The Nudnik File

Nudnik - n. U.S. colloq. Esp. in Jewish usage: a pestering, nagging, or irritating person

Friday, April 30, 2004

              Powell's Occupation of Iraq
It is always difficult, and often pointless, to go back in history and say "what if". And in part, Barbara Lerner's article in National Review suffers from this issue. On the other hand, it is important to identify mistakes and evaluate what can be done differently in the future. This is especially true when the mistakes are used as fodder for attacks against individual politicians.

Attacks against Rumsfeld have intensified as the situation in Iraq has gotten more difficult and it is important to realize and publicize that the fault does not lie entirely with him.
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              Niger from Uranium
In last year's State of the Union speech Bush brought up Iraq's attempt to buy Uranium from Africa as a reason for the necessity of invading. This claim was was criticized as unsubstantiated by the "anti-war" crowd, and especially Joe Wilson, the diplomat that the Bush Administration sent to Niger to investigate Iraq's attempts to procure the "yellow-cake". British Intelligence, which was the source of this claim asserted that the information was correct and continued standing behind it despite the very vocal criticisms. Now the same Joe Wilson has written a book (who hasn't at this point) and it turns out that British Intelligence was correct, the Washington Post reports:

"It was Saddam Hussein's information minister, Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf, often referred to in the Western press as "Baghdad Bob," who approached an official of the African nation of Niger in 1999 to discuss trade -- an overture the official saw as a possible effort to buy uranium.

That's according to a new book Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador who was sent to Niger by the CIA in 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq had been trying to buy enriched "yellowcake" uranium. Wilson wrote that he did not learn the identity of the Iraqi official until this January, when he talked again with his Niger source.

This is just another in the long line of things that the "anti-war" crowd has gotten wrong. Does this mean that it was they who "lied"?
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              Flying the Friendly Skies
Ann Coulter writes today about the ridiculousness that is airline security. A bit shrill, but some good lines.
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Thursday, April 29, 2004

              The Silence is Deafening
The Wall Street Journal raises a good point in today's editorial about the attack that was averted in Amman last week - why is no one talking about the fact that al Qaeda terrorists planned to launch an attack with chemical weapons. Their answer to this question is:

Perhaps the problem here is that covering this story might mean acknowledging that Tony Blair and George W. Bush have been exactly right to warn of the confluence of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Jordan's King Abdullah called it a "major, major operation" that would have "decapitated" his government. "Anyone who doubts the terrorists' desire to obtain and use these weapons only needs to look at this example," said Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

It is also interesting to note that these chemicals were brought into Jordan from Syria, a country that has been accused by both Israel and the US of taking in and hiding WMDs that Saddam shipped out before the war.
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              The End of Al-Sadr's Rebellion
Stratfor (registration required) has a very interesting and optimistic analysis of Al-Sadr's rebellion. Al-Sadr's mentor, Grand Ayatollah Kazem Hossein Haeri who is based in Iran, has unexpectedly withdrawn support for Al-Sadr's rebellion and attacks against Coalition forces. This is a very important move since it shows that the mainstream Shiites are distancing themselves from Al-Sadr, and that this uprising is coming to an end.

At its core, the statement signals that the Iranians still want to work with the United States in managing Iraq. This is no small achievement for Washington. Since Iraq's population is majority Shia, any permanent resolution in Iraq will be colored by U.S.-Iranian relations.

Second, the statement makes clear that the portion of the Islamic leadership most tightly affiliated with al-Sadr feels he is overstepping his religious and political bounds. Haeri's statement could mean Iran will try to rein in al-Sadr; if they fail, they will not interfere when the United States moves against him.

Finally, and more speculatively, it is possible that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is nearing an agreement with the United States to defuse the situation in An Najaf. The recent U.S. agreement with the Sunnis of Al Fallujah is likely a key factor pushing al-Sistani's negotiations with Washington. Al-Sistani will not be outflanked by the Sunnis if he can help it, which is exactly why Washington made the Al Fallujah deal in the first place. Iran wants an Iraq that is whole, at peace, Shiite-controlled and Iranian influenced -- not one that resembles the wrong side of the gates of hell. They do, after all, live next door.

The best way to make the 30-year-old al-Sadr simmer down is to send him a blunt message from his mentor -- the same mentor whose backing allowed al-Sadr to advance his position to its current level.

In short, this move demonstrates that Iran -- despite all posturing -- continues to work with the United States to attain its goals of a unified Iraq dominated by its Arab Shiite allies. While Iran and the Iraqi Shia might be able to achieve most of what they had hoped for, the real winner in this latest round is the United States. Sunnis are patrolling Sunnis in Al Fallujah, Iranian Shia are reining in Iraqi Shia, and for the first time in weeks, there is a serious possibility that no major combat will take place anywhere in the country.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2004

There have been many suggestions of what we must do to triumph in this war against Islamofascism, ranging from a total war of annihilation to acceding to the demands of the Arab world. In this article from the Asia Times, Spengler proposes another strategy - humiliation.

"Radical Islam has risen against the West in response to its humiliation - intentional or not - at Western hands. The West can break the revolt by inflicting even worse humiliation upon the Islamists, poisoning the confidence of their supporters in the Muslim world."

Spengler goes on to make a point that I would disagree with, namely that the West may withdraw because our populations will be horrified at the scale of the destruction that we may cause - Vietnam being given as an example. Times have changed a lot since that war and many people see this as a war of survival for us, especially given the numerous attacks on the US and its allies, whereas Vietnam was one of choice.

According to Spengler, a small example of the start of the humiliation that the West must impose on Islamists is Bush's support of Sharon's plan to keep the West Bank settlements, and his open rejection of the Palestinian "right of return".

"A host of Western commentators attacked President George W Bush for taking the Israeli side over settlements and the Palestinian right of return, on the grounds that it humiliated the Arab world, and a plethora of Muslim voices bemoan their humiliation at the hands of the United States.

Much, much more is to come. The "rope-a-dope" tactic Dr Mansoor cites can work both ways. Israel offers many things to Washington, including Arab-language translators, intelligence operatives, and tactical expertise in urban search-and-destroy missions. But its transcendent value to American strategy lies not in what it does, but what it is, namely an ever-present source of humiliation to the Muslim sense of self-worth. The price of recalcitrance, Bush has told the Palestinians and indirectly the Arab world at large, is that some part of the Dar al-Islam has fallen to Jewish hands for the indefinite future."

If the West can continue to humiliate the Islamists, their supporters will eventually lose faith in that ideology, and the West will have triumphed. This will require the abandonment of our "political correctness" toward Islam, because if we don't we will never be able to convince our enemies of our determination and their powerlessness.
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              Historical Comparisons
One of the main problems in the perception of current US policies among a large segment of the population, specifically US policies in the Middle East, is the general lack of historical knowledge. Most people know very little about this region which now occupies so much of our attention. Yet, regardless of their lack of knowledge, most have an opinion and express it fairly vocally.

Victor Hanson imagines the questions that Abraham Lincoln would have received during a press conference.
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David Brooks, in yesterday's New York Times column, points to an important problem affecting Washington: the unseriousness with which much of Washington approaches the current war that we are in. Many have posited that the current battles in Fallujah and Najaf could very well be the defining battles of our attempt to transform Iraq. Yet much of the attention is on other "issues":

"And for the past 10 days, all of Washington has been kibitzing over the contents of Bob Woodward's latest opus, which largely concerns events that happened between 2001 and 2003. Did President Bush eye somebody else's dinner mint at a meeting? Was Colin Powell in the loop on Iraq? When did Bush ask the Pentagon to draw up war plans?

This is crazy. This is like pausing during the second day of Gettysburg to debate the wisdom of the Missouri Compromise. We're in the midst of the pivotal battle of the Iraq war and le tout Washington decides not to let itself get distracted by the ephemera of current events.

Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did at least hear testimony last week on the political transition in Iraq. But they might as well have held hearings on the supplemental reappropriation cloture amendment for the deputy assistant under secretary of the Postal Services Review Board for all the media attention they received. No networks, save C-Span, provided coverage. You peered behind the witnesses and the room was practically empty. It looked like a Michael Moore book reading at the Citadel. Only a few papers wrote stories."

Luckily, the American people seem less distracted than their leaders and opinion-makers.
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Tuesday, April 27, 2004

              Amazing what you can get on Ebay
Very funny description of item for sale on Ebay. Read all the way to the end.
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              You know its bad when....
John Kerry's poll numbers have been steadily declining for the past few weeks despite all the negative news for Bush (9/11 commission, Richard Clarke, Woodward's book, problems in Iraq). Things are really not looking good for Kerry at the moment - once again, the usual caveat is that there is still 6 months to go to the election and a lot can happen. But when even the Village Voice says that its time for him to go away, things cant get much worse.

Mark Steyn has a good explanation of why despite all the bad news Bush's keep getting better:

"The left resists this analysis. ''Resolve,'' they say, may sound macho but it's also simplistic. Not necessarily. In today's phony-baloney world, nuanced inertia is the simple choice, the default mode of international diplomacy, of the U.N. and the European Union. When you dig into what's holding up American resolve on Iraq, the people seem to be making more subtle distinctions than their elites.

Thus, the president's numbers aren't affected by the sob sisters of CNN's Baghdad bureau filing their heartrending reports on how thousands of Baathist apparatchiks haven't been paid since they were made redundant from Saddam's Department of Genital Mutilation and Electrode Clamping last April.

U.S. public opinion is hardheaded about this: The welfare of the Iraqi people is a bonus, but the welfare of the American people is the primary objective. That's why the United States went to war.

That's the problem for the Democrats. If ''resolve'' is the issue, can you beat it with ''nuance''? If I had to name the definitive Kerry campaign headline it would be this, from Britain's (left-wing, Kerry-backing) Guardian last week: ''Kerry Says His 'Family' Owns SUV, Not He.'' That Chevy Suburban in the yard has nothing to do with him. Who you gonna believe? A respected senator or your lying eyes?

His statement is true in the sense that his ''family'' (i.e., Teresa) also owns the house and the grounds, and indeed a big chunk of his presidential campaign. But it's hard to claim that your powers of diplomatic persuasion would have won over the French and Germans when you can't even win over your ''family.'' And do Americans want to hand over responsibility for Iraq to someone who won't even take responsibility for the car in his driveway?"

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              Noah's Ark Found (maybe)
Looks like the "Ararat anomaly" may actually be Noah's Ark.
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              Explosions in Damascus
Dow Jones is reporting explosions and gunfire in Damascus, and CNN reporting that hospitals are asking doctors to report for duty.
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              A Palestinian "State"
Mark Steyn has a great column today making fun of Saeb Erekat's WaPo piece about Bush taking his job.

"But, if Bush did "take my job", it’s because Erekat is not up to it. For 10 years, the world has been trying to give a state to the Palestinians and the Palestinians keep tossing obstacles in their path. The latest innovation was a suicide-bomber arrested with explosives bearing HIV-infected blood, the thinking being that anyone who survived would get Aids. Unfortunately, the heat of the explosion kills the virus. But, in his combination of depravity and incompetence, the "Aids bomber" neatly encapsulates the present state of Palestinian "nationalism". The only way the Palestinians will get any kind of state is if Israel and America inflict it on them and eliminate such lethargic middle-men as Mr Erekat.

So Sharon is withdrawing from Gaza, abandoning the settlements and building a wall. This is bad news for those Palestinians who take a more nuanced approach to Jews - who think that, if you accidentally infect yourself while strapping on the HIV bomb, you should have the right to state-of-the-art treatment from an Israeli hospital. But they'll have to make the best of it. Israel has concluded that, if you can't "live in peace" with your neighbour, the priority is to live.

What a strange world the Middle East is. For 10 years, in northern Iraq, the Kurds have run a pleasant, civilized, pluralist, democratic de facto state, but external realities require them to be denied one de jure. For the same period, in the West Bank and Gaza the Palestinian Authority’s thugs, incompetents and bespoke apologists have been lavished with EU aid and transformed their land into an ugly, bankrupt Arafatist squat. But external realities require the world to defer to the "Chairman" as a de jure head of state, lacking merely a state to head."

This brings up an interesting question that is not discussed at all: whose interests would be served by creating a Palestinian state now, and who would benefit from it? It is clear that any Palestinian state set up now would be a disaster; no economy, no law, and no infrastructure would mean that this new state would instantly become an impoverished terrorist haven and breeding ground. Obviously neither Israel, nor the US, nor Europe have an interest in that, and would receive no benefit. Similarly, the Palestinian people would not benefit from being ruled by a despotic, kleptocratic regime. Arafat would not benefit because he would then have the very difficult job of running a state, with all its inherent problems, as opposed to just being a "revolutionary leader"; this is without a doubt one of the reasons that he could not accept Barak's or Clinton's offers. While the "moderate" Arab regimes insist that the Palestinian issue inflames their populations and that its resolution would remove an issue that causes terrorism, this is completely disingenuous. The Arab regimes do not want a resolution in the form of a Palestinian state because then those regimes would have no issue with which to distract their own citizens; and if there is no external distraction, these citizens may start to look closely at their own leaders and realize that they have led them down a dead-end street and that could easily lead to the overthrow of these regimes.

Given all this, it seems that the only possible reason that the issue of a Palestinian state continues to be brought up (especially in Europe and the Arab world) is to beat up on Israel.
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Monday, April 26, 2004

              A New Renewable Energy Source
It looks like we will soon be shitting our way to energy independence.
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              More Polls
There is still 6 months to go before the election so the usual caveat applies, nevertheless, the Washington Times has some interesting polls. It seems that in the key battleground states, and even in some Democratic states, Kerry is either trailing Bush or tied. This is in states that Gore won handily, and which Kerry must win to have any chance to beat Bush. The Kerry camp attributes this to the Bush ads that have been running in these states, and insists that once Kerry starts running ads things will turn around. This could be true, but the Bush campaign has also done a very good job of defining Kerry, before he had the chance to define himself, as a flip-flopping ultra liberal and this could be very difficult for Kerry to undo.
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              Nice Picture
A nice picture, expressing what US soldiers really think. (Notice the patch below the US flag).
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Friday, April 23, 2004

              Is Arafat next?
Sharon today said that at his last meeting with Bush he retracted his promise not to harm Arafat, and is no longer bound by that pledge.

While it is tempting, and without a doubt would be highly satisfying, to kill Arafat it is probably not in Israel's interest to do that now. More likely, it is a threat to create "strategic ambiguity", and thus to discourage groups like Hamas from perpetrating terrorist acts. Arafat sitting where he is, is better for Israel than if he were dead or expelled. If Israel kills him, it will officially spell the end of the PA and Israel would then once again be responsible for actually ruling over the entire West Bank. Expelling him would mean that he travels everywhere and attracts more sympathy. Better to simply cut him off from all contact with the world and leave him to rot in his one room "complex".
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              Who will be the next puppet?
Maariv is reporting that Palestinian "Prime Minister" Qurei is planning to resign along with the entire cabinet. Apparently, they think that this will pressure the US to change its position on Sharon's withdrawal plan. The question is, then, what happens next with the PA. Arafat could appoint a new PM, but as Dennis Ross has said many times, a third PM will not be taken seriously by anyone in the world. Not appointing one would mean going completely against the Bush Administration's demand that a new leadership is necessary. It seems that Sharon has managed to destroy the PA, without actually having to kill Arafat and without any real protestations even from Europe
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              Kerry, the UN, and Iraq
Charles Krauthammer in today's Washington Post column asks some important questions about Kerry's mantra of going to the UN for help on Iraq; what does he mean? how would they help? and why would Iraqis want them?

Never has a more serious question received a more feckless answer. Going back to the U.N.: What does that mean? It cannot mean the General Assembly, which decides nothing. It must mean going back to the Security Council.

There are five permanent members. We are one. The British are already with us. So that leaves China, indifferent at best to our Middle East adventure, though generally hostile, and Russia, which has opposed the war from the very beginning. Moscow was so wedded to Saddam Hussein that it was doing everything it could to prevent an impartial Paul Volcker commission from investigating the corrupt oil-for-food program that enriched Hussein and, through kickbacks, hundreds of others in dozens of countries, including Russia.

That leaves . . . France. What does Kerry think France will do for us? Perhaps he sees himself and Teresa descending on Paris like Jack and Jackie in Camelot days. Does he really believe that if he grovels before Jacques Chirac in well-accented French, France will join us in a war that it has opposed from the beginning, that is now going badly, and that has moved Iraq out of the French sphere of influence and into the American?

All this points to the fact that Kerry really does not have a policy on Iraq, and this is why Bush is gaining in the polls despite all the negative news emanating from there. Americans understand that Kerry is simply not serious, and has no agenda or program; he is not running for something, but merely against Bush.

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Thursday, April 22, 2004

              Looks like its working II
Another sign that there actually is a military solution to terrorism, despite the protestations of the "peace" people.
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              Happy Earth Day
Once again its Earth Day, when all the environmentalists can scare us with their predictions of doom and gloom. Nevermind the fact that over the last 30 years they have been wrong on virtually all their dire predictions. Perhaps the two worst aspects of the environmental movement are its abandonment of scientific rigor in favor of promoting their public policy agenda, and the anti-human nature of the movement.

Without a doubt, a large component of science is public policy, i.e. deciding how to use acquired knowledge to benefit society as a whole. Because of the high regard in which science and scientific inquiry are held by society, scientists have a special responsibility to maintain intellectual honesty. Unfortunately, when it comes to the environment and global warming, this has not been the case. From mercury in fish, to alar on apples, to clean air, to the biggest of all - global warming, the debate has been in essence closed off; dissent or divergence from the consensus is not tolerated, and is either used as evidence of the malevolence of the doubter or simply dismissed. Michael Crichton gave a speech on this a year ago; so its not new, but still relevant.

The anti-human nature of environmentalism is most evident in the radical environmentalists, yet there are definitely traces of it even in the mainstream. It is characterized by subordinating the needs of humans to the "rights" of animals, insects, and plants. A decent article about that is here.
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              Missing Tanker Truck
FoxNews reported last night that the FBI and police are frantically searching for a missing oil tanker truck. With the increased terror warnings over the last few weeks, and the unprecedented conference call that the FBI and Homeland Security held with police of most major cities, this is fairly ominous. Not much written about it anywhere else yet.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2004

              Why they hate us
Walter Mead has an op/ed in today's New York Times on why the Arab world hates the US. His argument is that they hate the US because we do not support the Palestinians or seem to care for their rights. For a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, the arguments that he makes are disingenuous and fatuous. He begins with:

"For the last five weeks I have been traveling through the Middle East, meeting diplomats, officials, policy experts, military leaders, students and ordinary citizens. I learned something very important: the greatest single cause of anti-Americanism in the Middle East today is not the war in Iraq; more surprisingly, it is not even American support for Israel, per se. Rather, it is a widespread belief that the United States simply does not care about the rights or needs of the Palestinian people."

The last phrase is especially problematic; instantly it brings up the question of why don't these various Arab countries "care about the rights and needs of the Palestinian people"? After the war in Iraq, Iraqis expelled thousands of Palestinians, Kuwait in 1991 expelled more than 300,000 Palestinians, King Hussein killed tens of thousands of Palestinians during Black September, and virtually every Arab country where the Palestinians live deprives them of even basic rights. This last point is the most problematic and troubling. With the exception of Jordan, no Arab country allows Palestinians to vote, to hold property, and in some cases to even get an education. Is this caring for "the rights and needs of the Palestinian people"? The Arab world is, or at least at one time was, flush with cash from oil revenues, yet it didn't resettle or integrate the Palestinians among them. In 1948, at the time of Israel's founding, there were around 20 million refugees worldwide. All of them have been resettled and reintegrated and none received compensation or the "right" to return to their previous homes. The one exception is the Palestinians who were made pawns in the Arab world's attempts to destroy Israel. Is this caring for "the rights and needs of the Palestinian people"?

Yes, the US is now, more than ever, pro-Israel and not a neutral "honest broker". Perhaps the Arabs should look within and try to understand why the US has moved towards Israel and away from the Palestinians. The events of 9/11 and the celebrations in Ramallah and the rest of the Arab world that followed these attacks may give them some clues as to why we are not thrilled with them. Or perhaps it is the near constant attacks by Palestinians on innocent civilians, and the support of these acts by the general population that has made the US less pro-Palestinian. Or could it be Arafat's blatant and shameless lies to President Bush. Or maybe it is the realization in the US that the culture of death that the Palestinians have created is not something that we want to associate with.

Mead accepts the complaints of the Arabs he has visited with completely uncritically, not realizing that these complaints are just another example of the Arab world's culture of blame and victimization. It is simply a convenient excuse for Arabs now. The fact is that the Arab world did not love the US throughout the '90s, when the US was definitely pro-Palestinian. What was their excuse then?

Perhaps the Arab world should concern itself less with why they hate us, and more with why we are beginning to hate them.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

              Looks like its working
Contrary to the hysterical assertions of the "peace" crowd, it seems that there is actually a military solution to terrorism and that killing terrorists does not create more recruits.

"Top Palestinian militants acknowledge that the militant organization Hamas is hard-pressed to follow through on its threats to wreak havoc inside Israel in response to the successive killings of its two top leaders.

"Hamas might have a crisis on its hands after losing its leaders," said senior Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh at the funeral on Sunday for Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the Hamas leader killed in the Gaza Strip on Saturday."

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Mark Steyn has a good article about our current battle in Iraq and against terrorism. The way that we can lose the War on Terror, and lose the peace in Iraq, is if we defeat ourselves.

It's often said that the terrorists are only a "small minority" of Muslims. True. But, when it's well connected with everyone from the House of Saud to Pakistan's nuke maestro A Q Khan, a small minority can do a lot of damage. Likewise, the whimperers are only a minority of the American people, but they're even more plugged in – in the media, in politics, in the academy. The only relevant Vietnamese comparison is this: then as now, for America it's a choice between victory or self-defeat.

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              Politics on the brain
The New York Times this morning has an article on a novel way of tracking our political preferences.
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              The "moral" UN
Over the last couple of months, more and more information has come to light regarding the UN's Oil-for-Food Program for Iraq. While the Left constantly whines about the "profiteering of Haliburton", it seems that the main profiteer in Iraq was the UN, the very institution these people want to give more power to. Claudia Rosett has a very good article about this program in Commentary Magazine.

The record of the UN in the last 10 years or so, in conjunction with the revelations about this latest scandal, is of an entirely unreliable and amoral institution:
-Ignoring the preventable genocide in Rwanda
-Standing by and allowing the genocide in Bosnia to proceed
-Inability to stabilize Kosovo
-Ignoring the genocide in Sudan
-Inability to take action against Iraq despite repeated resolutions and threats of action
-The Durban Conference
-Constant attacks against Israel for defending itself (see Anne Bayefsky's article today)

It is clear that the UN has become nothing more than a place to talk, not an institution that has the ability to take any action or live up to the grand ideals of its founding. The question, then, is why does the Left (and the Democratic Party) want to give more authority and influence to this institution of tyrants and appeasers.
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Sunday, April 18, 2004

              Latest Poll
A number of new polls have come out that look favorable for President Bush. The Washington Times has a roundup of these polls. The most interesting result is that despite an "insurgency" in Iraq and the greatest number of troop deaths in any month since the war started, Bush's approval rating is unchanged at 53%, and a majority supports him on Iraq and the War on Terror. Of course, with more than 6 months to go to the election, these polls are sure to fluctuate. Still, it is a good sign for Bush that despite the negative news and the constant attacks from the Democrats, his poll numbers are not falling.

A better indicator than most polls has been the Iowa Electronic Markets. The IEM are basically a "futures" exchange for presidential and other elections. Since 1992 it has been more accurate than virtually all the polls in picking the winner of the election. It has been showing.
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Thursday, April 15, 2004

              Iraqi WMDs found
The Washington Post is reporting that Iraqi nuclear equipment, some of it contaminated, has turned up in Europe.
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              The US and Europe
An interesting article on what the US relationship with Europe should be:

"If they feel their support in the Terror War puts them at risk of attack, as the Spanish clearly do, their best option is to cut a deal with the United States: deputize America to fight the war for them. They can do this quietly. We will fight for Germany, for Spain, and for France. In return, they will wage no anti-American campaigns and make no complaints about how we fight or about American "unilateralism."

We will be fighting for them against our common enemies. Europeans had nothing to gain but oil contracts and the illusion of gratitude for playing the role of Saddam Hussein's and Yasser Arafat's lawyer. They'll get attacked by fanatics all the same.

A lot of people wouldn't like this arrangement. Some Europeans would grouse that they don't pull enough weight in the world. Some Americans would complain that Europeans are defense freeloaders. But that's basically the way it is already. All I'm suggesting is that both Europe and the US accept and "institutionalize" reality.

If Europeans don't want to do any heavy lifting, if they wish to act like Costa Rica and Belize, they are going to have the same clout as Costa Rica and Belize. If they want to have the same clout as America, they need to act like America. They may have some influence with the US since we Americans respect them for sharing our basic values. But in the places where it counts, such as the West Bank, Iran, North Korea, and Zimbabwe, Europeans are perceived as mere posturers with checkbooks.

The alternative to the acceptance and approval of American "unilateralism" is more intra-Western squabbling and bitterness. The end result will be the same either way -- the US will do what the US will do. Germany, France, and Spain might do their worst to get in the way, but they will not help. The more they obstruct, the less likely we'll be to consult them in the future. The more they oppose us just to oppose us, the more "unilateral" we'll have no choice but to become.

The price they need to pay for being neutral is that they actually have to be neutral. We will do the fighting. They can watch the Terror War from a distance. We will call the shots. They won't ask for consultation or the right to a veto. We will bear the costs in both treasure and lives. They can lay low and work their way lower down Al Qaeda's priority list. They won't get in our way. We won't put them in harm's way any more than they already are. We fight for them and take the burden of their security upon us. They won't campaign against us, not in the chamber of the UN nor in their domestic election campaigns.

That's the deal. Unless Europeans change their mind and think of the Middle East as the new Soviet bloc, that's as good as it is going to get."

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              The unrepentant (and clueless) Left
A very interesting interview with Oliver Stone on his new HBO movie about Fidel Castro. It is ubelievable that some people (like Jimmy Carter) still have not grasped the evils of Communism.
|| Nudnik 12:15 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Bush and Sharon
Yesterday's meeting between Bush and Sharon, and Bush's subsequent support for Sharon's plan for disengagement from Gaza in return for Israel keeping parts of the West Bank, has been described as "historic" and a "change" in long-standing US policy. This is simply not true. Arab propaganda has managed to persuade most of the world that they are entitled to all of the West Bank and that Israel must relinquish it all for peace based on UN resolutions. But in fact, this is the exact opposite of the intent and actual wording of UN Res. 242, the original resolution that enshrined the ahistorical and absurd notion of "land for peace" in international consciousness. That resolution clearly states that Israel must withdraw "from territories occupied in the recent conflict", not "from the territories ...". So really, Bush is merely affirming the original UN resolution, not creating a new policy. Nevertheless, it is important in its abandonment of the Arab and European (and US State Department) positions; in effect reducing the influence of those groups on future negotiations.

Predictably, Arabs are whining and seething that Bush's support for the disengagement plan is unfair. In perhaps one of the most impudent statements, Yasser Abed Rabbo stated: "I believe President Bush declared the death of the peace process today", as if 3 1/2 years of a brutal terrorist war and the Arab violation of every single agreement they signed did not declare "the death of the peace process". According to, if this plan is implemented, it would mean the end of the PA (something which probably should have been ended a while ago). Sharon is quoted as saying "They have a better understanding of the significance of (Bush's) letter than most Israelis. I said that we were going to deal them a lethal blow, and they were dealt a lethal blow." Its probably a bit too early to definitively declare that, and still unclear if the end of the PA would be an unambiguous positive since it would further radicalize the Arabs, at least initially. On the other hand, such a radicalization could be positive in showing the true face of the Arabs to the parts of the world that still refuse to see it.
|| Nudnik 10:12 AM || Permalink || (0) comments

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

              Another benefit
Here is another side-benefit of the Iraq war: "The US-led war in Iraq prodded nuclear rivals India and Pakistan to launch a process to resolve their disputes over Kashmir, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said in an interview published Tuesday." (article)
|| Nudnik 11:30 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              The failure of Israel's PR
The Luntz Research Companies, a conservative polling organization, has released a study titled How the Next Generation Views Israel. It is a survey of students under 30 who are attending top graduate schools (including business school, law school, school of journalism, and school of government) in the US, i.e. tomorrow's leaders and decision-makers in the US. The results are very depressing, and point to Israel's inability to effectively counter Arab propaganda regarding the conflict.

The fact is, we are losing the communication war in the elite media, and it will cost us the support of a generation of elites. The enemies of Israel will always exist; the names may change but the threat will not. Unless we stand up, fight back and reverse this trend, the next generation of American leaders – those who will assume power around the year 2020 – will not see Israel as an ally. They will see Israel as a burden – and one that may not be worth carrying.

Most of the perceptions of the students are caused by their lack of knowledge of the history of the region and of the conflict. And while in itself it is depressing that top students of US graduate schools don't know the history of a region which is constantly in the news and which is of vital national security interest for the US, it is even worse that Israel has not been able to properly and effectively disseminate the facts of the conflict to convince the future political and economic elite of the US.

Towards the end of this article there are a number of suggestions of what arguments work, and how they need to be presented by pro-Israel speakers and representatives to turn this tide. Hopefully Israel's Government sees these results and makes a concerted effort to change their PR tactics.
|| Nudnik 10:43 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Does he still have immunity?
Middle East Newsline is reporting that the US now believes that Arafat personally approved the attack on a US convoy in Gaza in October of 2003. This would not be the first time that Arafat has ordered the killing of US diplomats.
|| Nudnik 9:21 AM || Permalink || (0) comments

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

              Impressions on the Press Conference
Overall I think the press conference went fairly well. Maybe that is because, in general, Bush press conferences are scary in terms of never knowing what he could say wrong and today there weren't any moments like that.

The initial opening statement was not nearly as good as it could have been. Maybe the quality of the speechwriters has gone down; there were a number of missed rhetorical opportunities that could have made the speech much more powerful. Although, it did get better towards the end of the statement, partly because Bush seemed to get warmed up and feel more comfortable.

One very good point in the statement was when he spoke about "the ideology of violence". That this ideology is the same in placing "roadside bombs outside Baghdad" as "blowing up children on a bus in Jerusalem", and thus connecting the global War on Terror to Israel's battle against Palestinian terrorists. Bush also spoke of the terrorists desire to kill Jews, specifically mentioning Daniel Pearl, perhaps the first time that a world leader is saying pointing out the anti-Semitism inherent in Muslim terrorism.

The actual question and answer part of the press conference was very mixed. Many of the questions were not very smart, and Bush did a decent job of avoiding the ones he did not want to answer. And there were a few questions that he was visibly struggling to answer or answered poorly. The question regarding the "false premises" of going to war is a perfect example of this. Others were answered perfectly; when asked if the American people deserve an apology from him like they got from Clarke, Bush answered simply and concisely that the "person responsible for the attacks was Osama bin Laden".

But what is more important and will be more memorable to people is the general theme that Bush spoke of, and that he did a very good job of highlighting, the future. Almost every question that was posed about past actions, he managed to turn into the goals and expectations of the future. This is a theme that will emerge more and more as a theme of the campaign; while Kerry speaks of past problems, Bush looks to the hopeful future.
|| Nudnik 9:37 PM || Permalink || (0) comments

Monday, April 12, 2004

              The Fruits of Appeasement
A great article by Victor Hanson in City Journal about what our past appeasement has brought us. It's a little long, but worth it.
|| Nudnik 7:39 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Cause and delayed effect
As the "uprising" goes on in Iraq, and US forces are forced into battles in the cities similar to what they faced a year ago in the march to Baghdad, there is one issue that is almost not discussed: how this "uprising" was caused by US pressure on Israel over the last three years, and that this "uprising" is more proof that the war Israel is fighting is the same that the US is fighting (and the rest of the Western world is trying to ignore). Saul Singer in his National Review article alludes to these points, but focuses more on the commonality of the war, than on the causes of it.

The US has been forced in the last week to fight an "uprising" by the followers of Sadr that in many ways resembles the war waged by Palestinians against Israel over the last three and a half years. While the tactics of Sadr's followers differ somewhat from the tactics of the Palestinian terrorists (there are no mass congregations of US civilians in Iraq to attack), there are many more similarities than differences; both groups are funded and supported by Iran, both supposedly want to evict "the occupiers", both groups consistently violate the rules of war by hiding among civilians and using them as human shields as well as using ambulances to transport weapons, and both are willing to use suicide bombings (as was evidenced by the Marines' finding of a bomb-belt factory and US uniforms in Fallujah).

These tactics are being employed against the US military because they were shown to work in Israel. Sadr compared himself to Hamas and Hezbollah because, in Singer's words, they are "now the closest things the jihad has to winners on the global stage." The response of the US (until the present cease-fire) was to use overwhelming force against the insurgents, employing virtually every conventional weapon system in the US arsenal. Yet, Israel, in a worse situation due to attacks on civilians as opposed to soldiers, was and is constantly held back in responding. Every Israeli counter-terror operation is stopped prematurely by the "international community", and is therefore not nearly as effective as it could be. This has allowed the terrorists to hone their tactics and convinced them that most of the time they will be able to get away with the attacks, and has thus eroded Israel's deterrence capabilities. And so it has also hurt the US in its operations in Iraq by emboldening the "insurgents".

The US, at this point, must completely crush Sadr's forces; the current cease-fire in Fallujah is a horrible idea. If these "insurgents" are not completely destroyed, they will be emboldened and will try to assert their power in the future.
|| Nudnik 11:02 AM || Permalink || (0) comments

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

              The "Uprising"
There has been much noise in the last few days about the "uprising" in Iraq of Sadr and his militia. And while it is a major military operation for US forces, it is in no way a civil war or mass insurrection. In fact, it is probably a good thing that it is happening now, as opposed to after sovereignty is turned over to Iraqis. David Warren in his very concise column describes exactly what needs to be done:

"Therefore, if the Americans and their friends want to create a constitutional order, they must be the most ruthless. They cannot possibly "negotiate" with the fanatics, the only practical option is to slaughter them. It is also the only moral option, for the alternative is to leave Iraq 's innocents to be ploughed under fresh killing fields."

The US knows that it can not withdraw, and therefore will do precisely what Warren describes.
|| Nudnik 9:53 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
A great summing up of anti-Americanism from a book review in the Asia Times:

"Indeed, anti-Americanism has ascended from its former status as the preoccupation of a relative handful of Jurassic Marxists, professional victims, Third World whiners, and Islamo-fascist troglodytes to the level of a major new global religion. Like any religion, it has its saints (which include the likes of Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh), its martyrs (the Rosenbergs, the Guantanamo Bay detainees and Saddam Hussein's sons), its high priests (Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore and Abu Bakar Ba'asyir), and its desperately over-eager wanna-bes (eg, Asia Times Online's very own Pepe Escobar, whose viewpoint on any issue can be predicted with absolute accuracy by simply asking "what interpretation of this situation will put the United States in the worst light?").

Curiously, however, while the religion has a hell (America), and a devil (George W Bush), it lacks both a heaven (the collectivist pipe dream having been found wanting) and a god (since the anti-Americans consider themselves as having evolved beyond the need for a deity - save their Islamist faction, which wants to impose its religion forcibly on everyone else). Still, the anti-American cult provides its legions of drooling adherents with the crucial element of any faith: the illusion of meaning in an otherwise meaningless existence. That priceless psychological salve, in this case, is the comforting delusion that, no matter how hypocritical, backward, bigoted, ignorant, corrupt or cowardly the cult's followers might otherwise be, at least they are better than those awful Americans.

|| Nudnik 5:58 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Israel's self-defense
It seems that the Europeans continue to sink lower and lower by defining Israel's attempts to defend its citizens from terrorists as an "act of terror". Throughout this war that the Palestinians started in September of 2000, every single one of Israel's actions against the terrorists has been criticized. So Schiff in his article has the answer to what Israel should do:

"Presumably if we were to defend ourselves in this war of terror by throwing rocks, the world would still complain. Most critics don't believe Israel has a right to self-defense. Israel, therefore, should in most cases ignore the critics. We should be the ones to criticize what is happening on our side and around us."

|| Nudnik 2:23 PM || Permalink || (0) comments

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

              What now?
Both Victor Hanson, in his latest essay, and Lee Harris, in his latest TCS column, make very similar points; namely that until we can define our enemy and see him for what he really is, we can not and will not win this war. Both also make the point that the reason for the savageness of the Arab world is not, in the words of Hanson, "merely the work of corrupt leaders but often the very people who put them in place and allowed them to continue their ruin." Both this, and Harris's belief that the events of Fallujah are "evidence of a profound civilizational chasm between us and them -- a chasm so wide and deep that it will inevitably swallow even the best-intentioned efforts to bridge it", are fairly depressing because the obvious questions then are what can we do, and is it even worth trying to do something.

Without a doubt both are correct that until we understand the enemy, and actually admit who the enemy is, we can not win. To define this war as a War on Terror is simply incorrect and avoids the issue of who the terrorists are. Political correctness and "sensitivity" to other cultures has made us incapable of clear and unequivocal definitions; there always has to be the caveat that "Islam is a peaceful religion". However, they answer the next question, of what can we do and is it even worth doing, completely differently.

While Hanson is optimistic, if cautiously so, Harris is anything but. For Harris, there is nothing we can do since these people are savages, so why bother. That is a highly unsatisfying answer. And it is unclear what Harris's solution to this situation is. Clearly we can not abandon Iraq and the Arab world, no matter how tempting it is at times to do just that. But by Harris's logic, why should we even try to democratize them when by their very nature they are incapable of behaving the way we think civilized people should.

Hanson's approach is entirely different. While he recognizes the Arab world for what it is, his approach is not to simply throw up his hands and say there is nothing we can do. Perhaps as an historian, Hanson is more able to see the longer term trends, and not just the immediate present. He understands that the pathologies of the Arab Middle East are deeply ingrained, and that the Arab world has no one to blame for this but themselves. Yet he also seems to think that the US (or the Western world in general, if anyone decides to help) can at least start to clean up this mess, but that in the end the only ones who will be able to solve the problems there will have to be the very people who live there. They, as well as we, need to accept that the problem is internal and endemic to that culture, that it will have to be solved from the inside, and that it will take a long time to solve.
|| Nudnik 6:15 PM || Permalink || (0) comments

Friday, April 02, 2004

Lee Harris has a column in TCS today regarding the horrific lynching of 4 US civilian contractors in Fallujah. His main point is that this even should spell the end of our belief that we can democratize and civilize the Arab world:

Does the administration have a clue what it is dealing with? Does it really think that anything we can do to avenge the American dead at Fallujah will make the least impression on those who committed acts of such a nature?

We are trapped. Our enemy knows now that no matter what they do to us, we will not do it back to them. They know now that no matter what insult they offer us, or how deeply they violate us, that we can never bring ourselves to descend to their level of de-civilization.

Fallujah should spell the end of the neo-conservative fantasy that all human beings want the same things. It should awake the Bush administration from its dream that what the Arab street really needs is democracy. Fallujah represents the end of the road for that kind of thinking and that kind of talk. And if it doesn't, we are in serious trouble.

That is the lesson of Fallujah

There are really two issues here: the first being what we can and should do, and the second being what this means to our larger goals in Iraq and the Arab Middle East.

Harris is correct that we would never do to them what they do to us. It is the same problem that Israel has been facing for the last 3 years (at least). In part, our reaction (like Israel's) is shaped by our understanding of the nature of the conflict; the Islamists see it as total war, neither the US nor Israel see it as such. And in total war, the US has acted in ways that many in today's world find offensive: bombing of Dresden, fire-bombing of Tokyo, and the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan. We were able to do those things because we fully understood that it was a war to the end; it was either them or us. But very few people accept that this is also the fact in our war against the Islamists. Whether we like it, or accept it, this is a war to the end. Either we win, or the Islamists win. Does this mean that we should raze Fallujah? Perhaps. I think that it will at least convince the Arab world that we are serious (seems conquering Iraq and hunting down Saddam was not enough). But it would probably not be useful in our goal of democratizing Iraq.

This leads then to Harris's second point: that the Arabs are savages and that there is no point in even trying to civilize them. With this, I disagree. Its helpful to remember that in our not too distant past (400, 500 years ago) our Western society did not behave very differently. But through the course of time we civilized ourselves. So one reason for their behavior is that as a society they are half a millennium behind the West. The problem with this is that we cant wait 500 years for them to catch up; given the weapons available, leaving them to civilize themselves could prove deadly for our society. But we will need to wait a certain amount of time; the time it will take for the generation brought up under Saddam and similar Arab despots to die off. Iraqi civil society, just like many of the other Arab societies, has been destroyed by its own rulers. As Christopher Hitchens writes in an article in today's Wall Street Journal: "Fallujah is a reminder, not just of what Saddamism looks like, or of what the future might look like if we fail, but of what the future held before the Coalition took a hand."

Our only hope, then, is to wage this war against Islamism, and wait for the Arab world to catch up; all the while hoping that we can prevent a catastrophic attack on our own society .
|| Nudnik 1:52 PM || Permalink || (0) comments

Thursday, April 01, 2004

              Our Choices
Submitted by Boris Tenenbaum

Let us construct a military-political scenario.
You will be the President, and I will be your National Security Advisor.

You do not need to agree with me, and in fact should try to find realistic and serious rebuttals to the course of action that I recommend.

In any case, the choice of which policy to follow is up to you. You are the President and bear the ultimate responsibility for the decision.

So let us begin:
We, the United States, were attacked on 9/11.

My opinion is that this was not a criminal act, but an act of war.

Who then is our adversary?
Al Qaeda? I don’t think so.

I read a glowing article about this event in al-Ahram – the author was full of delight that the haughty giant got kicked in his ass, and when he turned around there was no one there.
Bear in mind, this was published on an English language internet site of the main national government-sponsored newspaper of a ‘moderate’ Arab country, our ally, receiving sizable subsidies from USA.

Just imagine what the press is saying in Arabic in Syria, for example.

Our enemy is not Al Qaeda; it is the public opinion of the Arab world that applauds it and the governments that encourage it. For them, Osama bin Laden is a hero.

So what can we do about this?

Below are the possible courses of action:

1. Ignore the threat, like all the previous US Administrations did prior to 9/11.
My opinion is that this cannot be done.

The next attack could very well be nuclear or biological and we will suffer devastating and potentially irreparable harm.

2. Make certain concessions; for example, abandon our support of Israel
My opinion is that this cannot be done.

As soon as it is obvious that we will abide by their commands, we will suffer a slew of similar attacks. Not only will the Arabs be unappeased, but absolutely everyone whom we have ever slighted will start doing as they have done; we will become the target of terror attacks from every group in the world which feels oppressed and excluded – no matter how justifiably.

3. Restrict ourselves to increasing security – strengthening the FBI, police, greater cooperation with our allies, etc.
Undoubtedly this could be useful.

We should proceed in this direction, but also realize that purely defensive measures are insufficient. We have too many vulnerabilities for this to be effective; our whole economy is based on free trade and open borders. How would you seal all these cracks? How could you protect ALL of our chemical plants, ALL our ports, ALL of our railroads, and ALL of our border crossings? It should be obvious that this is physically impossible to accomplish.

4. Enter into negotiations with them and reach some sort of modus vivendi.
I am afraid that this is an impossibility.

We are dealing with a movement which is animated by a severe crisis in the Arab world. Nothing works, there is tremendous despair, and we are a very convenient scapegoat.
We are hated not because of what we do; we are hated because of what we are.

The Arabs lack an organized political entity with disciplined troops. The military threat comes from a conglomeration of small and uncontrollable groups. You can reach an understanding with one group, but another group, in order to prove that it is more radical, will start attacking you.
Knowing that for sure the first group – presumably your partner in negotiations - will NOT abide by any agreements they made with you in exchange for the concessions you have made.

An obvious example of this is the PLO and HAMAS. All the agreements made with the PLO were abrogated by the Arab side; there was political pressure from HAMAS to radicalize the behavior and to demand more and more.
HAMAS was not bound by any agreements – and it was a wonderful pretext for PLO to shade all its presumably solid obligations.

5. Wage a war of attrition against the Arab world – sanctions, suspension of trade, restrictions on immigration, etc.
This is a possible course of action.

However, it would be exceedingly difficult and would take a very long time to achieve its effect.

The Europeans would undoubtedly flout these sanctions. And there is also China, Russia, etc. to be taken into account.

6. Wage a total war of destruction against the Arab world.
This is also a possible course of action.

Because we can not control 350 million Arabs, we will need to make clear to their leaders that we will no longer tolerate their tacit approval of terror among their people.

We will obliterate from the face of the earth ANY Arab regime that challenges us - be it right or wrong - as was done in the case of Iraq. That produced results – Libya quickly saw the light and decided to disarm itself.

We will encourage reform in the Arab world, but we will NOT reconcile ourselves to active anti-American propaganda; that type of “freedom” costs us blood.

Because it is difficult to persuade a mule, we will make it clear to the mule-drivers that they are responsible for their mules, and it is their necks that are on the block if their mules are too stubborn in sticking to their asinine ideas.

I propose to you, Mister President, to explore other options, or to implement some kind of combination of the ones listed above.

Personally, I am leaning towards option 6
|| Nudnik 1:09 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Sarid vs. Sharon
Uri Dan, a journalist, commentator and long time friend of Sharon has some advice for Yossi Sarid, the rabid Israeli left-winger and Oslo architect:

So what can I demand of Sarid? That he stand resolutely on the battlefield, in the wind and cold, making decisions under fire, as I Sharon saw do for that first time in 1954, and again in the 1956 Kadesh Operation, and yet again in the 1973 Suez Canal crossing? I wouldn't be exaggerating to say that we might have come back with our tails between our legs (or not come back at all) had Sarid been at the helm in these battles....

Since 1954, I have seen endless attempts to fill Sharon's path with obstacles, to destroy him on the battlefield. And he was no less hated by Jews who were, and remain, the most contemptible of all. And Sharon survived, thank God. "Sarad" ("survived", in Hebrew), not Sarid.

|| Nudnik 11:17 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Illiteracy in the Arab world
MEMRI this morning has an interesting interview with Salman Masalha, an Israeli-Arab intellectual and poet. Illiteracy, and the general lack of education leads to what he views as one of the key problems in the Arab world:

"The Arab newspapers do not publish erotica, criticism of Islam, or intimate revelations, not even political expose. For example, there are no new Arab historians. Everything is 'establishment' in the Arab world. We never ask ourselves the real questions. Doubting does not exist. No one doubts the Qur'an.

"Doubt is an essential part of the development of society and of culture. It is of this programming I speak, and of the need to replace it. To begin, for once, to ask about and talk about the most essential things in our lives, in order to find solutions or ways to change this sad reality.

"We here [in Israel], with all our problems, and all the complexity of our situation, know deep inside that we are free, I mean, as far as thinking goes, and as far as the possibility of writing goes. We are freer to think than anyone in the Arab world."

|| Nudnik 9:07 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Ajami on Yassin
In this week's US News & World Report, Fouad Ajami writes about the assassination of Sheikh Yassin: A legacy of pain and poison. While not really saying anything new about it, he says it beautifully. One interesting point that he does make is one that has been made previously by others, namely that terrorism in Israel was a precursor for terrorism in the rest of the world:

"Terrorism probes the world, tests its limits, and always redefines our moral awareness downward. We can't say for sure what the contribution of Yassin was to the wholesale slaughter of September 11. Strictly speaking, the "death pilots" were not his men. But in hindsight, the terrors visited on Israel by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades were a dress rehearsal for greater terrors to come. The young men--and, in time, the young women--with explosive belts in the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and the restaurants of Haifa were a herald of more terrible calamities. The way to perdition had been found: The cult of "martyrdom" had been sanctified. Religion had been remade; from solace and ritual it had been changed into a weapon of combat."

We now see by the events of 9/11, and 3/11, as well as Turkey, Morocco, etc., that by allowing terrorism to flourish against Israel, and not taking the decisive steps to allow Israel to wipe out the terrorists, we have given terrorists some measure of legitimacy. It is the "root cause" argument, and it is wrong. The root cause of terrorism is not poverty or despair; it is nihilism, the desire to destroy, not to the desire to build something else.
|| Nudnik 8:53 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
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