey, Poland? Spain? Thanks for coming out, guys, but President Dean really isn't interested in what you have to offer; he's busy with the French."

But instead of forging an effective new partnership to fight a common foe, the administration soon downgraded the effort. The Iraq war diverted critical intelligence and military resources, undermined diplomatic support for our fight against terror, and created a new rallying cry for terrorist recruits.

This is an enunciation of the difference I pointed to above. President Bush has explained, eloquently and repeatedly, how the establishment of a democracy in Iraq will pacify the region and contribute to the gradual decline in terrorist activity. Dean explictly rejects such a liberal argument. Dean sees no connection between tyranny and terror, and appears to be willing to let the anti-democratic regimes of the Arab world survive, as long as they contribute to an 'anti-terrorism fund' and act nice at the negotiation table.

Like our country's "Greatest Generation," I see international institutions like the United Nations as a way to leverage U.S. power, to summon warriors and peacekeepers, relief workers and democracy builders, to causes that advance America's national interests.

Okay, this last one's an ad hominem. "Like our country's 'Greatest Generation'"?! Hey, Governor, do you often fell like a whole generation? Or do you just like comparing yourself to the men who survived the Depression and went on to overthrow Hitler one hedgerow at a time? All those men, all those sacrifices - that's all right up inside of you, is it?

OH, ONE MORE THEN (18:36 EST): Says Dean:

Nor, as the president also seemed to acknowledge yesterday, does Saddam's capture move us toward defeating enemies who pose an even greater danger: al Qaeda and its terrorist allies. And, nor, it seems, does Saturday's capture address the urgent need to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction and the risk that terrorists will acquire them.

The capture of Saddam is a good thing which I hope very much will help keep our soldiers safer. But the capture of Saddam has not made America safer.

But that doesn't follow. Saddam's capture, it's true, has not made America safe - but safer? Well I guess that depends on whether you believe the insurgency will diminish in the coming months. Either way, though, it seems like a pretty shaky statement to me. It's as if Dean's running on the question "Do you feel safer than you did four years ago?" It's not an outrageous question - far from it - but the easy answer is another question: "Do you feel safer than you did on Tuesday Morning, September 11, 2001?" Similarly, the Saddam/safety issue is a no-brainer: "Do you feel safer knowing Saddam Hussein is in American custody? Would you feel safer is Osama bin Laden were captured by American forces?"

Not safe, no, but certainly safer.

Posted by David Mader at 06:28 PM | (3) | Back to Main

The Fence

My father forwards this flash clip from the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs. Maybe it's going around the blogosphere. Watch it: it conveys a reality - the proximity of Israeli towns to Palestinian terrorists - that is too often lost on foreign audiences. The map is instructive, but the repetition of the walking time between the pre-1967 border and Israeli targets of terror is the most illuminating. If Dunkirk were a fifteen minute walk from an actively hostile neighbor, wouldn't France be justified in securing its borders?

Posted by David Mader at 05:05 PM | (4) | Back to Main

Winter Wonderland

It's days like today when I wish I had a digital camera.¹ It dumped snow here yesterday, and the McGill campus is beautiful. From the main (Arts) building, a long tree-lined road leads down to the main gates, which open onto a further treel-lined avenue. In the winter the school strings up Christmas lights, as does the city, and a huge Christmas tree is raised at the far end of the avenue (called McGill College). The view from the steps of the Arts building, especially with two feet of snow and especially at night, is magnificent.

¹And only days like today. If an unphotogenic person is one who looks bad in pictures, what do you call one who dislikes taking pictures? I'm both.

Posted by David Mader at 05:00 PM | (2) | Back to Main

Exams and Whatnot

Busy day for me; for Dan too, I think.

If you're just dying for Maderblog punditry, I'm afraid you'll have to be satisfied with the observation that today's big news is the arrest of insurgent figures based on intelligence apparently gleaned from Hussein himself. If true, it would suggest more than a passive role for Saddam in the organization and operation of anti-coalition violence.

Posted by David Mader at 01:20 PM | (0) | Back to Main

December 14, 2003

Just a Reminder

There are now two - count 'em, two - authors on this weblog, so please double-check before you comment or e-mail to make sure your comment/e-mail is directed at the right Mader. And just to confuse things - or maybe clear them up - I, David, am the one most commonly referred to as Mader. Dan's usually called Dan.

Posted by David Mader at 10:54 PM | (0) | Back to Main

You know its a very strange day...

... when the Saudi ambassador uses the world "chutzpah."

(Via Best of the Web Today)

Posted by David Mader at 06:25 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Headline of the Day

"Democrats Mostly Pleased by Arrest"

Mostly? If you want a one-line sumation of Democrat unseriousness, this is it.

UPDATE: My apologies. There is one exception - Joe Lieberman:

"This is something that I have been working on with a lot of other people, advocating and praying for, for more than 12 years since the Gulf War of '91," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press." Lieberman also called it a "day of triumph and joy for anybody in the world who cares about freedom and human rights and peace."

Posted by David Mader at 06:14 PM | (6) | Back to Main

Confronting Saddam

Four members of Iraq's governing council had a chance to confront Saddam today. Absolutely amazing.

Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress, said: "He was quite lucid. He had command of his faculties. He would not apologize to the Iraqi people. He did not deny any of the crimes he was confronted with having done. He tried to justify them."

Posted by David Mader at 05:45 PM | (0) | Back to Main

The President's Remarks

If you missed the President at 12:15 EST, his remarks are available here and are reproduced in their entirety below.

Good afternoon. Yesterday, December the 13th, at around 8:30 p.m. Baghdad time, United States military forces captured Saddam Hussein alive. He was found near a farmhouse outside the city of Tikrit, in a swift raid conducted without casualties. And now the former dictator of Iraq will face the justice he denied to millions.

The capture of this man was crucial to the rise of a free Iraq. It marks the end of the road for him, and for all who bullied and killed in his name. For the Baathist holdouts largely responsible for the current violence, there will be no return to the corrupt power and privilege they once held. For the vast majority of Iraqi citizens who wish to live as free men and women, this event brings further assurance that the torture chambers and the secret police are gone forever.

And this afternoon, I have a message for the Iraqi people: You will not have to fear the rule of Saddam Hussein ever again. All Iraqis who take the side of freedom have taken the winning side. The goals of our coalition are the same as your goals -- sovereignty for your country, dignity for your great culture, and for every Iraqi citizen, the opportunity for a better life.

In the history of Iraq, a dark and painful era is over. A hopeful day has arrived. All Iraqis can now come together and reject violence and build a new Iraq.

The success of yesterday's mission is a tribute to our men and women now serving in Iraq. The operation was based on the superb work of intelligence analysts who found the dictator's footprints in a vast country. The operation was carried out with skill and precision by a brave fighting force. Our servicemen and women and our coalition allies have faced many dangers in the hunt for members of the fallen regime, and in their effort to bring hope and freedom to the Iraqi people. Their work continues, and so do the risks. Today, on behalf of the nation, I thank the members of our Armed Forces and I congratulate them.

I also have a message for all Americans: The capture of Saddam Hussein does not mean the end of violence in Iraq. We still face terrorists who would rather go on killing the innocent than accept the rise of liberty in the heart of the Middle East. Such men are a direct threat to the American people, and they will be defeated.

We've come to this moment through patience and resolve and focused action. And that is our strategy moving forward. The war on terror is a different kind of war, waged capture by capture, cell by cell, and victory by victory. Our security is assured by our perseverance and by our sure belief in the success of liberty. And the United States of America will not relent until this war is won.

May God bless the people of Iraq, and may God bless America. Thank you.

Posted by David Mader at 05:13 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Head of the Snake?

Charles Johnson links to a Time Magazine exclusive, said to contain revelations of the first interogation of the deposed dictator.

The conversation is interesting, but far more important, I think, is this tidbit:

Along with the $750,000 in cash, two AK 47 machine guns and pistol found with Saddam, the U.S. intelligence official confirmed that operatives found a briefcase with Saddam that contained a letter from a Baghdad resistance leader. Contained in the message, the official said, were the minutes from a meeting of a number of resistance leaders who came together in the capital.

This information, the quoted official said, would allow them to determine if Saddam is "the head of the snake or is he just an idiot hiding in a hole?”

LATER (17:33 EST): Looks like the fog of war is setting in. Compare this description in the story above:

The raid on the farm in al-Dawr, a village 15 miles from his hometown of Tikrit, initially came up empty, the official said. There was no Saddam Hussein in sight. Then one man on the property, apparently realizing the game was up, pointed out a bricked-in wall inside the basement of a small house on the property. Saddam is in there, he told the special forces operators from Task Force 121, who took down the farm with the aid of soldiers from the 1st Brigade of the Fourth Infantry Division. Saddam was bricked into his hiding place, he added. “They couldn’t get him out at first and had to dig, from either side of the hole,” said the official. The soldiers finally made a large enough passageway to drag him out. When he came out, he looked bedraggled, said the official: “He looked like a homeless man at the bus station.”

with this:

When darkness fell, the Americans moved into position, 600 of them, from infantrymen to elite special forces. Their target: two houses in this rural village of orange, lemon and palm groves. Someone big was inside, they were told. But when they struck, they found nothing.

Then they spotted two men running away from a small walled compound in the trees. Inside, in front of a mud-brick hut, the troops pulled back a carpet on the ground, cleared away the dirt and revealed a Styrofoam panel. Underneath, a hole led to a tiny chamber, just big enough for a single person to squeeze into...

At 8 p.m., the soldiers attacked their two objectives but came up empty. Troops spotted two men fleeing from another house nearby, the soldier said, about 200 yards from the original target. The men were arrested.

The troops cordoned off an area of 1.5 square miles around the house and began a careful search, Odierno said.

What they found was a small walled compound with a metal lean-to and a mud hut, Sanchez said. Pulling back a rug, they dug down, finding a Styrofoam panel that covered a tiny tunnel, Odierno said. Sanchez called it a "spider-hole."

Similar, but different. I'm inclined to believe the latter account; in fact I imagine Time's anonymous source had heard an account second-hand, and had relayed his corrupted version on to Time. If that's the case it seriously undermines the supposed validity of the 'interrogation' account.

Posted by David Mader at 05:10 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Explosion in Baghdad

CTV has footage of an explosion and fire in Baghdad. No web report yet; no word on what it is. OxBlogger Josh Chafetz this morning predicted that "Guerilla attacks will intensify for about a month before they start melting away." We may be seeing the beginning of the intensification.

UPDATE: CTV is reporting the explosion in proximity to the Palestine Hotel.

LATER (14:44 EST): The AP reports:

Three barrels of gasoline mounted on a pickup truck exploded in central Baghdad Sunday, hours after U.S. officials announced the capture of Saddam Hussein, police officials said. No one was hurt.

It was not clear whether the explosion was an accident or not. Witnesses said that a white four-wheel drive pickup truck, carrying the barrels of gasoline, caught fire setting off the explosions. The car was destroyed.

Witnesses Ahmed Abdul-Rahman and Adel Majid said that two people wearing police uniforms were in the vehicle and fled the scene shortly before the explosions occurred. There were no casualties.

Posted by David Mader at 12:29 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Candy and Celebration

Dan's post about Palestinian reaction reminded me of something. On September 11, 2001, Palestinians took to the streets to celebrate the attacks on America and the murder of thousands of innocents. As this video capture from CNN reports, many Palestinains were handing out sweets - candies - in celebration.

Today, the Corner's Kathryn Jean Lopez relays, a CNN reporter in Iraq found that "people are putting candy in my hand."

Interesting juxtaposition.

Posted by David Mader at 12:27 PM | (0) | Back to Main

On the other hand...

(Via LGF) On the other hand, what was the reaction of the Palestinians?

On Sunday, about a dozen men were playing pool in Gaza City hall while the news was being broadcast on a television in the corner. No one even turned to look at the television.

"I love him so much, I can't stand watching it while he's in custody," Raafat Logman, 23, said as he was shooting pool. "We are surprised. We are so sad," said Sameh Aloul, 22.

Posted by David Mader at 11:54 AM | (0) | Back to Main

Iraqi Reaction

So, how do Iraqis really feel about Saddam's capture?

Iraqi journalist Fatah al-Sheikh wept when he saw U.S. video of Saddam Hussein at a news conference Sunday.

"When I saw Saddam's long beard, how he looked like a defeated man, it reminded me of the two years I spent in jail, how his agents tortured me in every way you could imagine," he said.

Yes, even the so-called news service is covering this story!

Posted by David Mader at 11:42 AM | (0) | Back to Main

Saddam and the 'Resistence'

The talking heads - on CBC and elsewhere - are doing their best to qualify this triumph. The latest: Saddam's capture - with only two companions and 'only' $750,000 in cash - proves that he was not guiding the 'insurgency', which is anti-occupation, not pro-Saddam.

Whether three quarters of a million dollars is enough to support an insurgency I'll leave to the experts. It doesn't seem entirely outrageous to assume that Hussein acted as a central node of organization, giving the macro-direction.

However, regardless of whether Hussein was active in the insurgency, there can be no doubt that he was invoked by insurgents to legitimate their power. In a sense it doesn't matter whether Hussein was giving the orders, as long as the chump with the gun in his hands or the bomb in his car believed that Hussein was giving the orders. With Hussein in custody, that's no longer an option (though the CBC, again, is airing conspiracy theories that it isn't really Saddam). Insurgency will not disappear, but it should, over time, become even more concentrated among a die-hard core of former ba'athists and foreign terrorists.

Posted by David Mader at 10:34 AM | (0) | Back to Main

Hussein Captured

I'm almost speechless.

Saddam Hussein is in American custody.

American military officials confirmed today that Saddam Hussein was captured alive in a raid on a farm house near Tikrit on Saturday night.

They said they used DNA tests to confirm his identity.

"We got him," American administrator L. Paul Bremer III told a news conference.

Coalition troops discovered Mr. Hussein hiding in a hole below the farm house, located in the town of Adwar, 10 miles from Tikrit...

Mr. Hussein was in a six-to-eight-foot-deep ``spider hole'' that had been camouflaged with bricks and dirt, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said at the press conference. The video showed an air vent and fan installed in the hole to allow Saddam to remain hidden for an extended period.

Officials said Mr. Hussein was being held at an undisclosed location and that American authorities had yet to decide whether to hand him over to the Iraqis for trial.

Celebratory gunfire broke out all over Baghdad, and large crowds poured into the streets, especially along commercial strips like those in the Karada neighborhood. People were speaking ecstatically of the capture, hugging and shaking one another's hands.

There's something very satisfying in knowing that Hussein's been living in a hole in the ground. There's something more satisfying in knowing that he's not anymore.

Josh Chafetz points to a video clip of [EDIT: Paul Bremer Gen. Sanchez] announcing the capture. Watch it. The phrase repeated by the Iraqi journalists at the press conference is said to mean "Death to Saddam". Listen closely, especially after the first burst of emotion. You can hear at least one person sobbing.

LATER: Via the Command Post:

Posted by David Mader at 09:31 AM | (0) | Back to Main

The End of the Beginning - or the Beginning of the End?

Talks over the ratification of the draft EU Constitution have collapsed after smaller nations, led by Spain and Poland, refused to give up their (inflated) voting rights as agreed to in the 2000 Nice accord.

The Telegraph is dismissive of the disagreement:

Rather, the process foundered on the most tangential of questions: voting weights. It is as though the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 had failed because no one could agree on where the signing ceremony should take place.

Actually, it's as though the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 had failed because no one could agree on... voting weights.

Which it almost did.

One of the central and most difficult tensions in the Constitutional Convention was the matter of influence for large and small states. The less populous states, including the ever-intransigent Rhode Island, had no interest in being pushed around, and for all intents governed, by Virginia and New York. In the end it took two ingenious innovations to assuage small-state fears and bring about the general support for ratification. Those innovations were the equal Senate (added to a proportional House of Representatives) and the office of the Vice President, which was to be a small-state sop given the assumed large-state dominance of the presidency through the electoral college.

The point is that voting weights are nothing to sneeze at. But the Telegraph's main point, shared by Samizdata's David Carr and the new Euroskeptic blog EurSoc, is that the weekend's break down diverts attention from the more pressing issue: the fact that European leaders are a step away from ratifying a federal constitution which would create a European superstate.

This anxiety is, of course, quite legitimate, and I imagine I'd feel it more accutely myself if I were in an affected country. I can't help but have hope, though, and for reasons related to the points I raised above. By demanding an inflated degree of influence in the national government, the small states helped to entrench in the American constitution the enigmatic notion of states' rights. Large states were similarly interested in putting a check on the federal government's legislative and associated powers, but small state intransigence ensured that a large-state dominated federal government couldn't run roughshod over the Union. Smaller states could work together to frustrate large state policy, at least to a degree. The ability was not infinite - small states were, after all, small - but the parity between the houses was sufficient to provide a significant amount of power to even the smallest state.

If Spain and Poland stand firm, and if the other New European countries demand similar voting-weight protection, the Franco-Germans may be forced to offer a compromise which, like the American Constitution, could considerably limit the powers of the central government relative to those of the member states.

Of course, the Franco-Germans aren't liable to voluntarily surrender any power they think they can seize. As long as the other countries stand firm, though, the only option left to Paris and Berlin is one they seem already to be considering: they can walk.

In private, Jacques Chirac, the French president, blamed Britain for not supporting the Franco-German position. Publicly, he indicated that a hard core or "pioneer group" of states would push ahead with European integration regardless of how the new members of the EU behaved.

Apparently Tony Blair dislikes this possibility of a 'two-tier' EU. Euroskeptics should celebrate it. If the Franco-Germans do go ahead with their 'pioneer' group, and with their own political integration, the notion of a single 'European' entity will be weakened. Their desire for territorial expansion will not abate - in fact I predict another European war by century's end - but the design will become clear: the EU will be clearly seen - in Warsaw, Prague and, one hopes, in London - as a Franco-German attempt at political expansion and domination. Economic integration may remain attractive, but any discussion of political union should quickly lose popular traction.

So stand fast, small nations, and stand tall, Euroskeptics. No, this is not the end. But Spain and Poland may have just uncovered the breach by which the EU can be rent in twain. Rather than despairing, seize the chance. Because, as you despairing Euroskeptics point out, it may not come again.

Posted by David Mader at 12:46 AM | (6) | Back to Main

December 13, 2003

Honesty Taken to a Reckless Extreme

David Brooks nails it.

[Via Instapundit]

Posted by David Mader at 06:03 PM | (0) | Back to Main

December 12, 2003

Last Word on Reconstruction Contracts

Well, probably not, but an important sentiment from pseudonymous blogger John Galt, who's with the Coalition Provisional Authority:

Non-Coalition countries can use their own tax money to aid Iraq through the Madrid Donors' Conference or simply by direct donation to Iraq. And Non-Coalition countries are free to use only their own contactors with respect to any aid they choose to provide.

Gee, France, Germany and Russia refused to participate in that conference, just like they refused to participate in freeing the Iraqi people, and refused to put any of their people in harm's way.

To see the head of the U.N. lecture the U.S. that what we are doing is wrong is disgusting. The U.N. had its chance. It refused U.S. security, got attacked and left. They are GONE. How dare they criticize what we are doing.


Posted by David Mader at 01:03 PM | (1) | Back to Main

The Nerve

Globe and Mail columnist Marcus Gee says Canada has no claim on Iraq contracts:

The fact is that Canada stayed out of the war in Iraq and has stayed out of the postwar fight as well. Right or wrong, that decision has consequences. It is hardly "shocking," as Deputy Prime Minister John Manley put it, that we are not first in line for reconstruction contracts. Yet as soon as he heard of the U.S. decision, Mr. Manley warned that Canada might cut its aid to Iraq. "I don't know how we could justify to Canadian taxpayers that we would be contributing funds to reconstruction if Canadian firms were excluded from hoping to win some of the contracts," he said.

That was a vile threat. Presumably, we are sending aid to Iraq because we want to help the Iraqi people, not make room at the trough for Canadian companies.

That's about right, and it underscores what I've called the absurdity of foreign governments whining about getting business for their constituent corporations. When the larger part of governance is regulation, of course, winning business for your backers - and croneys - is the larger part of your job; let's see it for what it is, though, and not pretend that Canada has a legitimate diplomatic grievance.

As for the suggestion that Bush is 'playing politics' with reconstruction, I think it would be more accurate to say that he's playing policy with reconstruction. If all American dollars end up going to American corporations, I'll concede the point; as it stands, though, an awful lot of foreign corporations are eligable for contracts. Those corporations are distinguished from the blacklisted group by the fact that they have, through taxes &c., materially supported the war effort in a substantive (which is to say, super-monetary) way.

That distinction should be enough to convince even a causal observer of an underlying vision (and you'd think that the Oxblog crew of all people would less anxious to accuse this president of a lack of vision). Because this list isn't just about Iraq. It's about an ongoing war. I read somewhere this morning (can't find it just now) that one should be magnanimous in victory. With regard to conquered Iraq, can any claim we're not being magnanimous? But of course the post meant magnanimity towards the weasels. And yet in that theatre we haven't achieved victory, and that's the point. Each of the countries blacklisted has, to a greater or lesser degree, been active in the frustration of US policy in the war on terror. Many are reluctant to concede the end of the 'Atlantic alliance' and the rise of true Franco-German hostility to US interests; yet one need not concede that much to recognize that the countries in question have been actively pursuing international agendas distinctly divergent from, and at least at times contrary to, US interests. The struggle over the future of 'western' policy continues apace. When we win, we'll be magnanimous. Until we do, we'd be remiss not to use every tool of persuasion at our disposal. Iraq contracts aren't just about Iraq; they're about what's next. The message isn't that those who cross us pay; it's that those who continue to cross us will continue to pay. It isn't spite, it's strategy.

And besides, when France and Germany depose a dictator, they'll be welcome to shut American firms out of the reconstruction. But don't hold your breath.

Posted by David Mader at 01:01 PM | (1) | Back to Main

December 11, 2003

Dawn of the Martin Era

Everybody's leaking new Cabinet positions. Here's the hit list, according to CTV:

  • Finance: Ralph Goodale

  • Foreign Affairs: Bill Graham (stays)

  • Deputy PM & new "Homeland Security" portfolio: Anne McLellan

  • Defense: David Pratt

  • Justice: Irwin Cotler

  • Health: Pierre Pettigrew

  • Industry: Lucienne Robillard

  • International Trade & Investment (now wholly separated from Foreign Affairs): Jim Peterson

Scott Brison is reputedly getting a cabinet secretary portfolio.

Among the departures:

  • John Manley (retiring)

  • Sheila Copps

  • David Collinette

  • Allan Rock

  • Jane Stewart

  • Don Boudria

  • Elinor Caplan

  • Martin Cauchon

I have to say I'm happy to see them all go [EDIT: except J-man, who I expect to be back and party leader within, say, eight years]. Whether the new crowd will be any better - well, that's the question.

(Pierre Bourque, by the way, has an entirely different - and not very precise - list. Hedging his bets, I suppose.)

Posted by David Mader at 11:17 PM | (1) | Back to Main

The Old Man's Last Gaffe

In his last full day in office, Jean Chretien reminds us why we're so glad to see him go. Responding to the Pentagon policy of restricting Iraq contracts to coalition partner countries, the Prime Minister announced that he'd spoken to President Bush who "assured me that this was not the case, and that he would be taking action." According to his press aide, President Bush said "''We are working to rectify the situation."

But that's not what Washington says:

US President George W. Bush had warm words for Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien on his retirement, but refused to budge on a decision blocking Ottawa from lucrative contracts in Iraq...

Chretien then told reporters that Bush had denied reports that Ottawa would be excluded from Iraqi rebuilding contracts, but later a Canadian official said Bush had only left open the possibility that Canadian firms could work as subcontractors...

But [White House Press Secretary Scott] McClellan said Bush had told Chretien that "the lines of communication" would remain open on the subject, which has revived tensions between Washington and traditional allies over the war.

The Canadian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he could not answer a question on whether Chretien had "mis-spoken" or misunderstood what Bush said.

Or whether Chretien was just putting his own spin on it, because he's Jean Chretien and that's how he does things.

Posted by David Mader at 07:55 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Not Fit to Print?

Iraqi blogger Zeyad has pictures from yesterday's anti-terrorism demonstration in Baghdad - you know, the demonstration that American media refused to cover.

The pictures are (as of now) in three albums, available here, here and here. It's hard to estimate turnout based on these photos, but four-thousand seems a conservative estimate based on some of the wider shots, though ten thousand seems, shall we say, hopeful.

Still, there's no doubt that the march is an important expression of - well, of a whole lot of things. Of opposition to terrorism, sure, and to the Fedayeen and Baathist remnants, but also of the promise of democracy. Look at all the different groups in Zeyad's shots - the communists, the tribal leaders, the mullahs, the seculars, the women, the kids. Now maybe some of those groups aren't really committed to pluralist democracy; still, I don't think you can take a look at these pictures and maintain the trope about Iraqis being incapable of supporting democratic rule.

Maybe that's why none of the press wants to look at the pictures.


Posted by David Mader at 12:38 PM | (1) | Back to Main

To the Victor

What to make of the decision to limit American-funded contracts in post-war Iraq to corporations from nations that either supported - or didn't actively oppose - the war in Iraq? Some folks are calling it a good idea; some folks are calling it foolish - not to mention 'transparently vindictive.'

As long as no-one calls it illegal. In fact, I don't think we should really be all that surprised, especially since economic consequences of support or opposition were - and must have been - a consideration in all foreign capitals in the year-long 'rush to war'. The greatest part of those economic considerations had to do with access to domestic US markets, but a corollory must have been access to new US-controlled projects abroad.

That's not too outrageous, is it? The US is actively creating humanitarian operations in areas where they didn't previously exist. Is it so outrageous to give preferential treatment to those countries who supported the creation of such humanitarian operations?

(And please don't give me any guff about using 'humanitarian operation' as a euphamism for war; just how many mass graves do we need to discover before we all recognize the basic human justification for removing Saddam Hussein?)

There's also something absurd about governments whining about not being able to win business for their constituents; maybe they're afraid that their constituents might be less angry at the Pentagon and more angry at their intransigent governments. After all, Micronesian companies will get to bid on contracts that Canadian companies can't, simply becuase the Micronesians were able to keep their mouths shut.

So yes, on first glance the optics are bad. But those are optics. The only substantive argument against the disqualification of Axis of Weasel corporations is that it will remove competitive bids, thereby raising costs; moreover (and on a related note), competitive corporations probably shouldn't be disqualified for the foreign policy decisions of their governments.

I'm sympathetic to those who are disappointed by the apparent carelessness of the decision. I'm less than sympathetic to those foreign governments who now have their knickers in a knot as they realize that blowing raspberries at Washington comes at a price. That's how it goes, folks. You want a share of the pie, you best get baking.

Posted by David Mader at 12:06 AM | (4) | Back to Main

December 10, 2003

Brison, continued

I think that Dave has essentially nailed it. If it was a matter of beliefs, he could have stayed and fought for those beliefs.

I think that this deal has been in the works for a while. Brison has been slowly backing away from unity for several weeks now. His excuses have sounded more and more stretched. Now we know why.

A couple of observations: first, Brison is unlilkely to hold his seat at the next election. Kings-Hants is a very conservative riding. They like Brison there, but people are feeling betrayed. If a good conservative runs, and if the conservatives put some resources into it, he should go down. That being said, there are already rumours that he will run elsewhere. Toronto Centre-Rosedale has already been mentioned, asuming the truly egregious Bill Graham doesn't run again.

Next, there has been much speculation about what Brison is getting in exchange for switching parties. I'm hearing that he'll be a parliamentary secretary. If this was Chretien, he'd get nothing, because Chretien was like that. He was a true master at wielding power, and knew that you increase your own power by crushing others. I think he'll be useful to Martin in the long term, though, so I don't think Martin will do the same. Too many good Martinites vying for the Cabinet spots, though, so parliamentary secretary (basically in between cabinet and backbench) is most likely.

Posted by David Mader at 11:59 PM | (3) | Back to Main


Look, my interest in Canadian politics has waned to such a degree over the past few years that - in all honesty - I had hardly heard of Scott Brison when he ran for the Progressive Conservative leadership earlier this year. What I heard then I liked, and had I any interest in the race I'd have supported him. My point is that I have no strong feelings of betrayal following Brison's decision to cross the floor.

But my relatively dispassionate take on it, after a day's thought, is that those who are calling it a cynical move are, on the whole, right.

Brison has justified his decision on the grounds that "only the political parties that understand the pride that Canadians have of our diversity in this country will ever have the capacity to form a government." The implicit suggestion is that the new Conservative Party isn't 'proud' of Canadian 'diversity'.

And yet Brison must have known that the new Conservative Party would have a social-conservative wing. If Brison was true to his principles - and to his own message to Canada's young tories - he would have turned his efforts to ensuring that the Whig wing of the new party gained the upper hand in policy affairs and leadership. By removing himself from the process, he surrenders the field, and by crossing the floor he throws in his lot with one-party statism.

I think that the Whig wing of the new party will become ascendant despite Brison's departure, and I think there would be a certain amount of poetic justice if he were on the receiving end of an eventual backlash against the increasingly arthritic Liberals. Still, that backlash is a way off; as one friend commented to me: "Well, someone's the new minister for Atlantic Opportunities!"

On a side note, Brison apparently "says he wants to avoid becoming what he calls a poster boy for gay issues" in the Conservative Party, according to the CBC. And yet in his statement to the Liberal Caucus he says "I'm proud to be part of a party [the Liberals] that celebrates the diversity of this country," and criticizes the nascent Conservatives as being 'too right wing'. So he won't be a poster boy for gay issues for the Conservatives, but he's happy to be a poster boy for gay issues for the Liberals. A second Stonewall that is, Scott.

LATER: You know, y'all could tell me if my post is messed up; I think my grammar and syntax are generally good enough that an undeciferable sentence would tip you off. Corrected final paragraph now appears above.

Posted by David Mader at 11:34 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Assimilation and Freedom

In the comments to this post, reader Charles asks me how I can reconcile support for a general 'assimilation' of immigrants with an opposition to public schooling.

Wow. Sorry, but that's got to be the most conservative sentence I've ever written.

Anyway, it's an interesting question. Charles is correct is suggesting that I do support 'assimilation', broadly defined. In fact, I support it in a negative sense: I believe that immigrant communities which actively resist participation in civil society (again broadly defined) are descructive of the body social. I believe that immigrants ought to actively accept and recognize the institutions of the state - by, say, singing the national anthem - in order to enjoy the benefits of those institutions through citizenship.

But the fact is, that's as far as I'm willing to go. I don't believe in mandated socialization, and I certainly don't believe in state mandated socialization through mandatory education. If I were able to draft a national public curriculum that perfectly reflected my own ideas of identity - ideas I believe are progressive, inclusive and modern - I still wouldn't support instituting such a curriculum as a means of socialization.

A national identity - whether based on multiculturalism or on tradition - cannot be mandated; it must be organic. If a country does indeed have a strong national identity, it will survive the amalgamation of new elements in the form of immigrant communitites; indeed, possibly the most successful western national identity - America - has long since successfully incorporated immigration into the national identity. Canada claims to have done the same; if that's true, a Canadian identity will survive in the absence of socialization policies; if it cannot survive without such policies, it is no identity to speak of.

Posted by David Mader at 11:07 PM | (3) | Back to Main

Swing Low

I meant to post this yesterday. In celebration of their recent World Cup victory, 750,000 Londoners flooded the streets yesterday to welcome the English rugby team home. By comparison, the anti-Bush protests last month drew something in the neighborhood of 100,000, while the Countyside Alliance march against the hunting ban last year drew 400,000.

David Davies - AP

David Bebber - Reuters

Iain Murray has thoughts, and welcomes the reintroduction of the Cross of St. George.

Posted by David Mader at 06:13 PM | (0) | Back to Main

In Memoriam

Former WSJ Editor Robert Bartley has died of cancer at the age of 66.

Bartley was, without a doubt, one of the most influencial editorial writers of all time. He was a great champion of supply-side economics and the free market.

He will be greatly missed by those who care about economic liberty.

Posted by David Mader at 04:07 PM | (0) | Back to Main

In the Service, At the Service

Army blogger Jason van Steenwyk compares the treatment of Jewish soldiers stateside and in Iraq over Yom Kippur, after two Jewish men were discharged from their Arabic-language interrogation course for attending Yom Kippur services.

van Steenwyk's point - about field commanders versus bureaucrats - is a good one, but I think it ignores the main reason for the dismissal: the Army doesn't want Jews interrogating its Arabic-speaking prisoners. Whether that was a long-term strategic decision or the result of pressure from the Wahabbi-influenced Muslim chaplain service is impossible to say, but this isn't the first story (Instapundit linked to one a few weeks back, I haven't found it) nor will it be the last.

Posted by David Mader at 11:28 AM | (0) | Back to Main

Scott Brison To Leave Conservatives?

There is a rumour going around that Scott Brison will announce in a few hours that he will not sit as a member of the Conservative Party of Canada. I sincerely hope that this is untrue.

Scott has been a bit of a loose cannon recently, saying some dumb things about the merger. The fact remains, however, that he is an articulate voice for economic liberty. The Conservative Party would be weaker without him and the country would lose one of the few voices really working for economic liberty.

I hope the rumour proves false.

UPDATE: Its worse than I originally thought. The CBC is reporting this morning that Brison is going to join the Liberals - yet another illustration of the weakness of Canadian democracy. The fights that matter are not those between the parties, they are those within the Liberal party.

Posted by David Mader at 12:21 AM | (3) | Back to Main

December 09, 2003

You Don't Say

Nobel Prize Winners to Receive Awards - AP, December 9, 2003

Posted by David Mader at 11:26 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Red China Watch

I'm not crazy about this:

President Bush said Tuesday after meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao that he opposes the apparent interest of Taiwan's leaders in taking steps toward independence.

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office after a 40-minute meeting with Wen, Bush said he had told the premier, "The United States policy is one China."

"We oppose any unilateral decision by either China or Taiwan to change the status quo," Bush said, "and the comments and actions made by the leader of Taiwan indicate that he may be willing to make decisions unilaterally, to change the status quo, which we oppose."

It was the administration's strongest statement to date in opposition to Taiwan's plan to conduct a referendum on March 20 on whether the Taiwanese people want to demand that China withdraw hundreds of missiles aimed at Taiwan and renounce the use of force against the island.

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Eugene Chien has an appropriately pithy response: "United States doesn't want our referendum to affect the stability in the Taiwan Strait. We fully understand this."

I'm something of a realist on this issue: obviously the Administration favours the status quo, in which the Taiwanese enjoy de facto domestic independence and the Chinese refrain from bombing anyone and sparking a regional - or global - conflict.

Still, I can't say I wouldn't be happier if someone were to point out that the Red Chinese continue to use Taiwan in Orwellian fashion as a quasi-foreign boogeyman allowing a perpetual state of immediate military readiness and legitimizing a degree of internal nationalist propagandizing.

These tactics are becoming less effective over time, of course, in part because a younger generation of Chinese might be less inclined to see Taiwan as an indespensible part of China worth fighting over, and in part because a younger generation of Chinese might love freedom more than they love their government and its policies. I suspect this is also a consideration in Washington - that China is on the (slow) road to social reform, and any destabilization via Taiwan would retard this reform by enflaming Chinese nationalism or by giving the Reds an excuse to crack down on it.

Still, in all the lovey-dovey niceties for Beijing and stern warnings for Taipei, it would be nice of someone from the Administration would point out in less apolagetic - though still diplomatic - terms that China remains a totalitarian tyranny of the sort that's going out of style - by force - the world over. Obviously China won't be changed by force; obviously a war couldn't be won; obviously a war with China would be in no-one's interest; obviously the continued peaceful negotiations over trade are the best conduit to lasting and stable reform. That doesn't mean we should be happy with the status quo, useful as it is, and it doesn't mean we should keep our mouths shut.

As a post-script, I think the President does deserve credit for this:

"The growth of economic freedom in China provides reason to hope that social, political and religious freedoms will grow there as well," Bush told Wen and an audience of dignitaries. "In the long run, these freedoms are indivisible and essential to national greatness and national dignity."

Lecturing China about national greatness? The same China that had national greatness when Alexander the Great was still in short pants? Now that takes chutzpah - however you define it.

Posted by David Mader at 10:56 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Warren Canned?

Rumour has it columnist David Warren has left the Ottawa Citizen following the publication of this column comparing Liberal 'multiculturalist' policies to the Raj. Warren is said to have refused to rewrite the piece, though whether he subsequently quit or was fired is unclear.

Either way, Warren's departure means the loss of yet another top-notch columnist by the Asper group, which has managed to lose many of its front-line columnists at the National Post - Mark Steyn, Christie Blatchford and Paul Wells, to name but three. Warren was always a bit of an anomaly writing at the Citizen which, except for a brief glorious period following its acquisition by Conrad Black's Hollinger, has remained a distinctly small-market paper.

Warren, on the other had, has quietly emerged as an authority on the global War on Terror. He is, or has been, a favourite in the blogosphere, and his predictions and analyses, based on a knowledge of South Asia and an apparent network of security and intelligence contacts, have generally been spot-on. I suspect he will be picked up rather quickly by another paper; the loss will be entirely the Citizen's, ruffled feathers aside.

[Thanks to Adam Daifallah for the pointer.]

Posted by David Mader at 10:20 PM | (3) | Back to Main

Dalton Who?

I don't usually blog on Canadian affairs, and with Dan joining the Maderblog team I expect I'll blog them less, but I couldn't pass this up:

Premier Dalton McGuinty suggested today that he didn't get to ring the bell to start the day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange this week because ignorant Americans snubbed Ontario in favour of China, but his complaint appeared to be based on his own ignorance...

"I had been lined up to give the honour of ringing the bell but I was displaced when the premier of China showed up with an 18-car cortege and pre-empted me," McGuinty said before a caucus meeting today.

"Here's the point: Guess who does more business with the U.S.? Ontario or China? We do more business with the U.S. We do more business with the U.S. than does Japan or Mexico."

In fact, McGuinty was wrong on several counts.

A spokesman for the exchange said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao - also on a visit to the United States - had been scheduled well in advance to do the bell-ringing...

Further, both China and Mexico have larger bilateral trade relations with the U.S. than Ontario does, according to the province's own figures.

Yea, but other than that his comments were accurate, right?

Man, Ernie Eves lost to this guy? No offense to all my Ontario Tory pals, but that must have taken something of a concerted effort. Sheesh.

[Via Neale News, the best Canadian-perspective news portal out there.]

Posted by David Mader at 04:59 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Behind the Camera

Drudge links to a great story on the progress being made in Iraq - you know, all the stuff you don't see on TV. Money quote:

"Our stories aren't the sexiest," says the 432nd Civil Affairs Brigade commander, Gary Beard. "But what we do will build the success of this country."

Yea. It's a good read, and reminds one of two things: reconstruction proceeds apace, helping Iraqis to return to some sort of normalcy; and the men and women who are working towards that reconstruction go out to do their jobs every day, regardless of the danger they face. Those are both things to remember, and to be proud of.

Posted by David Mader at 04:52 PM | (0) | Back to Main


The Telegraph welcomes Zimbabwe's withdrawal:

The isolation of the Mugabe regime will be almost complete if, as expected, the International Monetary Fund decides to expel Zimbabwe tomorrow, because it has made no repayments on outstanding loans since 2001.

In the three years since Mugabe lost a referendum that would have legitimised his confiscation of land without compensation, he has laid waste to Zimbabwe's economic, political and legal systems. His brutal treatment of the press and opposition disguises the fact that he has lost the support of most Zimbabweans, 70 per cent of whom have no jobs. The country is bankrupt and hyperinflation has taken hold. Under Mugabe, Zimbabwe's only future is famine.

How, then, to fix that problem? The Telegraph seems to suggest that total isolation will bring about change. Perhaps they're right; but if so, I'd welcome a more precise explanation of the mechanism.

I certainly support(ed) the continued suspension of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth. The effect of that suspension, in terms of moral suasion, is now nil. Again, what next?

Posted by David Mader at 10:19 AM | (0) | Back to Main

December 08, 2003

Hello Again

Speaking of tyrants, the Telegraph reports that with the triumph of his party in legislative elections, Sov- sorry, Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to assume the power of a Tsar:

Exit polls last night gave United Russia, the president's party, 37 per cent of the vote, the Communists 15 per cent and Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democrats 12 per cent. Rodina, a new nationalist party, was predicted to have won nine per cent.

This would give Mr Putin's party and its allies about 58 per cent of the vote and return Russia to an era of single-party dominance after 12 years of vibrant, if corrupt, democracy...

Rumours abound that Mr Putin, who is all but certain to win a second term in March next year, wants to scrap a clause limiting the president to two terms in office...

Victory today will represent a remarkable achievement for a party that has no ideology and only the barest outline of a political platform.

Its identity is so amorphous that its campaign posters carry pictures of both Stalin and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the veteran Soviet-era dissident.

I have only one thing to say: Stasi peanuts.

In all seriousness, though, this isn't a positive development. The Bush administration has declared an end to the era of reigonal strong-men and 'our bastards'. Putin looks ever the greater strong-man, but he certainly isn't ours. What next?

Posted by David Mader at 08:17 PM | (4) | Back to Main

What Next for Zimbabwe?

Following the decision of Commonwealth countries to maintain Zimbabwe's suspension from the organization pending the restoration of democracy, tyrant Robert Mugabe has declared his intention to withdraw from the Commonwealth entirely.

I haven't been able to find any official reaction from the Commonwealth Secretariat, Number Ten or, needless to say, the Prime Minister's Office. But while the Commonwealth may have little practical importance to its major western members, it remains an important link between those countries and the former British colonies around the world, and it provides a strong potential medium for the encouragement of democratization. Zimbabwe's withdrawal, then, following its suspension for tyrannical behaviour, should not be quickly disregarded. By thumbing his nose at the Commonwealth, Mugabe has broken the last tie to the Crown - by whose authority the state was created. It would be unfortunate if the Commonwealth countries - or, more importantly, Britain - were content to let him get away with it. As long as Zimbabwe remains within the Commonwealth, there remains a sense of collective responsibility for the welfare of its citizens that a withdrawal undermines.

What next for Zimbabwe? The removal of Mugabe is long overdue, but doesn't look to be forthcoming. Support for the opposition from abroad seems to remain largely rhetorical. Other African leaders - especially South Africa's Thabo Mbeki - seem content to treat Mugabe as a permanent strong-man to be coddled rather than confronted.

And yet the perpetuation of Mugabe's megalomaniacal reign is in the interests of neither his terrorized citizens or his wary neighbors. As long as he is able to undermine and erode Zimbabwe's democratic institutions, citizens will have no protection, no security and so no future. As long as he retains absolute control of a downward-spiralling state structure, he will pose a distinct threat to his neighbours through the potential for collapse, starvation and emigration.

Zimbabwe is not somebody else's problem. Despite Mugabe's withdrawal, the Commonwealth and her individual members retain a particular responsibility to the people of Zimbabwe to restore their government, peace and security.

MORE (17:18 EST): Mostly Africa suggests that Mugabe's declaration has no legal effect, the decision to remove Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth requiring cabinet approval. I can't imagine that won't be forthcoming, though.

Via AfricaBlog, who has more thoughts.

Posted by David Mader at 05:14 PM | (0) | Back to Main


So that's it. Its done. The PC Party of Canada and the Canadian Alliance have voted to unite, and by huge margins.

This is a subject that I have lot to say about, but I have exams to study for so I'm only going to say a few quick things now.

First, I've been looking forward to this day for a long time. I got involved in politics in 1999. The first event I ever went to was the United Alternative convention, an earlier attempt at unity. You could say that the reason I got involved was to promote unity. Ever since, no matter what my friends and I have been working on (two provincial election campaigns, a federal campaign, a couple of leadership races, lots of internal party stuff...) the cause of unity was never far from our minds. Whatever else we were working on, we were also working on uniting these two parties. And now its done. Wow. I guess I can go home now.

Not so fast, I hear you say. There's lots left to be done. There is still going to be a lot of work to do bringing the two parties together and keeping them together. And, of course, now that we've got the one party we've wanted for so long we have to actually do something with it. But that's a post for another day.

Posted by David Mader at 12:12 AM | (0) | Back to Main


My brother, as always, is very kind. Modest, too. He's been running a great blog for the last year and a half. I ran my own blog for part of that time, but took a break towards the end of last school year for a couple of reasons. Chief among was the run-up to the provincial election here in Ontario. As president of the Ontario PC Party's campus wing I was spending a great deal of time working on election readiness. I felt, however, that holding that position prevented me from blogging about the most interesting things I wanted to talk about. This was extremely frustrating.

I've been thinking recently of starting the blog up again, and was thrilled when my brother asked me to join him on maderblog. I'm really looking forward to it!

Posted by David Mader at 12:04 AM | (2) | Back to Main

December 07, 2003

Two Maders for the Price of One

I've been running Maderblog for more than a year and a half, moving from blogspot to two different servers, switching templates and formats and emphasis. I've had a blast, and while my readership has stayed modest, I've never tried to pander or seek out anything more than what my blogging brought in. I'm happy with the blog, with the layout, with my readership. I'm not a sentimentalist, but I am a conservative, and as my blog doesn't seem broke, I'm not inclined to fix it.

So it took a fair bit of internal struggle to come to a decision I should have made ages ago. I'm happy to announce that my brother, Daniel Mader, will be joining the Maderblog team. Dan's an MBA student at the Rotman School of Business at the University of Toronto. He's the President of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Campus Association. And he's a hell of a smart guy.

I'm confident that with Dan's added voice Maderblog will only get stronger.

Posted by David Mader at 11:36 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Sexed Up Indeed

The Telegraph:

An Iraqi colonel who commanded a front-line unit during the build-up to the war in Iraq has revealed how he passed top secret information to British intelligence warning that Saddam Hussein had deployed weapons of mass destruction that could be used on the battlefield against coalition troops in less than 45 minutes.

Lt-Col al-Dabbagh, 40, who was the head of an Iraqi air defence unit in the western desert, said that cases containing WMD warheads were delivered to front-line units, including his own, towards the end of last year.

He said they were to be used by Saddam's Fedayeen paramilitaries and units of the Special Republican Guard when the war with coalition troops reached "a critical stage"...

He also insisted that the information contained in the dossier relating to Saddam's battlefield WMD capability was correct. "It is 100 per cent accurate," he said after reading the relevant passage.

The devices, which were known by Iraqi officers as "the secret weapon", were made in Iraq and designed to be launched by hand-held rocket-propelled grenades. They could also have been launched sooner than the 45-minutes claimed in the dossier.

"Forget 45 minutes," said Col al-Dabbagh "we could have fired these within half-an-hour."

Local commanders were told that they could use the weapons only on the personal orders of Saddam. "We were told that when the war came we would only have a short time to use everything we had to defend ourselves, including the secret weapon," he said...

Col al-Dabbagh, who was recalled to Baghdad to work at Iraq's air defence headquarters during the war itself, believes that the WMD have been hidden at secret locations by the Fedayeen and are still in Iraq. "Only when Saddam is caught will people talk about these weapons," he said.

It would be premature to accept al-Dabbagh's story at face value, but the Telegraph suggests at least partial corroboration in the testimony of Ayad Allawi, head of the Iraqi National Accord, who "confirmed that he had passed Col al-Dabbagh's reports on Saddam's WMD to both British and American intelligence officers 'sometime in the spring and summer of 2002'."

There's been a lot of talk - on both sides of the isle - about intelligence failures in the run up to the war, especially with the continued absence of WMD. Doubtless many failures were and are real, and demand redress. Still, it may soon be worthwhile asking just how much pre-war intelligence was indeed accurate. I hope those eager to condemn our intelligence agencies will be as quick to praise.

Posted by David Mader at 10:57 PM | (0) | Back to Main

An Endorsement Unlooked For

Iraqi blogger Omar at Iraq the Model posts a plea from his friend Ihsan Adnan:

The Iraqis will never forget what you’ve done for them and they are expecting more and there are to many people in different places around the world waiting for your help the same way you helped us please don’t let them down. You gave Mr. Bush a chance when you elected him once so why don’t you let the chance to be full by electing him twice? We believe that he’s the right President with the right policy.

Not in Our Name indeed. But in theirs, it seems.

It ocurred to me recently that if the democratization of Iraq is even minimally successful, President Bush will become the subject of considerable admiration and celebration in the region. Over time, if the success grows, his stature will grow as well. In fact I believe that, barring a withdrawal or a catastrophe, there will be statues built to this man. Those who hate the president will see the evils of imperialism in such expressions of gratitude and admiration, but no matter: if democracy takes hold in Iraq, it will foster a beatification of Bush that will inform Iraqi notions of freedom and human rights. I think this will be healthy if it comes to pass; but regardless, I believe it will come to pass.

And while you're checking out the above-linked post, scroll down to Omar's post 'The Central Issue' to read a first-hand account of the manner in which Israel and Jewry are used to deflect domestic disaffection in Arab tyrannies.

Posted by David Mader at 10:38 PM | (0) | Back to Main

A Rising Tide?

Glenn Reynolds notices some unusual campus sentiment.

Is it unusual thought? Studying at the local Second Cup this evening (what - where would you go to read Paradise Regained?) I overheard two girls discussing their recent shopping sprees. After detailing her purchases, one dropped her voice to a hush as she confided something to her friend, who responded (I paraphrase, but not much): 'I know! I've always thought so, but everyone in my classes is so marxist, you know, I'm always afraid to say anything.' She went on to cite some class-reading, commenting: "It said that in capitalism there were heroes of production and heroes of consumption. I think we qualify as heroes of consumption."

I've mentioned before that I believe there's a substantial amount of common-sense conservatism among the 'millenial' generation, kids coming of age in these early years of the twenty-first century. Obviously individual instances such as those mentioned above prove nothing, and shouldn't be seen to suggest a trend; still, I think the discussion I overheard does suggest that student attitudes should not be measured by the attitudes of only politically-vocal students. There are an awful lot of kids, I'd wager, who fundamentally disagree with the leftist orthodoxy they encounter on campus, but for one reason or another don't have the heart to confront it. Maybe it's time to get assertive; a strong declaration of common sense principles, perhaps through the publication here at McGill of a conservative-minded alternative student newspaper, could meet with a suprising acceptance.

Posted by David Mader at 09:59 PM | (3) | Back to Main


Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounding determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

Posted by David Mader at 09:38 PM | (1) | Back to Main

December 06, 2003

Epic is Back

Yesteday I noted (caution: Harry Potter spoilers) the recent rise of grand-scale fantasy movies.

In today's Telegraph, Sam Leith addresses the same topic, taking a particular look at the Lord of the Rings movies and the state interpretation of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials (which, incedentally, looks like a good read).

Leith touches only briefly on something I'm interested to learn more about:

Both works, in other words, feed the long-in-abeyance enthusiasm for punch-ups between good and evil on an apocalyptic scale. With the War on Terror giving us a more nakedly (and, some will think, alarmingly) theological public discourse than we've seen in recent history, it's perhaps little wonder that we are seeing these preoccupations galloping back.

Is the resurgence in epic storytelling - and its embrace by the (American) public - due to the recent realization that we live in a world still beset by Goods and Evils, great forces and struggles and tragedies and triumphs that we now, after such a long neglect, desire to understand?

Of course the Lord of the Rings movies went into production in the early 1990s, and I expect the genesis of Pullman's work similarly well-predated the turn of the century. The same goes for the Potter series, though the current struggle cetainly seems to be actively echoed in Rowling's later writings, consciously or not. (I can't remember, though - when did the Potter series catch fire this side of the pond? I think it was before the Eleventh, but I don't think it was before the Summer of 2000).

So it seems that these grand tales were in the works prior to the end of the End of History. Is the new reality the cause of their great success? Would the Lord of the Rings have been a cult classic had the false peace of the 1990s continued? Would Harry Potter have remained a marginal children's book?

I imagine there's a lot more going on. I'd like to know what it is.

Posted by David Mader at 10:01 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Down to Business

The membership of the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada have now voted overwhemlingly to ratify a deal consolidating their parties into a new organization: The Conservative Party of Canada.

The next step is a leadership race (and a policy convention of sorts). That will come. For now, though, we're justified in simply celebrating. The conservative element in Canadian politics has been split for far too long. Regular readers are no doubt aware of my general pessimism with regard to Canada as a nation and a political entity; nonetheless, I cannot but be optimistic about the fortunes of the True North. The hurdle has been overcome; let's celebrate that - and then let's get down to work.

Posted by David Mader at 09:12 PM | (2) | Back to Main

December 05, 2003

Quote of the Day

The Canadian left has a penchant for importing left-wing ideas from the U.S. and elsewhere, adopting them as public policy, and then accusing anyone who objects of being "anti-Canadian" because these policies somehow define Canadian identity.
-- The Volokh Conspiracy's David Bernstein, who adds: "I like Canada a lot myself, but I should hope that there is more to Canadian identity than national health insurance, gun control, and aggressive hate speech laws."

Posted by David Mader at 01:39 PM | (5) | Back to Main

In Other News...

The trailer for the next Harry Potter movie is out, and it looks fantastic.

One of the greatest things about the Potter franchise to date has been the production design - supremely important given the fact that Rowling has created a universe both fundamentally similar and fundamentally different to our own. Capturing the 'normality' of the wizarding world - my favourite aspect of the books, incidentally - is as difficult as it is necessary, and both of the previous films have managed it quite well.

The trailer suggests that this third movie, Prisoner of Azkaban, will surpass the previous two. In fact the clips hint at a world so grand as to move beyond the 'wizardly-normal' to the epic. While taking the Potter franchise into the realm of pure fantasy would mean surrendering the above-noted quasi-normality (and the social satire it hides), it would also bring the series quite firmly into the leagues of other contemporary 'epic' fantasy films (Lord of the Rings sets the bar, of course, along with the second Star Wars trilogy, but I think you could include Troy and even Peter Pan).

I wonder, though, whether the interpretation and representation of Azkaban isn't being informed somewhat by the later books in the series. While Azkaban is the favourite of a good many Potterites, the story is in many ways unique in the series. WARNING - ahead be spoilers for the Potter series to date.

Azkaban is, of course, the only book in which Harry does not confront Voldemort in some form. It was the last of the 'thin' books, ast 317 pages to Goblet's 636. In if fact, it can easily be seen as a background book, a narrative constructed to provide details and back-story for the later novels.

Now don't get me wrong - that's a good thing. But I can't help but wonder whether the film-makers, and the audience, are looking to Azkaban for the Harry & friends of Pheonix. The Harry we know is fifteen and in the full throes of teen angst; the Harry of Azkaban is thirteen and still really a kid (compare his flight from home - which he soon realizes he was unprepared for - with his threat to run in Phoenix). The Harry of Phoenix is a budding Dark Arts master; in Azkaban he remains entirely a student (although it is here that he develops his particular talents). The Harry of Phoenix has 'loved & lost' Cho; the Harry of Azkaban only begins to notice her. Or take the friends: by Phoenix, Hermione has had her 'friendship' with Klum, which becomes an issue between her and Ron as their relationship develops; in Azkaban we have mere hints of the inevitable romance.

My point is that in Azkaban the kids are still, well, kids. But have another look at the trailer. Take particular notice of the shot of Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy. Compare it to Felton's appearance in Chamber. I've got no problem with older actors (Felton's 16) playing younger characters, but even within the series Felton appears much older than his character given the internal timeline. And he's not alone.

There will be a tendency, I expect, to treat the characters more like their latter selves than their Azkaban literary depictions. Maybe that's not a bad thing - after all, knowing what's coming, we Potterites want to see the Phoenix-era gang on screen. But as a faithful rendition of the book, it may turn out to be a detriment.

And while I'm going on at lenght about the Potter franchise (and be honest - you'd never have read this far if this were a politics post), a word about foreshadowing. The books are full of references and throw-away lines that, while consistent within the story as it's told, are used by Rowling in later books to flush out some particular aspect of the greater narrative. Because Rowling has the whole story (at least theoretically) in her head, she has that luxury. The film-makers do not. In deciding which bits of dialogue or narrative to alter or remove, they don't have the advantage of knowing each element's ultimate importance. The consequence, I expect, is the removal of a good deal of detail that would add little to each movie as a stand-alone product, but much to the movies as a series. As long as the franchise maintains fairly consistent production, it should be able to maintain enough threads to weave a coherent whole; still, I wonder whether the movies might not ultimately lack something of the coherence of the books, despite their more immediate visual consistence.

Posted by David Mader at 10:23 AM | (0) | Back to Main

Tear Down Those Walls

Many bloggers have been celebrating the long-overdue repeal of the 30% steek tariff.

Mark Steyn has reproduced a column from March, 2002, lamenting the introduction of the tariff and explaining why it was such an outrageously stupid policy.

The Telegraph, while noting the supposed short-term benefits of the tariff, similarly condemns its long-term effects, and goes on to demand real commitment to the repeal of further subsidies and barriers to trade. Key quote: "To be compared unfavourably with the EU on farm policy is no compliment." Ouch.

Both Steyn and the Telegraph also hint at something that should sway Bush on the issue. Here's Steyn:

Giving the rest of the planet access to G7 markets is the best way not only to improve the living standards of the world's poor, but also to bring them within the purview of civilised (or anyway non-deranged) nations.

The Telegraph repeats the point, in context:

In the past few months, Mr Bush has spoken eloquently of the challenge facing his allies in promoting democratic values in regions such as the Middle East. One of those values is free trade.

Yes. If the president and his administration truly believe in the promotion of democracy as the single effective means of defeating terrorism, they should easily recognize the necessity of tearing down trade barriers. I understand that some left-of-center supporters of the war effort and the expansion of democracy are ambivalent about the benefits of free trade. In fact I think opposition to free trade can be attributed to two factors: concern for third-world producers and concern for American producers. Those who hold the former concern would theoretically be likely to support democratization and the spread of human rights. Those who hold the latter, which reflects a particular kind of protective nativism, are at least theoretically less likely to support the liberal-internationalist ideal. If there's a concern about alienating left-of-center folks who otherwise support the spread of democracy, it should be addressed by a (long overdue) campaign to illustrate how free trade would benefit third-world producers. It shouldn't be a left-right issue, and in fact there are a number of left-of-center organizations (including Bono's DATA and even the Guardian) which campaign quite ardently to end western agri-subsidies.

Unfortunately, though, I don't think the administration's own ambivalence over free trade reflects a desire to keep a pro-war coalition together. I think it reflects a desire to keep the adminstration together - and in the White House.

Either way, it's troubling. The fact that a Bush loss in '04 would be desastrous for the war on terror - and so for the country - has given the White House a 'catch-all' excuse for its domestic policy foibles. Massive deficits? Hey, there's a war on - passing some of the cost on to the next generation is a time-honored tradition. Tariffs and subsidies? Hey, there's a war on - if we go alienating voters, you'll have a President Dean on your hands, and then won't you be sorry.

The fact is that they have a point - a Bush loss would be bad news. But to use that as a trump for domestic political issues rubs me the wrong way.

That's why, as the Telegraph suggests, the President should write free trade into his magnificent pro-democracy speeches. Free trade is about freedom. Freedom is a human birthright. This president and his administration should have no part in toying around with - and hindering - such a basic human right.

Posted by David Mader at 09:29 AM | (0) | Back to Main

December 04, 2003


It's that time of year. Apologies, but so it goes.

Posted by David Mader at 04:56 PM | (1) | Back to Main

December 03, 2003

Racism in England's Jails

From the Telegraph:

A prison officer who was sacked for making a rude remark about Osama bin Laden broke down in tears yesterday as he told an employment tribunal that his "barrack room humour" had cost him the job he had done for 21 years.

Colin Rose, 53, was fired after a six-month investigation for making a jibe about the terrorist leader at the gatehouse of Blundeston Prison, Suffolk, two months after the September 11 attacks in 2001...

Mr Rose made his comments about bin Laden while throwing keys into a metal chute. "I heard either one of the crowd of people waiting to go through the gates, or possibly a member of staff, comment that it sounded as if the keys were coming through the metal," he told the hearing.

"When I heard this comment I said, 'There's a photo of Osama bin Laden there.' I meant that I was flicking the keys against an imaginary picture of Osama bin Laden at the back of the chute. There were a lot of comments about him around the prison."

He said a colleague told him to be quiet because there were two Asian women and an Asian man at the window of the gatehouse.

Iain Murray notes the absurdity of enforcing respect for Osama bin Laden while criticism of Bush and Blair is no doubt common.

But the real outrage here, I think, is that Mr. Rose was sacked for 'racism' while his co-workers, who explicitly suggested that being a Muslim implies support for Osama bin Laden, have kept their jobs.

The latter is, of course, the more egregious racist remark. The dismissal of Mr. Rose is justifiable only if it can be demonstrated that his remark about Osama bin Laden had nothing to do with bin Laden's terrorism and everything to do with his religion. The remark can only have been racist if Rose invoked the Muslim Osama bin Laden as a derogatory substitute for the Muslim wards of the state.

And yet there's every reason to believe that Mr. Rose invoked Osama bin Laden in the context of bin Laden's role in the September 11 attacks - which had occured only two months before. As Rose himself said, "were a lot of comments about him around the prison." No doubt.

If Rose was indeed expressing his sentiment towards bin Laden as terrorist, and not as Muslim, then the real racism is the presumption that any other Muslim made aware of such hostility to bin Laden the terrorist would take offence. Now it may be that the specific Muslims incarcerated in the prison may also have been bin Laden sympathizers - although, if that's the case, there's no real reason to cater to their murderous inclinations. But there's been no suggestion that such is the case. On the contrary, the active assumption by all parties - including, it should be said, Rose - is that a hostility to Osama bin Laden is necessarily offensive to Muslims. That's an assumption of sentiment based on race or ethnicity. And it's morally repugnant.

Mr. Rose should be reinstated - and somebody should buy him a beer. His colleague or colleagues who drew the above-noted racist assumption, and those officers of the state who enforced that prejudice by firing Rose, should all be shown the door.

Posted by David Mader at 11:34 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Yet Another Quiet Day

I'm looking for things to say, honest. I suppose, again, we should all be happy for the quiet.

In site-related news, I managed to get my hands on some Macromedia software, and while I'm quite happy with the site as it is right now (in terms of layout and appearance), I might try tooling around with some Flash applications. Because they're cool. Unfortunately, that means teaching myself Flash, which I'm not going to do during exams.

So there you go.

Posted by David Mader at 05:58 PM | (0) | Back to Main

December 02, 2003

Another Quiet Day

We can only hope for a quiet month. If you're itching for something to read, you might want to check out these comments by Iraqi blogger Alaa at the Mesopotamian, who responds to non-Iraqi Arab criticism:

We know you very well. It is the likes of you whom we cannot tolerate really. We know your pretended concern for us Iraqis. That was clearly shown by blowing up primary schools, the United Nations H.Q., the Red Cross etc. etc. You find it too much that we can sit at keyboards and use the Internet. You would much rather prefer the previous state of affairs, during your "legitimate" Saddam regime, when we could not even use fax machines. You would much rather have us miserably going about in pathetic existence. That is what you want. That is what would satisfy your spleen. You are the real Iraqi haters. You hate our guts. You are our real enemy.


Posted by David Mader at 04:43 PM | (0) | Back to Main

December 01, 2003

Questions About Samarrah

Both Canadian and American networks are pounding coalition forces over claims that more than four dozen Iraqi fedayeen were killed in a failed ambush in Samarrah yesterday. From CNN:

U.S. military intelligence officials on the scene said 46 insurgents were killed, 18 wounded and 11 taken prisoner. Those numbers differed slightly from what was reported in Baghdad, with coalition spokesman Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt saying 54 Iraqis were killed in the battle.

But now coalition spokesmen are backing away from the numbers, reminding reporters that they were based on battlefield observations - necessarily imprecise. They've also revised the suggestion that the Iraqi assailants were fedayeen, at least formally. Again, CNN:

Kimmitt also played down reports that some of the attackers wore the uniforms of the Fedayeen Saddam -- "Saddam's Martyrs" -- a paramilitary group loyal to deposed Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein.

"Some of them wore clothing that was consistent with those uniforms that had been worn by Saddam Fedayeen in the past," he said, "but we have not established linkage with these attackers and any organization."

That same CNN story repeats some soldier accounts, more of which can be found here. Of note is this exchange:

[CNN]: Tell me a little bit about any civilians. I heard and read that there was a barricade blocking off the streets. Did it seem to you that there were no civilians around? Did that seem surprising to you?

[Staff Sgt. Bruce] JONES: Well, what they attempted to do -- and we don't know if it's actually civilians. I called them all terrorists. If they're blocking the streets or if they're attempting to block the streets, then obviously they're not a civilian. They're some sort of combatant. They're helping out the terrorist projects with that. I'm a true believer of that. These guys were trying to throw vehicles in the way, taxi cabs, a couple of white pickup trucks and everything, to actually block the roads as we tried to egress out with the convoy.

We did have to -- we did have to ram some vehicles out of the way to get our people out, to get our people out of there safely and securely. But civilians in the area, you know something's going to happen as soon as you get in there and all the civilians basically clear out of the way. So if you go into a street or part of the city that's normally busy and there's nobody around, you'd better get your guns up and ready to go.

If the altercation resembled the army's account even to a loose degree, it would have required a degree of collusion from the local population that should call all subsequent local testimony into question. On the character of Samarrah, here's Iraqi blogger Salam Pax:

I think it was 4 months ago when I spent three nights in Sammara because it is the closest place to Tikrit which didn't make your skin crawl and it actually had hotels. It was an empty hotel and me and the manager enede up chatting because we both had nothing better to do, I told him that I thought the city there was very quiet and it seemed very peacful, just a bunch of Iranian tourists visitng the shrine of Imam Sadiq al-Mahdi. he told me that I shouldn't be fooled, lots of the Tikritis and Saddam supporters came down to Sammara to hide.

CTV, in particular, would do well to recognize that its 'civilian' sources may be less than impartial. They may also want to wonder why the majority of 'civilian' casualties their footage captured lying on hospital beds were young men.


But while fog-of-war is to be expected, and while those of us who support the war effort are inclined to be patient with broken accounts, the fact is that these downward revisions and morning-after corrections add fuel to the anti-war sentiments which the maintstream press outlets are so very willing to promote. Perhaps this is inevitable in a modern war - when soldiers are engaged in an attack one moment and talking to Atlanta the next, accounts are going to be repeated, and stateside networks have shown no inclination to give requisite pause.

Nor do I blame the soldiers - their experiences are their own, and I think it's valuable and important that they be able to recount them.

But surely the coalition authorities could insititute a policy of issuing a simple statement after every engagement of note, reminding the press that precise determinations of the nature and toll of the engagement will take time, and that any numbers or accounts given without the sanction of Central Command are necessarily speculative.

There may be a tendency to let inflated numbers out because of the potentially positive effect they have on morale. I think our forces are more professional than that, but in any case, episodes like today's 'revision' should be enough to discourage the practice.

We still don't know precisely what happened in Samarrah. That's the story.

Posted by David Mader at 11:42 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Consulting the Master

Is anyone else loving this juxtaposition of headlines on Drudge as much as I am?

Yea, because nothing says 'strong executive foreign policy' like Jimmy Carter.

Posted by David Mader at 02:01 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Up, Up and Up

More good news about the economy.

Posted by David Mader at 12:17 PM | (0) | Back to Main