Brian O'Connell

on war, politics, and stuff - go to the new blog

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06/09/2002 - 06/16/2002
06/16/2002 - 06/23/2002
06/23/2002 - 06/30/2002
06/30/2002 - 07/07/2002
07/07/2002 - 07/14/2002
07/14/2002 - 07/21/2002
09/15/2002 - 09/22/2002
09/22/2002 - 09/29/2002
10/06/2002 - 10/13/2002
10/13/2002 - 10/20/2002
10/20/2002 - 10/27/2002
12/29/2002 - 01/05/2003
01/05/2003 - 01/12/2003
01/12/2003 - 01/19/2003
01/19/2003 - 01/26/2003
01/26/2003 - 02/02/2003
02/23/2003 - 03/02/2003
06/22/2003 - 06/29/2003
06/29/2003 - 07/06/2003
07/06/2003 - 07/13/2003
07/13/2003 - 07/20/2003
07/20/2003 - 07/27/2003
08/10/2003 - 08/17/2003
08/17/2003 - 08/24/2003
08/24/2003 - 08/31/2003
08/31/2003 - 09/07/2003
09/07/2003 - 09/14/2003
11/09/2003 - 11/16/2003
11/16/2003 - 11/23/2003
11/23/2003 - 11/30/2003
11/30/2003 - 12/07/2003
12/07/2003 - 12/14/2003
12/14/2003 - 12/21/2003
12/28/2003 - 01/04/2004
01/11/2004 - 01/18/2004
02/01/2004 - 02/08/2004
03/28/2004 - 04/04/2004

Response to Prominent Americans (Not in Our Name)

Complexity and Universal Truth

From Multiculturalism to Anti-Americanism in Six Easy Steps

Andrew Sullivan

A Nickel's Worth of Free Advice

Armed and Dangerous

Asymmetrical Information

Beauty of Gray

Belmont Club

Bjørn Stærk blog


Cinderella Bloggerfeller

Cold Fury




Dr. Weevil

Eject! Eject! Eject!



it comes in pints?


Little Green Footballs

LILEKS (James)

Man Without Qualities

Matt Welch

Michael J. Totten

My Two Cents

Natalie Solent

Oliver Willis


Public Nuisance

Sgt. Stryker's Daily Briefing

Shadow of the Hegemon

Steven Chapman

The CounterRevolutionary

The Machinery of Night


The Truth Laid Bear

Tim Blair

Twisted Spinster

USS Clueless


Winds of Change.NET


Leftists and Islamists

Will the left ultimately end up being consumed by Islamism? When I first read about it, the idea of a coalition between the hard left and Islamism seemed as outrageous to me as cooperation between Saddam and al-Qaeda seems to anti-war types. I was probably being overly generous to the left. I was aware that communists of various stripes were behind the Iraqi war protests and that they met up there with Islamists and those pushing anti-Judaism. But I didn't think it likely that the hard left would voluntarily put aside its radical egalitarianism and secularism and find common cause with a fascist religous movement.

From the excellent Belmont Club back in September:
The hollowing out of the Left -- the death of its Bolshevik core -- is one of the great unwritten stories of the late twentieth century. The decline of the cadre of professional revolutionaries at its center was simultaneously matched by the inrush from the periphery of the network of sympathizers, fellow travelers and "useful fools" which it once adopted as protective coloration.

The corpse of the Left has already been twitched aside by Islam, which refers to it only in the past tense. All that remains in its path is the United States of America, behind whom the feeble stragglers from Marxism's golden age shelter, still resentful, still self-important and still contemptible.

At the time, I didn't really buy it. I didn't doubt that the left was essentially empty of ideas- the wistful daydreaming on the left for some alternative to capitalism that hasn't already been discredited, as voiced by Katrina vanden Heuvel, for instance, demonstrated that to my satisfaction. But I did doubt that any on the left woud be tempted to fill this void with Islamism and its overt fascism. A few days ago, however, came this account of the European Social Forum, which met in Paris last week, by Christopher Caldwell writing in the Weekly Standard (via Sullivan):
But the EU is one of the world's institutions that appears the most tottering, confused, and unsure of itself, and it may be ripe for hijacking. Particularly now that the Social Forum movement has linked up with a force that has all the energy and clarity of purpose that it lacks, a force that is not boring or programmatic at all: Islam.

THIS LINKAGE TAKES MANY FORMS. Muslims were hugely overrepresented among the Social Forum's delegates; they even comprised a large chunk--perhaps a majority--of the American speakers. Perhaps this is unsurprising given the role played in this radical ideology by the American occupation of Iraq (universally opposed) and Palestinian terror against Israel (almost universally supported).

Here's Belmont Club again, on the big event:
Yet the admission of Ramadan into the Social Forum, at first a mere gesture of Leftist solidarity towards Islam, showed instead how far the equilibrium between them had shifted. Ramadan, far from acting the part of the token Ayatollah, swiftly proved he had the power to rearrange the agenda of the Leftist forum itself.

The picture being drawn is that a lost or dying movement is trying to draw energy from a rising movement. Some on the left think they can use the power of Islamist anger and channel it to their own ends. That it may be the Islamists who have the strength to drive the agenda, because of their greater confidence and ruthlessness, seems not to be a primary concern. I am reminded of how German communists were taken advantage of by the Nazis in their rise to power.

Here's leftist writer George Monbiot, writing about the emptiness at the center of the left in a Guardian forum (though he wouldn't characterize it that way):
I haven't spelt out a position on this, simply pointed to one of the problems we encounter in trying to formulate an "anti-capitalist" ideology. And I have not given up the search for an answer; I'm just aware that the search and the answer are gravely constrained by a pretty intractable reality.

He's knows what he's against but Monbiot has only a vague notion about what he's for. But don't worry, he's still searching. Meanwhile, in the intro to that forum, the Guardian writes of Monbiot (via LGF):
As well as involvement in the World and European Social Forums, Monbiot is currently in discussions with a coalition of Stop the War, George Galloway, trades unions, the Muslim Association of Britain and others on forming a parliamentary opposition to the mainstream political parties.

The Muslim Association of Britain is an offshoot of Egypt's notorious Muslim Brotherhood. I guess the question is, how much of the answer that Monbiot and others like him are searching for will be provided by Islamism? Or does Monbiot think that the left can use Islamism's energy at no cost? A UK website called Chartist dedicated to "people active in radical politics" posted an article, apparently back in May about this. The writer is trying to convince the left to put aside any worries they may have about Islamists. Here's the intro:
A different coalition has emerged on the streets of Britain in opposition to the Iraq war. But Adam Riaz Khan argues that the left and Muslims must learn to build on their shared anti-capitalism.

Khan writes:
It is important that progressive left wing forces capitalise on the rise in political consciousness of the Muslim community and in particular the Muslim youth who flooded the streets of East London on the day that war with Iraq began.

Stop the War Coalition has indeed realised that the time has come for revolutionary purist attitudes to be abandoned.

Note the appeal to Islamism's vitality and youth. In order to tap into that energy, so lacking on the left, the purist attitudes that the left needs to abandon presumbaly include objections to religous totalitarianism. Of course the left is no stranger to totalitarianism, but they tend to prefer the leftist version of it. But to defeat capitalism, they'll work with people who favor the theocratic version. And hope for the best afterwards.

What will come of all this I couldn't possibly say. But it is a perfect demonstration of Blair's Law in action: the ongoing process by which the world's multiple idiocies are becoming one giant, useless force.


The Scandal Deepens

We have all discovered, to our horror, that the turkey Bush held was not actually served to the troops, and may not even have been edible. But this scandal gets even worse. You know that platter of perfect desserts that the waiter brings around after the entree? I've learned from a trusted source that none of those is the dessert that you'll get if you order one. It's shameful but true, folks.


Geek Post

Thanks be to the Prophets (or wormhole aliens, depending on one's point of view) and the shapeshifters at, the seventh, and sadly, last season of Deep Space Nine arrived at the homestead yesterday. Ahh, every episode, every line, every frame, and it's finally mine, all mine!

After the the excitement died down, I realized, geez, I've spent $700 on Star Trek this year. But the cases look really cool all lined up on the shelf!

And by the way, DS9 is the best of all Treks. It's not even close.


Funerals as a Weapon

There’s lots of talk on the net about the complaints that President Bush hasn't attended any funerals for military personnel killed in Iraq. Charles Krauthammer and Andrew Sullivan have commented on the very appropriate reasons why Bush has not done so. John Cole looks at the history of Presidents attending such funerals and finds that there isn't much of one.

Krauthammer says of the Ba'athist/Islamist mix in Iraq that "They have only one way of winning: by making U.S. casualties so painful that America decides to give up and go home." Unfortunately, many on the hard left have the same immediate goal as the Ba'athists and Islamists. They want the U.S. to give up and go home. Perhaps most of them do not wish for an increase in U.S. casualties (though there are definitely some who do), but they are quite willing to use what deaths there are to further their goals. It is not political or electoral damage to Bush that they are primarily after, though they'll take that if they can get it, but rather U.S. failure in Iraq. And like the Ba'athists and Islamists, they believe U.S. deaths can deliver this.

To amplify the effects of these deaths, they need the media. The media in turn is always hungry for new pictures and new controversies. To get these pictures, many in the media left complained about the ban on taking pictures of caskets being unloaded at Dover AFB. The Dover idea didn't go very far and peaked relatively early, because it was seen primarily as a media issue. It had no traction in the public's imagination. It was at that point that the complaints about funerals began to take off.

The thought of leftists concerned that the President might not be honoring the sacrifice of service members sufficiently is ludicrous just on its own, but the early focus on pictures from Dover, which have nothing to do with Bush recognizing sacrifice, seals the deal for me. Most of these complaints have nothing to do with the President honoring troops and everything to do with keeping U.S. casualties as the top story on TV, with pictures. Where the President goes, cameras follow, so let's try to get him to go to funerals.

To be sure, many people who’ve bought into the idea of the President attending funerals do not share the anti-U.S. goal. I'm not claiming that everyone who voices that complaint wishes to see America fail there. But the people buying into the idea are certainly useful to those who wish to see a failure in Iraq- the anti-globalists, anti-capitalists, anti-liberals, tranzis, and the old guard anti-war peaceniks. Except for the last group, most of these want the U.S. to lose the war in Iraq because of ideology and their version of geopolitics. Funerals should not become a weapon in their fight against the U.S.


Background Info

I ripped off this background, which I call 50's green, from Andrea at Too Much to Dream, who's long been on my blogroll (and this therefore gives me permission to steal from her- but not her bandwidth). Cool formica, huh? I plan on switching it out every so often (or sooner if Andrea yells at me), since my bizzarre blog format seems to be begging for some kind of backdrop.


Madsen Responds (Poorly)

Wayne Madsen responds publicly to the thoroughly debunked 6 am Thanksgiving dinner story with an article at Counterpunch titled Wagging the Media. Does Madsen admit he made a gross error in judgment? Does Madsen say he should have investigated a spurious 5 am landing typo before ranting about it? Does Madsen aver to do better in the future? Is the Pope Jewish?

Madsen's article is difficult to read. But I think I grasped his main points. The article is a mish-mash of buck-passing, doubt-raising, and red herring-throwing. Let's take a look at each in turn, shall we?

Instead of admitting that he is at fault for his own error, Madsen seeks to place the blame elsewhere.
The consequence of the Bush White House's cutting a secret deal with cherry picked reporters in the White House press pool was predictable. By cutting out editors and bureau chiefs from the reporting process, one of the first news reports about President Bush's secret trip to Baghdad, by Mike Allen of The Washington Post, one of the few reporters invited to fly on board Air Force One and with the strict provision he could not tell his editor or bureau chief in Washington, muddied the waters for people anxious for details about the trip.

We don't know whether the 5 am typo which appeared in the Washington Post on Friday, November 28 was a result of Mike Allen's inability to inform his editor about the trip beforehand. In fact, the raw reportage which appeared at Drudge's site on Thursday, November 27 includes no such typo. It may well be that it's an editor who is responsible for the typo.

But besides that, how can Madsen blame a typo on Bush's insisting that reporters not inform their editors of the trip, when Counterpunch's alleged editors, who Bush did not separate in any way from Madsen, allowed such a ridiculously sourced diatribe to appear in the pages of Counterpunch?

He also says:
Outrageously, by Sunday, November 30, the Post still had not corrected its error.

Well, at least he admits someone made an error. Not him, but there is an error somewhere in this sorry episode. 'Course, as an "investigative journalist", Madsen might have done some investigating before publishing a rant based on a typo, which is itself contradicted elsewhere in the Washington Post piece. In any case, this is the closest Madsen comes to admitting that his earlier article is wrong, so I guess we should be thankful.

In order for the 'controversy' over facts to seem legitimate, Madsen brings up various minutiae. Here's something:
Then there is the very odd time line for the visit that CNN, which was not included on the press pool manifest, filed on Wednesday, November 26, the day before the actual landing in Baghdad. The time line, retrieved from Nexis, with a load date of November 28, contains the departure times from Waco, Texas and Andrews Air Force Base. Fair enough. That could have been filed on the 26th, although it would have been rather late, 11:06 pm EST. But the CNN report also contains the landing time in Baghdad (5:31 pm Baghdad time) and the departure time (8:00 pm Baghdad time). Was the White House visit so carefully scripted, the arrival and departure times in Baghdad were known a day in advance?

While it's good to see that Madsen has been scouring Nexis for any kind of ambiguity to save his skin, does he really think that CNN reporters filed exact arrival and departure times of the Baghdad visit on the 26th? I don't subscribe to Nexis, but doesn't a 'load date' of the 28th mean anything to him? Also, he can't complain that CNN's reporters and editors were locked out of the story and simultaneously complain that CNN is filing stories about the event before the events took place.

Madsen writes at length about which route Air Force One took, as if that had anything to do with whether Bush arrived in early morning or early evening. There is ambiguity in the reporting. Why the reporting in this case is different from any other nebulous soon-after-the-fact reporting isn't mentioned. Witnesses and reporters were speaking extemporaneously on TV all day. Madsen would have us believe that all of this is some kind of evidence:
Allen later told CNN that none of the on-board pool reporters were able to file their stories until Air Force One got above 10,000 feet. In the same interview, he stated that the reporters were not permitted to file until Air Force One had cleared "airspace." If he meant Iraqi airspace, it is doubtful that the aircraft would have been flying in Iraqi airspace at 10,000 feet and then ascended over Syria or Turkey. More inconsistencies in a story so full of holes it could pass for a piece of Swiss cheese.

I don't believe that Madsen thinks that this really demonstrates a cover-up of a morning dinner.

In the most desperate part of his response, Madsen writes:
Agence France Presse also reported from Crawford that hours after Air Force One landed in Texas, a local tourist shop was selling pins depicting the encounter between Air Force One and a British Airways plane. Ironically, the image of Air Force One, according to the French wire service, is shown flying into the sunset, something that only happened if it flew west, not east. Unless it was flying into sunrise. Did Allen make a typo in his report of a morning landing? Not if the crack souvenir makers in Crawford are to be believed.

Madsen recruits "crack" Crawford souvenir-makers to help build the case for an a.m. landing, just in case. Yes, you read that correctly.

Red Herring-Throwing
No surprises here. Madsen brings up Nigerian yellowcake, the Lincoln landing, and Jessica Lynch. None of which has anything to do with the time of day Bush was in Baghdad. The purpose of this is to rally his own troops to his side, reminding them that even if the Bush administration wasn't deceitful in this instance, they have been plenty of other times, so let's not dwell on who was right or wrong in this instance. Overall, Madsen's on the right side, so an apology for factual errors isn't required.

Not once do the words apology, sorry, or retraction appear anywhere in this article. That's the bottom line, and that's what makes Madsen a pretty poor journalist. The only credible response he could have made after his erroneous article was published would have been to write, yes, I based this article on faulty evidence, the claims I made were untrue, and I regret the error. By not responding that way, he's only made a bad situation worse.

Update: The WSJ's Best of the Web Today takes note of this.

Update: Mark Steyn writes about the Madsen affair (if I may) in The Telegraph, UK. Now that I'm internationally famous, you must all call me Mr. O'Connell. And avert your eyes.

Update: John Podhoretz has an op-ed piece in the NY Post. And there was much rejoicing.

Update: The Washington Post has issued the correction. It's posted with the article itself and reads, "A Nov. 28 article about President Bush's trip to Baghdad misstated his arrival time. It was about 5:30 p.m. Baghdad time." Looks like it's the blue pill this time.


A Complaint from Iran

Steven Den Beste has been doing some cold, Jacksonian calculating about what it would take for the US to go nuclear in this war, and what the consequences may be. A guy (?) from Tehran later wrote Den Beste that it all seems to much like an American "final solution." I understand the concern, or horror, even, but I believe Den Beste's response is correct (as I frequently do). Anyway there was something about the letter that caught my eye. Here are a few lines:
How many people are you willing to see killed and still view yourself as a force for Good? How much torture are you going to tolerate in the interest of some anticipated favorable future outcome?

The first question concerns American action. The point is that people are being killed now in the war, and many more may die later. How many is too much for us?

The second question concerns American inaction. How much torture and killing from third parties is too much for us, presumably before we do something about it?

Here we have the two of the main complaints against the US: damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

I'd like to know from such people what exactly they'd like the US to do about the average horrible dictatorship. Taking them out with our military, or supporting militant rebels seems to be off the table because that would require killing, and imperialism, and US hegemony and all those bad things. Leaving them be also seems to be off the table because that requires some level of support, tacit or active, for rights violations, torture, and murder and all of those bad things.

Previously, during the cold war, we decided between those two options based on the left/right leanings of the dictatorship. But that's no longer a meaningful measure.

About the US level of support for dictatorships, I don't think that there is a place on the spectrum between total economic sanction and military containment on one hand (think pre-war Iraq), and total economic engagement and military support on the other (think Egypt) that would satisfy everyone. Regarding a dictatorship somewhere in the middle, like Zimbabwe, the calls for us to turn up the heat seem to dominate. There won't be a position on this spectrum that everyone will agree upon for a particular dictatorship. Rather we can only balance between those demanding that we be more harsh and those demanding more engagement.

Peaceful engagement would seem a good way of resolving these issues. It involves diplomatic pressure, economic incentives, cultural exchanges and the like. But this takes decades if it works at all, and there's an awful lot of torture and killing going on in the meantime. Look at China, and the complaints about our relationship with it.

Which horrible dictatorship has the US handled best? If someone complaining about the US doing too little or too much could answer that question, maybe we could adapt our policies to other countries using the same principles.

While of course US foreign policy could stand some improvement, I think the central issue here is America's hyperpower status. In places where the political and economic situations are far from good, it's easy to see US sins, whether sins of commision or sins of ommission, as being the primary cause of that misery. That's why I don't expect any serious answers to any of these questions. If the US had the perfect attitude towards such dictatorships, then no one could complain about it. Perfection not being available on this planet, there will always be some US failure to point to.

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© 2002-2004
Brian O'Connell,
for what it's worth.