Entre Nous / Musings of a Former Belgian
"History occurs twice, once as tragedy, the second time as farce." (Karl Marx)
"As best as I can tell, [antiwar spin] is a parody of Stalin: one person killed by America is a tragedy. A hundred thousand killed by Saddam, or a million by Pol Pot, are a statistic." (Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds)

Reflections of a former Belgian and "liberal mugged by reality" on politics, the US-European cultural divide, the conflict with Iraq, and the Israeli-Arab conflict.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Today in history.Today in history: On April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler committed suicide after marrying his longtime mistress and dictating a political testament in which he blamed it all on what is still the favorite enemy of antidemocratic kooks (be they of the extreme "left" or "right").

There is a famous Jewish joke that Hitler went to see a fortune teller and that the latter told him he would die on a Jewish holiday. The fortune teller was interrogated under torture by the Gestapo, to reveal only that "any day on which you die will be a Jewish holiday".
In one of these delicious ironies of history, April 30 happens to be the eve of a Jewish minor holiday (Lag ba-Omer) in 1945.

Allison's blog also has more background on the site of last night's despicable suicide bombing in Tel-Aviv.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an excellent debunking of the "neocon-spiracy" theory. The conclusion:

Ultimately, the neocon-conspiracy theory misinterprets as a policy coup a reasoned shift in grand strategy that the Bush administration has adopted in responding to an ominous form of external threat. Whether that strategy and its component parts prove to be as robust and effective as containment of hostile Middle Eastern states linked to terrorism remains to be seen. But to characterize it in conspiratorial terms is not only a failure to weigh policy choices on their merits, but represents a detour into the fever swamps of political demagoguery.

(Hat tip: Allison Kaplan Sommer.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2003
US to pull back troops from Saudi ArabiaSurprise, surprise! US announces withdrawal of troops from Saudi Arabia, their presence there having outlived both its ostensible rationale and its usefulness. (Hat tip: lgf.)

Monday, April 28, 2003
Quote of the week.Quote of the week. Donald Rumsfeld on critics of the war, paraphrasing Churchill: "Never in the history of human conflict have so many been wrong about so much."

15 minutes of fameSteven Den Beste weighs in on the Belgian lawsuit-in-the-making against Tommy Franks. Money quote: "Today, you are innocent until proven American."

Sodom Hussein 66Today Saddam Hussein al-Takriti turned (or would have turned) 66. Here's to hoping he is "celebrating" his birthday in the seventh circle of "the place south of heaven".

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme choseThe more things change, the more they stay the same. A Brussels lawyer, acting on behalf of 10 Iraqis, is praparing a lawsuit for war crimes under Belgium's in(s)ane "universal jurisdiction law" against Coalition forces commander, General Tommy Franks. Among the accusations I will only quote the alleged killing of 10 people in an attack on a civilian bus "with an energy weapon" (Laser beam? Photon torpedo? Reality distortion field?). His primary source are four doctors of Medecine for the Third World, a front organization for the Belgian Maoist "Partij van de Arbeid" (PVDA) which recently merged with the radical-islamist "Arab-European League" to form RESIST. (According to a proud announcement on Indymedia, a representative [I cannot bring myself to use the word 'doctor'] of said organization is apparently running on the RESIST ticket.)

A serious SARS (Stubborn Attack of Reactionary Stalinism) epidemic seems to be raging in Brussels. And this in a society that, in the words of the late Jean Gol, "suffers from political AIDS in the etymological sense of the word" [i.e., Acquired Immunodeficiency]. And as blogs from Andrew Sullivan to Clayton Cramer are all abuzz about the remarks of Sen. Rick Santorum on so-called "sodomy laws", let me point out that unlike the somatic form, one can contract the political form of AIDS from oneself --- caporectal or cephalopostsphincter, that is.

UPDATE: I found an online M.Sc. thesis in Dutch (at Ghent University) about the response of the Belgian "radical"/reactionary "left"ist parties to the fall of the Soviet Union. An (appendix lists "Medicine for the Third World" as a daughter organization of the Maoist PVDA.

ArabNews getting mugged by realityWelcome to the real world.Today;'s bumber crop of Best of the Web quotes an amazing editorial from the Saudi quasi-governmental newspaper Arab News:

For decades it has been difficult to find anything in the opinion pages of the Arabic language press that did not concern Israel. Every problem faced by Arab societies was blamed, in however obscure or far-fetched a way, on Israel's occupation of Palestinian land. The issue served as a sort of lowest common denominator, satisfying many journalists who were not equipped to write about anything else as well as many of those who rule the Arab world and who would prefer Israel--rather than their own shortcomings--to be the subject of heated discussion in the "Arab street." . . .

The days when the Arab world could just scream "Israel", as if that one word were sufficient answer to every question about every problem that came its way--as though saying that one word could deflect all further inquiry--are over. The time for peaceful coexistence, internal reflection and healthy, progressive thinking has come.

Bill Whittle: VictoryFor those who missed it: Bill Whittle's latest is up on the web.

Merde en FranceBoth The Times and The Daily Telegraph have disturbing evidence of just how far French collusion with the Iraqi regime went.

More Galloway dirtGalloway update. A charity founded by him to pay for the leukemia treatment of an Iraqi woman did spend 100,000 pounds on its stated purpose, but --- by his own admission --- 850,000 pounds on political travel and salaries (including 18,000 pounds to Galloway's wife).

Sunday, April 27, 2003
any anti-American will doIn The Observer, leftist David Aaronovitch , who reluctantly supported the war, explains the kneejerk "anti-war" reflexes of his comrades as

[...] that sin of the committed, the belief that my enemy's enemy is my friend. Or, in the context of the modern world, any anti-American will do. [...] This is linked to a characteristic of much of the Left, which is a strangely cavalier attitude towards freedom and democracy.

The whole article is well worth reading.

How to win the peaceMust-read: Fareed Zakaria's insightful article on how to wage the peace. As he sees it, "democracy" is a lot harder to export than "whisky" or "sexy", and he tries to understand why, and how the obstacles can be overcome. Some money paragraphs:

We could, of course, hold elections in Iraq, hand over power and go home. But elections do not produce democracy. Consider Russia, where Vladimir Putin was elected but rules like an autocrat. He has forced his political opponents out of office, weakened other branches of government and intimidated the once free media into near-total silence. And he’s one of the success stories. [...] In Africa, 42 of the continent’s 48 countries have held elections in the last decade, but almost none of them have produced genuine democracy.

What is called democracy in the West is really liberal democracy, a political system marked not only by free elections but also the rule of law, the separation of powers and basic human rights, including private property, free speech and religious tolerance. In the West, this tradition of liberty and law developed over centuries, long before democracy took hold. It was produced by a series of forces—the separation of church and state, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Reformation, capitalism and the development of an independent middle class.


It’s not that liberal democracy cannot spread outside the West. It has, and in far-flung places. But it is instructive to see where and why. Over the last decade those countries that moved farthest toward liberal democracy followed a version of the Western pattern: first capitalism and the rule of law, then democracy. In much of East Asia—South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia—a dominant ruling elite liberalized the economy and the legal system. Capitalism created a middle class that then pressured the government to open up the political system. It nurtured an independent civil society that has helped consolidate democracy.


Oil—like other natural resources—does not help produce capitalism, civil society and thus democracy. It actually retards that process.

Countries with treasure in their soil don’t need to create the framework of laws and policies that produce economic growth and create a middle class. They simply drill into the ground for black gold. These “trust-fund states” don’t work for their wealth and thus don’t modernize—economically or politically. After all, easy money means a government doesn’t need to tax its people. That might sound like a good idea, but when a government takes money from its people, the people demand something in return. Like honesty, accountability, transparency—and eventually democracy.

This bargain, between taxation and representation, is at the heart of Western liberty. After all, that is why America broke away from Britain. It was being taxed but not represented in the British Parliament. The Saudi royal family offers its subjects a very different bargain: “We don’t ask much of you [in the form of taxes] and we don’t give you much [in the form of liberty].” It’s the inverse of the slogan that launched the American Revolution—no taxation without representation.


No Iraqi will read this analysis and come to the conclusion that the country should seal up its oil wells and forswear its natural resources—nor should he. But it is worth asking how best to limit the damaging political and economic effects of oil wealth. It is not an impossible task. After all, some trust-fund kids turn out well.

The key is to take the wealth out of the arbitrary control of the state. This could mean privatizing the oil industry. But in Iraq, the oil is largely in the Shiite, Kurdish and Turkoman areas, which could trigger ethnic conflict (as happened in Nigeria). Privatization would also probably enrich a few well-connected Iraqis and create corrupt oligarchs, as happened in Russia. [...P]erhaps the best approach is to create a national trust—with transparent and internationally monitored accounting—into which all oil revenues flow. These revenues could be spent only in specified ways: on, for example, health care and education. The World Bank has been experimenting on such a model with Chad, the tiny oil-rich African state. Alaska is another successful version of this model. Steven Clemons of the New America Foundation points out that Alaska distributes its oil revenues directly to its residents, bypassing the corruption usually created by leaving it in the hands of governments or oligarchs. This is a variation of land reform, redistributing wealth broadly, which was crucial in spurring democracy in Japan and almost all other feudal societies.

Go read it all.

Filthy traitors updateAccording to The Observer, the British authorities are considering prosecuting George Galloway for treason. Galloway is also revealed to have ties with Saudi islamist whose satellite phone was used by al-Qaeda.

Iraq-al Qaeda linkDocuments found in the ruins of Iraqi intelligence headquarters reveal al-Qaeda link.

Iraqi bioweapons honcho speaks outA key figure in the Iraqi bioweapons program is interviewed by Judith Miller of the New York Times, and describes his involvement in producing anthrax and botulinum toxin. I doubt the latter was intended for cosmetic treatments ;-)

Ammo dump explosionAccording to the <"http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A42755-2003Apr26.html">Washington Post, an Iraqi ammunition dump (which the Saddamite regime deliberately located in a populated area) exploded after Iraqi assailants fired flares into it, killing at least six and wounding dozens. Of course, who gets blamed? Right... this is the Middle East after all.

Saturday, April 26, 2003
Wise after the eventWise after the event. The Useless Nabobs (UN) Human Rights Commission has condemned human rights abuses by the Saddamite regime. Cuba, Malaysia and Zimbabwe voted against the resolution. Twelve countries abstained. Six - including China and South Africa - refused to vote, saying they would not be associated with any decision.
I will not get into a thought experiment on, had the UNHRC been around in 1945, how it would have voted on a resolution condemning the Shoah/Holocaust. This will be left as an exercise to the reader ;-)

Friday, April 25, 2003
Iraqi chief spook caughtAccording to Reuters, the Iraqi espionage chief Farouk Hijazi is now also in US costody.
Hat tip: The Command Post, which just saw its two-millionth hit.

Martin KramerMartin Kramer, author of (among other things) "Ivory Towers on Sand: the failure of Middle Eastern studies in America" (Chapters 2 and 3 of which are available online), weighs in on the museum looting and many other matters (no permalinks). Very much worth reading.

Winnie Mandela goes to jailWinnie "Necklace" Mandela, estranged wife of Nelson Mandela, was found guilty of 43 counts of fraud and 25 of theft. She could face up to 15 years in jail. (She was previously sentenced to six years in prison for kidnapping and assault.)

ChalabiVoices on the "right" (e.g. the Wall Street Journal) have been accusing the New York Times and other "leftist" media of waging a campaign of character assassionation against Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi. Now the WSJ is joined by the far-left Christopher Hitchens, who also asks:

What if one-tenth of the energy of the anti-war movement was now diverted to helping the secular and democratic forces in Iraq and Kurdistan? To giving assistance to a free press, helping to sponsor political prisoners and searches for the missing, providing money and materials for human rights and women's groups? Maybe a few of the human shields and witnesses for peace could return and pitch in with the reconstruction? I know a few such volunteers, chiefly medical ones, but not many when compared to the amazing expenditure of time and effort that went on postponing the liberation.

Galloway updateGalloway update: Saddam's former personal secretary vouches for the authenticity of the documents. Galloway may say a prayer of thanks to whoever he prays to (Stalin? Pol Pot?) that he is living in the 21st century. Not so long ago he would have had to look forward to dancing Danny Deever ("door het hennepen venster kijken").

Fingering the DykeDespite its title suggesting something else altogether, Fingering the Dyke is a well-deserved fisking of BBC news director Greg Dyke's attempts to defend the indefensible.
UPDATE: Laughing Wolf has more.

Galling GallowayInstapundit has many updates on the galling Saddamite MP George Galloway, as does Daniel Drezner.

Thursday, April 24, 2003
"A circle has no end"Live From Brussels has the revolting story of some Belgian Indymedia posters claiming that D-Day (yes, June 6, 1944) was in fact "an illegal invasion of Normandy". Extreme "left" and extreme "right"? As Isaac Asimov had one of the characters in his "Foundation" series say in another context: "A circle has no end".

Tariq Aziz captured?Fox News quotes "senior Defense officials" saying that Tariq Aziz is in US custody.

A <i>true</i> "human shield" Suicide attack in Kfar Saba, Israel. Possibly dozens of people owe their lives to a 23-year old security guard named Alexander Kostyuk, who prevented a massacre by quite literally acting as a "human shield". Allow me to slightly paraphrase Robert A. Heinlein: "The noblest act a man can perform is to place his own mortal body between his home and the war's desolation."

Kung-LogBlogger is still bloggered, but with Kung-Log it becomes almost pleasant to use. Three cheers for its author!

The Bitter Fruit of Incompetent CriticismWhile on the subject of lingo, A voyage to Arcturus coined "the bitter fruit of incompetent criticism" for the way in which the professional doomsayers are being ignored even when they have a point of valid criticism. My native Dutch has a similar expression about pathological liars no longer being believed even when they speak the truth for a change. (Hat tip: .)
7:10 PM

Graceful failureOne of my favorite analogies for explaining the advantage of democracies over dictatorships, or of free markets over Marxism, has always been with the engineering term "fault tolerance".
Steven Den Beste uses the same analogy, and points out the political uses of a related engineering term: graceful failure.

Abu MazenFollowing intense pressure from the US, Europe, and even Egypt, Arafat relented, and Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu Mazen) will become the first PA PM. Head Heeb has a nice roundup of the coverage, even though I am more skeptical than he is. Anything is better than Yasser Archbandit, but boy is that damning with faint praise....

Smoking gun?Smoking gun? Judith Miller --- who carries the unenviable distinction of having been a target for nonconventional weaponry herself --- reports that coalition forces discovered a Baghdad complex filled with chemical agents.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Old but good: Duck Season reports on the alternate universe of the BBC World Service. (Hat tip: Angie Schultz.)

Mark Steyn points out an often overlooked detail about Canadian PM Jean Chrétien (described to be by a Canadian coworker as "a man illiterate in two languages"):

[...]France, Germany, Russia, Belgium and Canada are not on the side of peace or morality or the Iraqi people. The pictures from the streets of Baghdad make that plain.

On the other hand, they're cheerfully on the side of TotalFinaElf, the [Franco-Belgian] corporation closest to Saddam Hussein. Total had secured development rights to 25 percent of Iraqi oil reserves, a deal that depended on Saddam remaining in power. TotalFinaElf's largest shareholder is a subsidiary of Montreal's Power Corp. Power Corp's co-chief executives are Paul Desmarais Jr., who sits on the Total board, and his brother Andre Desmarais. Andre Desmarais' father-in-law is the prime minister of Canada, Jean Chretien. Canada refused to join the war to liberate Iraq on ''principle.''

Got that? For months, the anti-war crowd has insisted that ''it's all about oil,'' [... I]t turns out that, if it is all about oil, then the principal North American beneficiary of the continued enslavement of the Iraqi people [was] the family of the Canadian prime minister--that's to say, his daughter and his grandchildren.

Ralph Peters has few illusions that the creation of a Palestinian state will solve anything.

Now Arab insistence and rhetoric have backed the myth-makers into a corner: For the region's decayed regimes, continuing Palestinian misery and powerlessness remain preferable to a Palestinian state. But the United States and even Israel now seem to accept the inevitability of Free Palestine. The Arabs have gotten their public wish, but will regret it in private.

The Arabs still need someone to blame for their failures. And they will continue to blame Israel and the United States. The Arabs will find countless faults with Israel's implementation of any accords. Then they will attack the accords themselves as unjust.

The Arab world is as addicted to blame as any junkie was ever addicted to heroin.

Go read all of it.

Meanwhile, the single greatest obstacle to any sort of progress in the Israeli-Pali dispute continues to be Yasser Psychopath.

UCLA law professor and blogger Eugene Volokh looks at the legal ramifications of "fisking", the common blogosphere practice of quoting almost all of an article interspersed by point-by-point refutation or (sometimes vicious) criticism of it. He gives detailed legal arguments why the practice is in his opinion legally acceptable.

He returns to the issue later concerning the case of "The Skeptical Environmentalist" author Bj&otrema;rn Lomborg, who wrote what amounts to a "fisking" of a very critical piece on his book by Scientific American. Scientific American refused to publish the rebuttal on the grounds that it violated copyright doctrine. Volokh thinks that if Lomborg were to publish elsewhere, SciAm would have no legal leg to stand on.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003
Miracles, miracles France and the US agree on something: all of a sudden France agrees to a 'suspension' of the sanctions on Iraq.

Surprise, surprise According to documents obtained by the Daily Telegraph, the looney-left Saddamite fellow traveler, Labour MP George Galloway, was revealed to be on the take. Big-media journalists and bloggers Tim Blair and Andrew Sullivan are beavering away on this unfolding story.

Update. Obviously the Daily Telegraph is having a field day, e.g. here and here and here. The Command Post is tracking the story in detail. Galloway married to Arafat's niece? Well, nothing would surprise me about this character, but it is The Sun they're quoting... We link, you decide.

Easter is over but as Passover hasn't finished yet, I still can share this chain Email with you that was forwarded to me by a reader. (Several Jewish bloggers have it online, e.g. KesherTalk.)

CNN recounts the story of Passover

By Daniel P. Waxman

The cycle of violence between the Jews and the Egyptians continues
with no end in sight in Egypt. After eight previous plagues that have
destroyed the Egyptian infrastructure and disrupted the lives of
ordinary Egyptian citizens, the Jews launched a new offensive this week
in the form of the plague of darkness.

Western journalists were particularly enraged by this plague. "It
is simply impossible to report when you can't see an inch in front of
you," complained a frustrated Andrea Koppel of CNN. "I have heard from
my reliable Egyptian contacts that in the midst of the blanket of
blackness, the Jews were annihilating thousands of Egyptians. Their
word is solid enough evidence for me."

While the Jews contend that the plagues are justified given the
harsh slavery imposed upon them by the Egyptians, Pharaoh, the Egyptian
leader, rebuts this claim. "If only the plagues would let up, there
would be no slavery. We just want to live plague-free. It is the right
of every society."

Saeb Erekat, an Egyptian spokesperson, complains that slavery is
justifiable given the Jews' superior weaponry supplied to them by the
superpower God.

The Europeans are particularly enraged by the latest Jewish
offensive. "The Jewish aggression must cease if there is to be peace in
the region. The Jews should go back to slavery for the good of the rest
of the world," stated an angry French President Jacques Chirac.

Even several Jews agree. Adam Shapiro, a Jew, has barricaded
himself within Pharaoh's chambers to protect Pharaoh from what is
feared will be the next plague, the death of the firstborn. Mr. Shapiro
claims that while slavery is not necessarily a good thing, it is the
product of the plagues and when the plagues end, so will the slavery.
"The Jews have gone too far with plagues such as locusts and epidemic
which have virtually destroyed the Egyptian economy," Mr. Shapiro
laments. "The Egyptians are really a very nice people and Pharaoh is
kind of huggable once you get to know him," gushes Shapiro.

The United States is demanding that Moses and Aaron, the Jewish
leaders, continue to negotiate with Pharaoh. While Moses points out
that Pharaoh had made promise after promise to free the Jewish people
only to immediately break them and thereafter impose harsher and
harsher slavery, Richard Boucher of the State Department assails the
latest offensive. "Pharaoh is not in complete control of the
taskmasters," Mr. Boucher states. "The Jews must return to the
negotiating table and will accomplish nothing through these plagues."

The latest round of violence comes in the face of a bold new Saudi
peace overture. If only the Jews will give up their language, change
their names to Egyptian names and cease having male children, the Arab
nations will incline toward peace with them, Saudi [Clown] Prince
Abdullah declared.

The weird and wonderful blogosphere: Amritas mixes some warblogging with a heavy dose of linguistics, focusing particularly on Sanskrit (the literal "Mother of all Indo-European Languages").

In his weekly "Anglosphere" column for the UPI news agency, James Bennett wonders where have all the fascists gone? and finds them in the last place Europeans would look for them. He sees fascism, anti-Americanism, and modern antisemitism as expressions of an "Industrial Counter-Revolution", which he considers to be one of the main currents of continental European political thought.

Go read both articles. Best as I can tell, the priceless term "Industrial counter-revolution" was coined by Brink Lindsey in his book "Against the dead hand".

As an aside on Bennett, many people do not realize how many fascist leaders started out political life of the far left. Aside from the somewhat anecdoctal evidence that Hitler's party was called "National-Socialist German Workers Party" (at least part of the original NSDAP leadership, particularly the Strasser brothers, appear to have taken the 'socialist' part somewhat seriously), Mussolini enjoyed a reputation as a Marxist theorist before WW I, and British fascist leader Oswald Mosley was a renegade Labour MP. This without mentioning the 'De Man-ist' wing of the Belgian socialist party at the beginning of WW II...

Sunday, April 20, 2003
Transoc (n.): short for "transnational oligarchic collectivism".

In "1984", George Orwell describes a world mostly ruled by three competing totalitarianisms: Ingsoc (for English Socialism) in "Oceania", neo-Bolshevism in Eurasia, and "Death Worship" in East Asia.

Orwell has a way of being prescient in unforeseen ways. While the geographic boundaries are different, we may indeed be seeing a trilateral tug-of-war, not between specific ideologies, but between meta-ideologies and/or systems of government.

The first would be traditional liberal democracy in all its variety.

The second would in fact be appropriately labeled "Death Worship", whether it be of the radical Islamist or of the Arab national-socialist (Ba'athist) variety, or any of the other nihilist ideologies that hold sway in that part of the world.

The third emerging meta-ideology has variously been named "transnational progressivist", or "transnational socialist" (tranzi or transnazi for short), and less frequently "mean green meme", and "vict[im]ocracy" around the blogosphere.
I am somewhat unhappy with the more popular names. First of all, as seductive as the "nazi" association may be as a rethorical annoyance device --- particularly when many "tranzis" act as fellow travelers for regimes that have a thing or two in common with Hitler's --- it amounts to some degree to a cheapening of the Shoah/Holocaust.

Secondly, while many "tranzi" ideologues are either outright post-Marxist or exhibit clear parallels with Marxist thought (e.g. the replacement of class warfare by that "oppressor" and "victim" groups --- be they national, ethnic, gender, or sexual orientation), there are other "tranzis" --- particularly in Old Europe, and particularly among those who pushed hardest for the EU --- who actually come from a statist authoritarian conservative perspective (which is somewhat similar to American "paleoconservatism")

Thirdly, the term "progressivist" may not be identical to "progressist" (what the Unabridged Merriam-Webster defines as "one who believes in progress ; especially : one who believes in the continuous progress of the human race or of society") but it still suggests there is something "progressive" about ideologies and attitudes that are objectively deeply reactionary or what I, as the antonym to "progressist", would term "regressist". (Examples: "deep ecology", anti-sciences and anti-technology movements, advocacy of pseudoscience and New Age, the glorification of the "noble savage"
that underlies much of "tranzi" thought.)

For a better term, let me go back to "1984", which contains a "book within a book" by the fictional Emanuel Goldstein (the object of the "Two Minutes Hate": the name is of course a thinly veiled reference to Trotsky's actual name of Lev Bronstein) entitled: "The Foundations of Oligarchic Collectivism". If there are some unifying features to the diverse ideologies called "tranzi", it would be:

(a) their post-national or transnational character. "Transnationalism" is used here to express the concept of group allegations supplanting traditional national identities (as distinct from "internationalism", which refers to cooperation between national units).

(b) their fundamentally post-democratic character. The EU and the UN --- de facto run by unelected bureaucracies of the (self-)anointed "elect" --- are perhaps paradigms of this.

(c) their emphasizing the ("oppressor" or "victim") group identity over the individual.

Combining these three elements, and borrowing from the title of Orwell's fictional political tract, we come up with "transnational oligarchic collectivism", or "transoc" for short.

The plot thickens: more revelations of Russian-Iraqi intelligence cooperation (Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose...) and now disturbing suggestions that Iraqi ovbertures to German intelligence may not entirely have fallen on deaf ears (Steven Den Beste and MeanMrMustard comment).

Meanwhile, a Fox commentator quotes General Tommy Franks as having referred to the UN "oil for palaces" program.

Saturday, April 19, 2003
Steven Den Beste is unsatisfied with all his previous attempts at explaining the Chiraqi behavior

I've variously entertained the idea that what has motivated the French behavior was resentment about their diminished place in the world, a sinister attempt to create and lead a world anti-American coalition (especially including much of the Arab world), actual delusions that they were more important than they really are, straightforward pandering to the crowd that got out of hand, a sustained case of miscommunication with America based on deep and unrecognized differences in cultural assumptions, outright fear of American power and American motives, attempts to cover up years of illegal deals between French companies and Iraq in violation of UN sanctions, outright corruption of the French government due to direct bribery by Iraq, Iraqi blackmail of key French political figures, fear of an armed insurrection by France's large and increasingly hostile Muslim minority, fear of the economic damage to France if it loses access to the Iraqi market and loses its privileged place in the UN "oil-for-food" program, personal ambition by Chirac to "leave a political legacy" (and he will, but not the one he wanted to), personal fear by Chirac that once he leaves office he'll cease to be immune to criminal indictment in a major bribery scandal.

To some extent probably many of these are factors, but none of them has ever really seemed adequate. The prizes in each case don't seem to match the price being paid.

His answer boils down to this (am quoting just the 'money paragraphs' at the end of a long analysis):

As long as France is an independent nation, with an independent economy and exclusively dependent on its own tax base, France is doomed. France as we know it is unsustainable. The structural and demographic problems France faces probably can't be solved short of violent revolution. The European Union may be seen in Paris as the only hope they have of escaping the trap France is in, as long as the ultimate EU system was designed correctly to make sure the French had disproportionate power in it and could thus manipulate it for the French's economic benefit. If so, they would be willing to go to nearly any lengths to make sure that the EU happened, and to make sure it was dominated by France.

All the other explanations I've come up with for French behavior were unsatisfying; they didn't seem sufficient to explain their behavior, or their apparent desperation and ruthlessness. But this one would do it; if this is what they're thinking, then they really would be willing to do the kind of things they have been. For this they'd be willing to sacrifice the UN, willing to sacrifice NATO, willing to alienate the US. For this they'd be willing to make oil deals with a torturer and sell him illicit goods, and to work to maintain him in power so he could keep torturing to his heart's content. For this they'd be willing to partner with Russia and China. For this they'd be willing to do damned near anything. The only thing that would matter would be to make sure that the final establishment of the European Union happened and that France would have the ability to dominate it. If they win that, they win everything. If they lose that, nothing else matters.

Go read the whole thing.

Friday, April 18, 2003
Iconoclasm redux: Erin O'Connor runs a blog called Critical Mass, devoted to the more idiotic tendencies in today's humanities faculties.

Iconoclasm alert: a column on TechCentralStation argues that there is neocolonialism at work in Africa, but that the perpetrators are... those touchy-feely PC nongovernmental organizations à la Oxfam. (Hat tip: Instapundit.

Quote of the week: Thomas Friedman in the New York Times, definitely no superhawk or cheerleader:

For me, the best argument for pressuring Syria is the fact that France's foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said on Sunday that this was not the time to be pressuring Syria. Ever since he blocked any U.N. military action against Saddam, Mr. de Villepin has become my moral compass: whatever he is for, I am against. And whatever he is against, I am for.

Similarity to actual events purely coincidental?

(Hat tip: Silent Running.)

Today's editorial in the WSJ looks at the chances of restarting Arab-Israeli peace talks in the aftermath of Iraq.

Speaking of Israel, retired left-wing parliamentarian and constitutional law specialist Prof. Amnon Rubinstein calls for adding 'the right to [live in a] democracy' to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Da Shark introduces a new term for the junior partner in the 'Axis of Weasels' (a.k.a. 'The Weasel-Poodle pact', for Charles Johnson).

Instapundit quotes a surprisingly self-critical article in The Arab News (of all places), entitled "It's not too late to face reality".

Jeff Jarvis (hat tip: Instaman) quotes a British Museum official as saying that some of the looted antiquities from the Iraqi national museum are showing up... in Paris. The comments section is quite interesting as well.

And in one of his best essays ever, Steven Den Beste looks at all sides of the CNN controversy. Go read it all --- I can't do it justice by selective quoting.

Roundup: the upcoming issue of the Atlantic Monthly has two not-for-pay items of interest: (a) Michael Kelly's last (posthumous) contribution entitled "What now?" and (b) Thomas Ryback goes through the items in the personal library of Hitler (y"sh), which is presently sitting in a corner of the Library of Congress. Not just the contents, but particularly the annotations and passages underlined, offer a unique probe into the mind of one of the 20th century's two paradigmatic tyrants.

The other one was of course Stalin. Grossly oversimplifying (for a more detailed comparison, see Alan Bullock's parallel biography "Hitler and Stalin"), I see the crucial difference between the two as one of obsessive emphasis: while both traits existed in both tyrants (particularly near the ends of their respective lives), racism was Hitler's all-consuming passion and extreme paranoia (to the point of desire for 'mind control') Stalin's.

Thursday, April 17, 2003
Note James Schlesinger's editorial in today's Wall Street Journal. An earlier piece by Michael Gonzales discusses the behavior of Belgium at some length:

In Belgium, I've witnessed the defense and foreign ministers feed the beast of anti-Americanism, only to protest later that they want to defang it. At a debate last month at the University Libre de Bruxelles, I saw Messrs. Michel and Flahaut inflame a crowd with their comments. Belgians, said the former, are beginning to look on the U.S. as they once did the Soviet Union. "I am beginning to fear the U.S.," he added, his voice rising, to much applause from a 2,000-strong crowd. Not to be outdone, Mr. Flahaut promised to do all he could to kick Tony Blair out of the Socialist International.

By "debate," incidentally, I mean a representative of Republicans Abroad and me on one side, and on the other the two ministers, two pro-government university professors, a journalist who was supposed to act as moderator, and Iraq's ambassador to Belgium. The Iraqi was twice interrupted by the crowd with applause; I [a member of the editorial staff of the Wall Street Journal, FB] was accused of being a CIA agent. When one student stood up to complain that a representative of Saddam's regime was applauded while I was booed, the crowd shouted her down.

Can anyone wonder at the crowd's response, given such leadership? Mr. Flahaut called for bigger anti-U.S. demonstrations that weekend. The government needed them, he said. His government was doing more than just standing by. Just as in places like Castro's Cuba, parents at some Belgian schools received requests for their children to attend the demonstration. As for Mr. Michel, he personally quashed a revolt in his Mouvement Reformateur at a party meeting last month. One politician who was there told me the majority wanted the Belgian government to have a more nuanced policy and not to be in such opposition to the U.S. But Mr. Michel threatened, cajoled, and got his way. This is why there hasn't been a backbench revolt in Belgium and France, though this week a Belgian politician tried to redress the balance by delivering letters of support to the British and U.S. Embassies.

A senior Belgian official told me last week that Mr. Michel "now realizes he's gone too far, that he's made comments he ought not to have made, and is trying to calm things down." Too late. His government situated itself against the war and the U.S. out of a long tradition of subservience to the French and out of fear that otherwise its large Muslim population would riot. "The people then may react by voting for the far right," a Belgian official told me.

Explicable, perhaps. But how immoral to act in such a manner, and how dangerous.

The increasingly visible joy of liberated Iraqis is making clear the moral bankruptcy of those who purported to take the high ground by prolonging Saddam's rule. The diplomatic blunders of Brussels and Paris are coming home to roost. This is how we got here.

Victor Davis Hanson, classicist and military historian: The Three Weeks' War.

For in-depth reading: two penetrating pieces in The Atlantic Monthly by the doyen of Middle East Studies, Prof. Bernard Lewis (Princeton): Religions and the meeting of civilizations and especially What went wrong?, which looks at the causes for the decline of the Islamic world.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003
While over there, I had a telling exchange with a French woman. She was quite critical of 'les post-soixantehuitards' (i.e., the new-Left 'student revolt generation'), a successful professional in a useful pursuit, and clearly extremely worried about extremist tendencies among young French muslims and the spinning out of control of the personal security situation in her region of France. She also clearly had no love lost for Chiraq.

Yet she was convinced the US had done the wrong thing in Iraq, although she agreed with me that the US should have finished the job properly in 1991. (Cultural faultline #1: past sins of omission are justifications for present inaction in one culture, arguments for cleaning up one's own mess in another.)

We went through the usual exchanges about oil, politics being a dirty business, US 'naivete' vs. European 'sophistication' (one man's 'sophistication' is another's ethical cynicism), her view that this would just increase terrorism vs. my reminding her of what the phrase 'pour encourager les autres' has come to mean in English,.., until we hit the money paragraph. She pointed to the 'chaos' and 'rioting' in Iraq, and said 'the US is laughing that all away, saying that they have freedom now, so nothing else matters. What is freedom if you have chaos? If you don't know what tomorrow is going to bring?'

And there is cultural faultline #2. The fear of chaos and anarchy runs so deep in the old-European mindset (particularly among the bourgeoisie) that they will prefer a deeply flawed or even outright criminal regime (even at home, but especially far away from home) over 'chaos'. You could have asked her question to the many who lived through weeks of 'chaos' after the Liberation in WW II. (Particularly in France, looting and extrajudicial executions took on quite major proportions.) And, I am appalled to say, the answer would not have been as consensual as you would expect.

By contrast, at least one US state (New Hampshire) actually has for a motto: "Live Free or Die', and I have every reason to believe that this is more than an empty slogan.

The outcry over the post-9/11 suggestion that a federal ID system be introduced tells you quite a bit. I've always taken the requirement to carry ID at all times and present it when asked for granted (as do many Europeans), so I could not understand what the fuss was about in the US. In fact, I merely underestimated the extent to which Americans --- not just ACLU types or ideological Libertarians --- value their freedom more than their security.

Sure enough, Britain had (and has) its share of patrician isolationist conservatives. But it also has always had a strong 'Atlanticist' strain in its politics (Churchill, Thatcher, Blair) and I can personally testify that, however European Britons may be culturally in some respects, this is one area where the average 'non-New Class' Briton is much closer to their brethren in the Anglosphere than to their cousins across the Channel.

As it happens, Jews all over the world tonight celebrate the first night of Passover --- alternately known both as the Festival of Spring and the Festival of Our Freedom. As the Bible tells the story, some Israelites on their long trek out of Egypt yearn for 'the fleshpots of Egypt', that is, they lamented the loss of the relative material security (or shall I rather say: the predictability of their circumstances) they had in their abject slavery, as opposed to the uncertainty of what lies ahead --- a place among the nations if the gamble pays off, total destruction if it goes badly wrong. Some commentators even argue that some of the Jews deliberately stayed behind in Egypt --- not because they had it so great there but because their fear of what lay ahead prevailed over their loathing of their present circumstances. Had Moses' flock consisted not of Jews, but of a random mixture of present-day Europeans and Americans, I have a feeling the Bible would have been written in English, or maybe in a Slavic language --- but definitely not in French or German.

Back from a successful business trip to a former Soviet satellite state. The hotel TV where I was offered two English-language news channels, namely CNN International and BBC World. The latter was almost hilarious to watch in these surroundings as its reporting on Gulf War II, in slant if not in slickness, had more in common with the state TV channel in Soviet days. Locals conversant in English have been telling me more or less the same thing. They also reminesced about watching state TV diligently, with a twist --- monitoring the news for what wasn't being said, and diligently listening to the commentary, then assuming the exact opposite.

About CNN, the big story is of course this:

As Baghdad fell last week, CNN announced that it too had been liberated. On the New York Times' op-ed page on Friday, Eason Jordan, the network's news chief, admitted that his organization had learned some "awful things" about the Baathist regime--murders, tortures, assassination plots--that it simply could not broadcast earlier. Reporting these stories, Mr. Jordan wrote, "would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff."

[...]Would that this were an outbreak of honesty, however belated. But it isn't. If it were, Mr. Jordan wouldn't be portraying CNN as Saddam's victim. He'd be apologizing for its cooperation with Iraq's erstwhile information ministry--and admitting that CNN policy hinders truthful coverage of dictatorships. For CNN, the highest prize is "access," to score live camera feeds from a story's epicenter. Dictatorships understand this hunger, and also that it provides blackmail opportunities. In exchange for CNN bureaus, dictatorships require adherence to their own rules of reportage. They create conditions where CNN--and other U.S. media--can do little more than toe the regime's line.

The Iraq example is the telling one. Information Minister Mohammad Said al-Sahhaf has turned into an international joke, but the operation of his ministry was a model of totalitarian efficiency. The ministry compiled dossiers on U.S. journalists. It refused to issue visas to anyone potentially hostile--which meant that it didn't issue visas to reporters who strayed from al-Sahhaf's talking points. CNN correspondents Wolf Blitzer, Christiane Amanpour and Richard Roth, to name a few, were banned for critical reporting. It didn't take much to get on this list. A reporter who referred to "Saddam" (not "President Saddam Hussein") was shut out for "disrespect." If you didn't cover agitprop, like Saddam's 100% victory in October's referendum, the ministry made it clear that you were out.

Go read the whole thing. For obvious reasons, Fox News cannot contain its schadenfreude, and the blogosphere is abuzz with discussion. Andrew Sullivan being on spring breank, Winds of Change perhaps has the best roundup (see also here). In the comments section olf the latter, Joe Katzman rips the words out of my mouth:

This is a literal example of a multinational corporation who deliberately, knowingly fattened its bottom line on the blood of the opressed. You can't get a more quintessential liberal/ leftist cause than that.

If the Left and American liberals decide this can be ignored or downplayed because it hindered action in Iraq (am I the only one wondering if Clinton might have gone ahead in 1998 had CNN and others acted ethically?), they will reveal themselves to lack even an ounce of belief in one of their most fervently-claimed doctrines. It won't be the first time, either... and the commonality binding these incidents together is that in every case, the silence or even shilling was chosen over a course that might defend the USA or make it look good.

After a while, the consistency of the coincidence makes one suspect that the pattern one sees is the reality, and the specific examples merely symptoms.

PaveFrance has The new UNofficial logo:

Decidedly UNfunny (because UNdeniably true). Meanwhile, my favorite French graphic artist The Dissident Frogman put up this priceless political French parfum advertising spoof (click on the picture to zoom in):

And finally, the enviromaniac murderer of 'post-Left/Right' Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn has been given a paltry 18 year sentence, and, with time off for good behavior, can be sent home in as little as 12 years. The judge is reported to have said that 'life in prison is not the answer'. In fact, I wholeheartedly agree with that statement ;-)

Wednesday, April 09, 2003
And speaking of religious hymns: as poetic hyperbole is the stock in trade of love songs, some of the more agapic ones could do double duty as religious hymns. For instance Wind at my Back by progressive rock band Spock's Beard:


I just want to live

In the place that you have to give

I'll let the heat beat me down

Until the water comes down


Can it be true

That it all comes rushing from you

When my resistance is gone

And there's nothing that I can lean on

[chorus]You are the wind at my back

You give what I lack

You're the jewel in my hand

You're like rain on dry land

And my soul has been kissed

Just because you exist

You're the dream that's a fact

You're the wind at my back

Blessed be the 1 who gives strength to the weary. Good night.

Blog round-up: SdB being his usual acerbic self; mystery writer Roger L. Simon has a brand-new blog designed by none other than Charles Johnson, a.k.a. LGF; and Daniel Drezner, an anti-idiotarian assistant professor of political science at U. of Chicago, has a nice celebration roundup.
As baseball start and pundit-despite-himself Yogi Berra used to say: "It ain't over until it's over", but I can't help feeling giddy and grateful, mixed with awe and humility towards the men and women who are continuing to court death so others can live in freedom. Glenn Johnson quotes a most appropriate hymn (of a religion that is neither mine nor his):

When tyrants tremble, sick with fear

and hear their death knell ringing;

When friends rejoice both far and near,

How can I keep from singing?

Today in history: On April 9, 1865, Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrenders to his Union colleague Ulysses S. Grant, thus ending the American Civil War. (Hat tips: Best of the Web and Silent Running.) Coincidence moves in mysterious ways.

Baghdad liberated. Donald Sensing has captured video of the Saddamite statue being pulled down. He also captured this priceless image of the liberation of Baghdad:

Tuesday, April 08, 2003
Deadline season in realspace for Former Belgian --- blogging will be light until middle of next week.

Meanwhile, Europundits has gotten a really nice makeover and had its style sheet fixed --- now you can actually see which comments belong to which article :-) Go have a look.
Signing off for now with this cartoon from the Daily Telegraph:

But seriously --- if you still have any respect left for Jimmy "Fiskie" Carter, go read this. I am a firm devotee of Hanlon's (actually Heinlein's) rule "never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity", but Carter's actions stretch my faith in that principle to the limit. (Hat tip: The mother of all bloggers.)

Monday, April 07, 2003
In this weekend's Sunday Times issue, Andrew Sullivan presents a useful overview of left-wing/liberal supporters of the war and their arguments.

And military historian Ralph Peters suggests there is more to this war than meets the eye --- specifically, unusually successful covert ops activity.

Smoking gun? Reuters reports that

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. forces near Baghdad found a weapons cache of around 20 medium-range missiles equipped with potent chemical weapons, the U.S. news station National Public Radio reported on Monday.

NPR, which attributed the report to a top official with the 1st Marine Division, said the rockets, BM-21 missiles, were equipped with sarin and mustard gas and were "ready to fire." It quoted the source as saying new U.S. intelligence data showed the chemicals were "not just trace elements."

It said the cache was discovered by Marines with the 101st Airborne Division, which was following up behind the Army after it seized Baghdad's international airport.

U.S. Central Command headquarters in Qatar had no immediate comment.

The report is especially interesting considering the well-known "left"-ist, "anti-war" slant of NPR.

CENTCOM spokesman advises caution, stresses that raid is just that (a show of force [presumably aimed at demoralizing what's left of the defenses]), that Baghdad is a city the size of Los Angeles, and that some difficult days might lie ahead.

Fox reports three independent sources that `Ali Hassan al-Majib, a.k.a. "Chemical Ali", has been found dead in Basra. See also here.

Meryl Yourish announces that Robert Fisk has just been fisking himself. A coworker who used to live in San Francisco misheard me and nearly laughed himself to death. Meryl, you shouldn't type such things while people are eating or drinking coffee :-)

Tim Trevann (on Fox News) thinks "Baghdad Bob" (as the Iraqi "Minister of Postmodern Lit-Crit" has been nicknamed) was actually broadcasting from the roof of the "Palestine Hotel" about 2 km. away from the Ministry of (dis)Information. This would be the safest location for him as most of the remaining foreign correspondents are staying there.

US Troops are apparently under strict instructions not to fly American flags from any buildings, in order to make it clear the Coalition regards it all as Iraqi territory (just not Saddamite).

Greg Kelly, who's on the parade grounds of SH's palace, asks some soldiers to respond to the claims of the Iraqi "Ministry of Truth" that they're not there at all. Soldiers: "he's right across the street, we'll have to go talk to him".

He also said that the statue was demolished by a high-explosive round from a tank named by its crew "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue".

Shots of "mopping-up" fire can be heard in the background.

Iraqi Minister of "Information" speaking: "We have slaughtered about 3/4 of the invaders... We are mopping up the remainder... They are sick in their minds... They said they have entered Baghdad, but it is all a literary construct [sorry, that I just made up] in their imagination... There is no presence of the Americans in Baghdad... They are beginning to commit suicide at the walls of Baghdad" This 5 seconds after video of statue of SH in downtown Baghdad being blown up by American soldiers.

Somebody ought to offer this guy a job as a comedian. But French universities will fall over themselves to offer him a chair in postmodern literary studies since he clearly has exceptional talents for this.

Seeing video of Iraqi minister of disInformation about to make a statement somewhere on a roof.

Woke up to video of US forces investing the Saddamite palace in downtown Baghdad. The Command Post reports that a wag raised the flag of... University of Georgia over the palace.

TCP also quotes a rumor that Soddamn Insane and sons left Baghdad incognito for Tikrit (the hometown of Saddam and almost all his close associates). Considering the importance of extended family and tribal ties in Arab society, it stands to reason he might pick Tikrit for a "last stand" if he feels he's losing his grip on the country.

Meanwhile, CENTCOM announces it is "just a raid" to show that they can go anywhere they please in Baghdad.

The Command Post is literally getting updated every 30 seconds now.

Saddam (what's left of him) and

Sunday, April 06, 2003
Follow-up: on "universal jurisdiction" law: yesterday night, according to De Standaard (in Dutch), the Belgian Senate finally approved the restriction of the "universal jurisdiction law" with 36 "ayes", 22 "nays", and 5 "present". Both Flemish and Wallon, liberal-democratic parties, Flemish Christian-democrats, and the far-right Flemish Block voted in favor, as did Socialist Guy Moens. The remaining Socialists and the Greens voted against. The Walloon Christian-democrats abstained.

The Council of State (=constitutional court) did rule last night that it had misgivings about a clause under which, if no Belgian citizens or residents are involved and the country of the alleged perpetrator knows the rule of law, the Minister of Justice has the discretion to forward the case to the judiciary of the perpetrator's country. The goverment however argued that this is subordinate to judicial review by the Court of Cassation (Belgium's highest court of appeals), and that therefore no encroachment by the executive branch on the authority of the judiciary branch is involved. Socialists and Greens are planning to submit an additional amendment, but in view of the imminent parliamentary recess this will have to wait a while.

Saturday, April 05, 2003
Stephen Schwartz, in the April 14 issue of The Weekly Standard, discusses the UN reconstruction (mis)administration in former Yugoslavia. His conclusion: the further away the UN is kept from Iraq, the better. Go read the whole thing.

Innocents Abroad has a long post on the state of the EU.

And William Kristol sees a once-in-a-generation crisis in the (US) Democratic party, with a developing split between a traditional but patriotic liberals like Gephardt and Lieberman, and a leftist faction that hates Bush Jr. more than it loves America or cares about liberal ideals. He sees parallels with the 1948 split in the Democratic party between an ultra-liberal, "fellow-travelling" faction around Henry Wallace and the liberal (but anti-Marxist) faction around Harry S Truman, but also with the malaise in the Republican Party in the late '90s, where sheer hatred of Bill Clinton seemed to blind the GOP faithful to all other concerns.

Speaking as a non-American: whatever one may think about the behavior of Bill Clinton in "Monicagate" (and I certainly was thoroughly underwhelmed), I think few Americans realize just how much damage was inflicted on the image of the USA abroad by the Starr report and the endless goings-on about it --- not just in Europe (where, by unwritten law, the press considers the 'love' life of politicians off-limits unless it directly endangers their countries --- e.g., affairs with alleged Soviet spies during the Cold War), but particularly outside Europe.

Hypocritic [sic] Oath: A CNN reporter who is also a neurosurgeon dropped camera and mike to assist in an operation on an Iraqi boy. Now some "ethicist" apparently has problems with the journalist not acting as a passive bystander. This is not the first instance of literally demoralized ivory-tower ethicism I have seen, and I am afraid it won't be the last.

And on to literally "demoralized" esthetics: author Martin Amis gets a well-deserved fisking for apparently having compared Saddam Hussein to Winston Churchill. Amis and Dawkins have one thing in common: an all-consuming hatred of religion that leads them to see 'religious right' consipracies everywhere, and to seek alliances against it with the devil himself if need be.

Hear, hear: a remarkably pro-war op-ed in the far-left LA Weekly, of all places. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)

StrategyPage.com discusses different urban warfare tactics.

Fox News had live TV-quality video from a US armored patrol going along a Baghdad suburban thoroughfare. The air of studied nonchalance (they seemed almost bored with the level of resistance, such as it was) on the part of the troops was just eerie. The juxtaposition with the Iraqi (dis)Information Minister's dispatches could rank with a Samuel Beckett play.
I could not help thinking of the final weeks of the Nazi regime. Hitler's advisors telling him what he wanted to hear (out of sycophancy, or for fear of being shot), ordering elaborate counterattacks with division that had either ceased to exist altogether or had been reduced to battalion strength, his henchmen carrying out all sorts of atrocities in the dying days of the regime,... as well as the Werewolf units (the largely abortive attempt to create a kind-of "fedayin Hitler" force).

According to Sky News, British troops discovered something grisly at an abandoned army base outside Az-Zubayr (24 km. southwest of Basra).

Hundreds of human remains have been discovered by British soldiers in a makeshift morgue in southern Iraq.

The remains, including bundles of bone in strips of military uniform, were found in an abandoned Iraqi military base on the outskirts of Az Zubayr.

It was not known how long the remains had been there.

They will be investigated by forensic specialists as possible evidence of atrocities carried out by [the Saddamite] regime.
British troops found a warehouse with rows of cardboard coffins full of human remains stacked five deep. There was also a book which appeared to contain a handwritten list of the dead.
A neighbouring building reportedly contained catalogues of photographs of the dead, most of whom had died from gunshot wounds to the head.

Others were said to be mutilated beyond recognition, with faces burned and swollen.

A reporter [...] described what appeared to be a "purpose-built shooting gallery" outside. A tiled plinth, about a foot high, stood in a courtyard and the brickwork behind it was riddled with bullets. Behind it was a drainage ditch.

Bags inside the warehouse contained military webbing and foot soles plus an identity card written in Arabic.

In another building, there was a picture of Saddam Hussein, what were believed to be prayer stones and metal hooks on racks hanging from the ceiling.

The discovery was made early Saturday by officers from the 3rd Regiment of the Royal Horse Artillery.

The quotes speak for themselves, I believe.

Friday, April 04, 2003
One of the US's most senior journalists, Washington Post columnist and Atlantic Monthly editor-at-large Michael Kelly, was killed in a Humvee accident in Iraq. His last column for the WaPo appeared yesterday. He is being eulogized on Fox News as I type this; the comments are about his (my compressed version) "being neither liberal nor conservative, with no partisan axe to grind, but always true to his moral convictions". I will sorely miss his writing, and I am not even an American.

UPDATE: The New Republic put one of Kelly's award-winning 1991 dispatches from Gulf War I online as a tribute.

UPDATE 2: Townhall.com has more Michael Kelly columns online. I am somewhat bemused by their claiming him as a "conservative" columnist though ;-)

UPDATE 3: Four more tributes, by Jonathan Chait (UPI, The New Republic); by Jack Shafer at Slate; by David Brooks (Atlantic Monthly, Weekly Standard); and by Peggy Noonan (WSJ).

You thought the BBC was biased? Ribbity Frog, an Israeli blogger who is an Arabic language specialist, checked out the BBC's Arabic language service and found it to be a couple of orders of magnitude worse. The post is followed by several more on the BBC.

For the umpteenth time I lost a long post thanks to Blogger. Perhaps I will bite the bullet and go Movable Type, if the missus will allow me to rent webspace somewhere :-)

Department of Sore Losers. I mentioned a few days ago that the Belgian lower house of parliament had passed an amendment to the "universal jurisdiction in crimes against humanity" law, which in effect restricted the competence of the Belgian courts to cases involving Belgian citizens or residents. This law still had to be approved by the Senate, which is about to go on its pre-election recess. According to De Standaard daily (in Dutch), the Belgian Socialist and Green parties have now requested judicial review by the Council of State (a kind-of constitutional court) in a transparent attempt to filibuster the vote in the Senate. Their argument that the law violates the separation between the legislative and judiciary branches of government leaves me speechless. After all, what do you call the efforts of the "put Sharon on trial" lobby to have the law modified so Sharon could be tried in absentia?

I previously hinted at the "problematic" nature of the Sharon case. Let me briefly recap it. During the Lebanon War, the Christian president-elect Gemayel was assassinated. A Christian militia allied with Israel, entrusted with guarding two Palestinian refugee camps named Sabra and Chatila, went on a revenge killing spree, causing worldwide outrage as well as the largest protest demonstration in Israeli history. In response to public pressure, the Israeli govenment appointed a commission of inquiry led by retired Supreme Court Justice Yitzchak Kahan (not to be confused with extremist anti-Arab politician Meir Kahane). The commission ruled Sharon (then defense minister) indirectly responsible in the sense that he should have foreseen the slaughter and taken steps to prevent it. Sharon was forced to resign as defense minister.

Later TIME Magazine printed an article alleging that Sharon had a more direct responsibility, suggesting that he in effect had knowingly acquiesced in a revenge killing. Sharon sued TIME for libel ["smaad en eerroof in geschrifte"] in a New York court. Under American law, a libel conviction where the plaintiff ["de eiser"] is a public figure requires that the material be (a) materially false ["fundamenteel onwaar"] (not just in details); (b) damaging; (c) malicious ["met kwaad opzet"]. (In cases where the plaintiff is not a public figure, (a) and (b) are sufficient.) The court ruled that the TIME article was both materially false and damaging, but found no proof of malice on the part of the journaist or TIME magazine. (Fortunately for the media industry, mere incompetence des not count as malice.)

Aside from the general problems with unrestricted universal jurisdiction laws (their easily becoming tools for politically motivated "judicial harassment"; cycles of legal retaliation leading to international legal chaos; erosion of national sovereignty;...), and aside from its flimsy merits in their own right (much of the case is based on the evidently self-serving testimony of Elie Hobeika, the commander of the militia that did the killing, who later switched allegiance to the Syrians and most recently died -- with or without assistance -- in a diving accident), the Sharon case involves at least borderline double jeopardy, the facts already having been the subject of both a libel trial and a quasi-judicial body.

UPDATE:Prof. George P. Fletcher comments on FindLaw.com. He raises many of the same issues as I (a non-lawyer) did, and raises one additional point.

Indeed there is a compelling analogy between the jurisdiction of the ICC [International Criminal Court] and federal criminal jurisdiction in civil rights cases. The American federal courts began to prosecute racist crimes when it became clear after the Civil War that Southern states were either unwilling or unable to bring these crimes of white against blacks to justice. The same standard applies in the ICC. The jurisdiction of the international court will apply if the state with primary jurisdiction is "unwilling or unable" to prosecute and convict the offenders.

These limitations on the authority of the International Criminal Court reveal the extraordinary pretensions of universal jurisdiction. Belgium need not have made a determination that Israel was "unwilling or unable" to prosecute Sharon. If they had looked into it, they would have discovered that Israel had made a good faith effort to determine Sharon's criminal responsibility. The blue-ribbon Kahan commission considered the precise question Belgium wants to raise once again: Was Sharon criminally responsible for the 1981 massacres in the Sabra and Shatila detention camp?

The commission found that the Lebanese Phalangist forces were directly responsible, but that Sharon was indirectly responsible, since he had allowed the Phalangist forces to enter the camps. The commission concluded that this indirect responsibility did not amount to criminal negligence, and hence there was no prosecution in Israel.

The International Criminal Court could not, in good faith, ignore the findings of the Kahan commission and decide to prosecute Sharon regardless of Israel's prior determination. Every criminal defendant has the right to avoid double jeopardy - [the specter of being] tried first in one country, and then in another, and then in another - until some court is willing to convict.

The events of the pasy day are just too fast-moving and exciting to keep up with. Instapundit and The Command Post are doing a much better job than I ever could.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003
Barry Rubin, editor of MERIA (Middle East Review of International Affairs), has an op-ed piece in the Jerusalem Post (registration required) that deserves quoting at length:

Simply put: Things thought to apply only to Israel have now been shown to work almost equally against the United States. Problems attributed to an Israeli hasbara weakness also hold true for the mighty and competent American public relations system. Attitudes attributable to anti-Semitism are paralleled by the effects of anti-Americanism.

In short, Israel's situation is by no means unique. Deeper, systemic, problems about how governments, media, and intellectuals function and how they view the world can work against anyone, or at least anyone who deals with the Middle East.

Being a democracy battling a dictatorship earns you little or no special credit, and can be an outright disadvantage. The assumption of the dominant sector in the intellectual class which runs much of academia, the media, and all verbal, opinion-forming sectors of society is that democracies lie about as much as dictatorships, especially if the dictatorship claims "progressive" credentials.

Forcing its own intellectuals and media to voice a single line makes the dictatorship sound popular abroad. Since all Iraqis or Palestinians say the same thing, it must be true. In contrast, a democracy's dissenting voices about its real or imagined shortcomings can be used to undermine its assertions.

To make matters worse, you have the claims of a "people" versus those of a "government." (You can imagine which one the opinion-making class is more likely to believe.)

In addition, since no critical information comes out of a dictatorship, the only way we know it does anything wrong is from its enemies' assertions. All the data, no matter how well-documented, from Israel on Yasser Arafat's backing of terrorism, or from the US on Saddam Hussein's repression and concealment of weapons can be dismissed as partisan.

Then there is the fair-minded "neutrality" of those who shape opinion in the media, academia, and elsewhere. "Patriotism" is identified as a right-wing belief and replaced by its opposite. To doubt, criticize, slander, or at least avoid agreeing with your country's position seems politically courageous and morally noble.
"Why should we assume the US is telling the truth? Let's give equal weight to Saddam Hussein's version."

As a result, if soldiers of a democratic state make a mistake an Israeli or US attack that inadvertently kills civilians they are denounced as something close to war criminals. But if their adversaries torture people to death, employ terrorism or do a dozen other heinous things, the response is, "How do we know it really happened?"
The democratic states must meet a higher standard. Their mistakes matter, and they are held accountable for each and every one.

He continues by poiinting out some parallels between Israel's and the US's international predicament:

  • Both the US and Israel are headed by internationally unpopular leaders against whom virtually any slander can be launched.
  • In both cases the bystanders ridicule the existence of very real threats. Thus the defensive actions can be judged as unnecessary and aggressive.
  • Their enemies are judged with excessive apologetics. Even if the individual leaders of these parties are judged harshly, their actions are excused and those of the US and Israel held in contempt because of what is seen as sympathy for their peoples. Yet it is precisely their own leadership that so impoverishes and endangers those peoples.
  • In talking about either the US and British armies or about the IDF, many people will not hesitate to tell any lie or make any exaggeration. And they will find more innocent, but quite willing, ears to hear them.
  • The fact that their adversaries lose every battle is taken to prove that the US and Israel are bullies. The differences between the two sides' casualty figures are viewed not as showing the foolhardiness of the provocations offered by the weaker side, but as proof of its victimization.
  • In the Arab world, though, the losers are simultaneously victims and heroes, whose victory is proclaimed up to the moment of total, undeniable defeat.
  • In Europe there are many who wrongly believe that hating the US and Israel will make the Arabs love them and pay them, and not kill them.

The information/hasbara battle is unwinnable not because of ineptness but because Arab and many European governments, all of the Arab and much of the European media, and a large part of the world's intellectual class will not give you a fair chance. They will quickly declare your intentions bad, your leaders dishonorable, your plans unworkable, and your efforts unsuccessful.

And had I been writing a satirical novel about the EUrocracy, I would have discarded this bit as unrealistic.

Jonathan Last has some observations on "foreign" correspondents at home and abroad.

In a twist of delicious irony, a radical enviromaniac group defaced US Army vehicles in support of you-know-who. Two commenters point out the delicious irony of the situation:

[(not Tony) Blair] The Earth Liberation Front must have missed the oil well fire thing in Kuwait ten years ago. The logic behind their existence seems flawed. Maybe they could use a new slogan.... how about

No Reason for Pacifists.

[Andrew X] The violence of “peace” activists is quite pertinent, but it is not the most significant dichotomy here. Most significant, along with the de facto alliance between Green Parties and Socialists, is their categorical willingness to abandon at whim their very purpose for being…. that is, “protecting our environment”.

The havoc wreaked upon this world by “socialist” regimes, and tyrannies in general, staggers the mind. The death of the Aral Sea in Soviet Central Asia is one of the greatest environmental catastrophes of human history, and has destroyed a region the size of the Great Lakes area. Not to mention Chernobyl, built under laws that put “people above profits”. The environmental comparisons of East vs. West Germany, and North vs. South Korea, are glaringly telling. Saddam himself drained enourmous wetlands of the Tigris in order to kill and displace large numbers of Shiites, which is a twofer, when you think about it. Destroying the environment specifically in order to destroy human beings.

Not so funny. British war memorial defaced in France (pictures too disgusting to include here).Not surprisingly, according to an opinion poll published in The Times of London, 54% of all British no longer regard France as a close ally. (Duh.) They quote another poll in Le Monde, according to which only 1/3 of all French is rooting for a Coalition victoriy, and 1/3 of all French is rooting for Sod-Damn Insane. Either they held their opinion poll in Sarcelles or there is something rotten in the state of France. (Duh2.)

Steven Den Beste pretty much sums up my own feelings on the matter. In an update, he refers to an anonymous commenter on Donald Sensing's site who left the following "updated" version of "In Flanders' Fields":

In France's fields the ingrates grow
Who stain the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and on the stone
Their marks, bid us depart, our sacrifice
Scarce felt amid the hate they sow.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our grave from the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
And don't break faith with us who died.
We cannot sleep, when ingrates grow
In France's fields.

Like Merde in France, I give the last picture to the Dissident Frogman:

And now for something completely different. April Fools Day is apparently a French invention.

The French connection to April Fools' Day is no joke. It all started in 1564, when King Charles IX of France adopted the Gregorian calendar, thereby switching the New Year's Day to Jan. 1.

Up until then, Europe used the Julian calendar and held New Year's celebrations around the spring equinox, on dates ranging from March 21 to April 1.

But news of King Charles' edict spread rather slowly — especially in small towns. And, as always, the French held tight to their old traditions and defiantly celebrated New Year's on the old date.

The result: calendar chaos. Suddenly, that old excuse, "I'll pay you next year," took on even less significance.

Parisians grew frustrated and mocked these backward bumpkins as Poisson d'Avril, or "April Fish". This led to expressions of sarcasm, then gag gifts, and the rest, as they say, is history.

It's still a favorite prank among French kids is to tape a paper fish to the backside of an unsuspecting rube.

Se non e vero, e bene trovato. (Roughly: "If it's not true, it's still a good story.")

Belgium not the world's supreme court after all. According to the Gazet van Antwerpen (in Dutch, see also here and my previous entries here and here), a new amendment to the controversial Belgian "universal jurisdiction" law was approved by an ad hoc alternate majority ("wisselmeerderheid") in the Chamber of Representatives. (The previous vote was just in the relevant Chamber Commission, the present one in the Plenum.)
Under the terms of the new amendment, Belgian courts still have universal jurisdiction in genocide cases, but only if Belgian citizens or longtime residents (at least 3 years) are involved.

Socialist and Green lawmakers attempted to introduce a "grandfather clause" under which the old legislation would still apply to cases opened prior to July 1, 2002. In this manner, the case against Bush Sr. and Colin Powell would still have been canned, but not the one against Israeli PM Ariel Sharon. In the end, liberal-democrat lawmakers prevailed (with support from Christian Democrats and the far-rightist Flemish Block) and the new restrictions will be retroactive, in effect quashing both cases.

UPDATE: De Standaard (thanks, R.!) has additional details. If no Belgian citizens or residents are involved, the courts have the option to forward the case to the judiciary of the country involved, provided that it has a "similar" judicial system. The vote went 63 ayes against 48 nays (Socialists, Greens, and two CDH [formerly PSC, French-speaking Christian Democrats] ) and 9 abstentions (five CDH, Socialist Fred Erdman, VU-ID [Flemish Nationalist] whip Frieda Brepoels and the former Spirit faction [Flemish nationalist, recently merged with liberal-democrats]).

?QUE? Belgian foreign minister Louis Michel calls US war planning "unprofessional". There's stiff competition for the Nobel Prize for chutzpah (and particulary the French candidates have soared to cosmic heights), but "the only bull to bring his own china shop" surely makes the shortlist of candidates.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003
Strategypage.com has a rolling blog on GW II. Scroll down about two-thirds of the way to March 29, and the entry entitled "What Saddam learned from Serbia, Stalin, and the SS" (no permalink available).

Guess who's pro-war: leftist and civil libertarian Nat Hentoff of The Village Voice.

And my heartiest congratulations to blogger Stefan Sharkansky for being called "more frightening than WMDs" by al-Ghardiyan. That's roughly the Blogosphere's equivalent of being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Sod-Damn Insane was supposed to have delivered another speech -- then in the end it was read out by the Minister of Disinformation. My guess is the [expletives deleted] is alive but wounded beyond camouflaging, and being by all accounts pathologically vain, he would not show up on TV in that state. The speech was the usual rant and rave.

A Shiite cleric getting interviewed on Fox News claims that the suicide taxi driver was in fact not enthusiastic but pressed into doing this by the threat that his whole family would be killed otherwise (presumably with the usual "creativity" on the part of the executioners). Look up "Sippenhaft" in your Dictionary of the Third Reich.

Live in Brussels has a handy round-up of the positions of the Belgian political parties on the war.

April Fools Day over at Blogger and Blogrolling.com, huh? ;-)

In the spirit of the day, here is the "Transnational Progressivist" successor to the Socialist anthem the "Internationale"

Words by Neil Peart, Music by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson
Performed by Rush on the album "Hemispheres"

There is unrest in the Forest
There is trouble with the trees
For the Maples want more sunlight
And the Oaks ignore their pleas

The trouble with the Maples
(And they're quite convinced they're right)
They say the Oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light
But the Oaks can't help their feelings
If they like the way they're made
And they wonder why the Maples
Can't be happy in their shade?

There is trouble in the forest
And the creatures all have fled
As the Maples scream `Oppression!`
And the Oaks, just shake their heads

So the Maples formed a Union
And demanded equal rights
'The Oaks are just too greedy
We will make them give us light'
Now there's no more Oak oppression
For they passed a noble law
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet,
And saw ...

Prof. Ira Straus runs an Einsteinian "Gedankenexperiment": What if you could feed truth serum to a "peace" protestor?. Read the thing, print it out, then hang it above your desk Let me just quote the conclusion:

"It is time to admit it. We are not the Peace Movement. We are not the Environmental Movement. We are not the Human Rights Movement. We are plain and simply the Anti-America Movement. And the Anti-West Movement.

"We have an unerring nose for figuring out how to hurt the West. Our language games in our internal discussions, with all our code words about what is 'progressive' and what is 'reactionary' or 'imperialist' or 'corporate' or 'racist' or 'foundationalist' or whatever -- they all come down in practice to ways of invalidating any Western interests and validating every interest that is damaging to the West.

"We make sure the code words are used only in this way. It seems by now everyone instinctively understands that's how these words are to be used. Let us face it: what 'political correctness' is about isn't protecting minorities, it's about demonizing the West and privileging anything that's Anti-West. It's a tool for channeling people into an anti-Western course.

"So now that we see who we really are and it's not a pretty picture, what should we do with ourselves? We have always spoken in the name of all the sacred causes: Peace, Justice, Love, Humanity, Freedom, Environment. Now we must begin the hard work of figuring out how actually to serve these causes in a real world that is completely different from the one of our propaganda. And how to choose among them when they conflict.

"We will have to stop thinking issues are simple. We'll have to evaluate our choices by the evidence, not live in a cocoon of praise for our in-group and vilification of outsiders. In fact, we will have to stop thinking as a 'we' and get back to the rigors of individual moral responsibility. And we will have to practice finding our way to the right side of issues, after years of practicing the opposite."