Man Without Qualities

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Another Flaming Atrioid Comes Screaming Across The Blogosphere

Every so often - well, not very often - I look at Atrios for his delusion de jour. It’s almost never necessary to go past the very first post to find a howler. Here's today's flaming Atrioid:

"The inspectors didn't find anything and I doubt that we will."

-Donald Rumsfeld, today.

People are saying I'm quoting out of context. I'm just quoting what I saw a few minutes ago on Wolf Blitzer's show. I'll track down the transcript later and provide 'context' if there should be some.

But what actually transpired was this:

"I don't think we'll discover anything, myself," Rumsfeld said at a town hall-style meeting with Pentagon employees. "I think what will happen is we'll discover people who will tell us where to go find it. It is not like a treasure hunt where you just run around looking everywhere, hoping you find something."

If "people" are saying that Atrios is "quoting out of context," then those must be "people" who don't recognize "lying by omission," which is what Atrios is doing here - as much as someone who repeats what you said to your boss, but leaves out all the "nos" and "nots" and then says he'll have to "check the transcript" to see if any "context" is required.

UPDATE: O, my - Atrios apparently did "check the transcript" and decided that some context was required after all. He even discovered the second Rumsfeld sentence - the one that appears in bold type above that clearly says that he expects knowledgable Iraqis to show us where the hidden weapons of mass destruction are. But Atrios is never one to let a mere fact that says that some aspect of the world is exactly the opposite of what he wants stand in his way! So Atrios comments on his new-found "context": Frankly, I'm not sure this is much better.

Yes, indeed. One statement of the Secretary of Defense presented by Atrios as indicating that Mr. Rumsfeld does not expect WMD will be found and another statement that he does expect WMD will be found with the help of Iraqis.

Those two statements are pretty much the same to Atrios! One's not much better than the other!

And the fun never ends at Eschaton! A new Atrios post discloses: I have no doubt that if the US troops manage to locate a bleach bottle sitting next to an ammonia bottle, the media will declare it an example of Saddam's WMD. How zany the media have been, reporting chemicals that turn out to be pesticides as suspected nerve gas - that sort of thing. Of course, the chemical structure of many pesticides differs from that of nerve gas just slightly. In fact, one can think of many pesticides as "nerve gas for insects." And many pesticide factories can easily be converted to nerve gas production. But Atrios doesn't think its "news" that chemicals that turn out to be pesticides are suspected by the American military of possibly being nerve gas and requiring tests. Apparently he thinks the media should just ignore such trifles. And he apparently doesn't think that follow-up stories explaining what the tests reveal is enough - because there have been plenty of those stories, but Atrios still vents on the zany media approach to this kind of "story."
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Lifting the Sanctions II

Russia opposes lifting United Nations sanctions on Iraq because inspectors have not verified that Iraq has disarmed.

Really. It's true.

The big winner in all of the France-German-Russian silliness may be the family of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The United Nations headquarters in New York is situated on 18-acres (formerly occupied by slaughterhouses) which were donated by Mr. Rockefeller - but whose donation is said to include a provision that the land reverts to the Rockefellers in the event the United Nations is disbanded.
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OK, It's Drivel! But Is It Pure Drivel?

Remarkable. Just as I was contemplating reports that the leader of the Iraqi bioweapons program ("Dr. Germ") and Col. Pam Arias, chief of the Armament Production Directorate at Eglin - the American team that developed the MOAB bomb - are both women, shanti and readers were chatting about interesting things over at Dancing with Dogs about this odd riff from BusinessWeek Online:

When I look at the news these days, I can't help but wonder: Wouldn't we be a lot better off if women were in charge, given all the violence and atrocities perpetrated by men and male-run governments in places like Bosnia, Rwanda, and Iraq? Would U.S. troops be in Iraq today if, say, Hillary Clinton were President, and not George W. Bush?

Of course, the answer to that last question depends a lot on whether one believes a word of what Senator Clinton herself has said on the subject.

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Exaggerated Iraq Museum Looting

The Wall Street Journal reports that tales of Iraqi museum looting are much exaggerated - and so are allegations that American forces "let" the looting happen or that more American troops would likely have prevented the looting:

[T]hanks to Iraqi preparations before the war, it seems the worst has been avoided. Donny George, the director-general of restoration at the Iraqi Antiquities Department, Wednesday said his staff had preserved the museum's most important treasures, including the kings' graves of Ur and the Assyrian bulls. These objects were hidden in vaults that haven't been violated by looters. ... Earlier this week, some museum workers reached foreign journalists to complain about an orgy of looting in the museum, saying that little of the collection remains. As secrecy long enveloped the museum -- where part of the collection had been siphoned off by Saddam Hussein's family and sold abroad -- it isn't clear whether these museum workers knew about the prewar preparations to hide the most-valuable artifacts.

Mr. George... said many valuable items are still missing. Among the antiquities unaccounted for so far, Mr. George said, are the sacral vase of Warqa, from Sumerian times, and the bronze statue of Basitqi, from the Accadian civilization. ... "There was a tremendous amount of looting just for destruction purposes -- and there were artifacts that were not destroyed at all," he said. "It was not as bad as I thought it would be."

Lt. Col. Schwartz ... said he couldn't move into the museum compound and protect it from looters last week because his soldiers were taking fire from the building -- and were determined not to respond. ...

And, in particular, American forces did not "let" the looting occur, and it appears not to have been a problem that "more troops" would have likely solved. If there had been more American troops, that would just have meant more American troops would have been outside getting shot at by the snipers in and on the museum - and waiting while the looting went on.

Further, it is a real leap to conclude that any particular item missing from a museum whose collection had been siphoned off by Saddam Hussein's family and sold abroad disappeared in the looting. Would a high official leaving for Damascus leave behind a valuable museum piece if he could still get at it after the Husseins fed? One might also want to keep in mind reports that looters who ravaged Iraqi antiquities appeared highly organized and even had keys to museum vaults and were able to take pieces from safes. Is that the kind of thing one expects from "looters" fresh off the street?

The Journal article raises yet another interesting question: Should items from this museum collection which were siphoned off by Saddam Hussein's family and sold abroad still be considered to be the property of Iraq? What if the new courts of Iraq established by the future government declare such sales to have been invalid?

UPDATE: Maybe Mr. Sullivan didn't read his Journal closely enough this morning.

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John Paul Getty

Sir J. Paul Getty, Jr. has died.

Sir Getty's ancestors included James Getty, founder of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, scene of the crucial Civil War battle.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Lifting the Sanctions

The New York Times reports that President Bush is seeking the termination of United Nations sanctions against Iraq. But the Times puts a manipulative spin on the President’s effort:

Many members and perhaps a majority of the Security Council, led by France, Germany, Russia and China, vigorously opposed the war in Iraq, and now several of them, led by France, are pushing to give the United Nations the central role in Iraq's transitional government — an idea Bush opposes. Calling on these same nations to vote to lift sanctions on Iraq would require them to give indirect approval of the war, or at least of its outcome.

This last sentence is wrong - no "approval" of the war or its outcome would be implied, either directly or indirectly, only a recognition of the fact that the government against which those sanctions were warranted and directed has ceased to be. If the Saddam Hussein government of Iraq had been destroyed by an earthquake, a hurricane or a plague the results would be the same - and each nation that opposed the war would certainly have opposed an earthquake, hurricane or plague. In that event, would the Times say that a vote by these same nations to lift sanctions on Iraq requires them to give indirect approval of that earthquake, hurricane or plague, or at least of its outcome? Of course not. Indeed, the Times grudgingly admits in the very next sentence: But because the economic sanctions forbidding trade with Iraq were put in place in 1991 to pressure the government of Saddam Hussein, it might be hard now to argue that they should not be lifted. But that sentence is also not completely correct, because saying that "it might be hard to argue" against the President's request grossly understates the force of his argument. In fact, it is impossible to argue against the President's request in good faith, exactly because the sanctioned government is gone and there is no countervailing "implied approval of the war" argument that can be made.

France and other countries that opposed the war in Iraq may well resist lifting the sanctions because that would clear the way for Iraqi oil to be sold openly and free of the United Nations "Oil for Food" program - and otherwise release Iraq from United Nations (and hence French) control. If such countries do resist lifting the sanctions they will most likely argue exactly that Calling on these same nations to vote to lift sanctions on Iraq would require them to give indirect approval of the war, or at least of its outcome.

In other words, the Times is so eager to apologize for French obstructionism to American efforts in Iraq that the Lords of 43d Street can't even wait for the Gallic obstruction to occur before attempting to justify it.

UPDATE: The Times' manipulative reporting of the President's action might be compared with the straightforward Washington Post version of the same report:

With Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein now removed from power, the United States asked the United Nations Security Council to lift the economic sanctions imposed on his government after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Removal of the sanctions would allow whatever new government emerges in Iraq to export oil without restrictions and trade freely on world markets.

All so very true. And, unlike the Times version, so very lacking in anti-American apology.

FURTHER UPDATE: The Euro-rot continues as the Financial Times reports:

Diplomats at the UN said the Security Council was still deeply divided on the issue of when to remove sanctions on Iraq. ... They said they ... believed negotiations over the lifting of sanctions were still in "early stages" and formed part of broader talks on the future of the oil-for-food programme, the role of the UN, and the weapons inspection regime. ... [D]iplomats said France and Russia - who opposed the US-led attack on Iraq - were unlikely to approve the lifting of sanctions in the near term because it could provide post-facto legitimacy to the war. ... But a senior diplomat cautioned that opposition to the ending of sanctions could be dictated by commercial reasons. He pointed out that Russia and France are both among the top 10 beneficiaries of the oil-for-food programme... If the US is unable to convince its fellow Security Council members to lift sanctions, "it seems clear that Washington is fully prepared to restart Iraqi oil without the blessing of the UN", said Aaron Brady, analyst at Boston-based Energy Security Analysis. "With minimal damage to the northern and southern oil wells and the Ceyhan storage tanks already full, there is no physical or infrastructure reason why exports cannot resume very quickly," he added.

Someone might want to remind Messrs. Putin and Chirac, especially, that the United Nations did not impose sanctions against Iraq as a way of disapproving of the United States invading that country. Those sanctions were imposed for very specific transgressions and abuses committed solely by Saddam Hussein's government. To require the lifting of the sanctions be considered only as "part of broader talks on the future of the oil-for-food programme, the role of the UN, and the weapons inspection regime" is transparently abusive of the Security Council's rationale for imposing sanctions against the Hussein government in the first place. So it looks likely that the United Nations will render itself - or, alternatively, France, Germany and Russia will render the United Nations - again irrelevant, this time perhaps provoking the clear disregard of Security Council sanctions and the "Oil-for-Food" program by the United States. I have not studied the exact wording of the 1991 sanctions resolution. Perhaps it can be construed to apply only to Hussein-led Iraq, in which case it could be disregarded without being violated. That would help save face for the UN - at the cost of perhaps extending what appear every day more to be its death throes.
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Closing Window

At least for the next few years, it is arguable that the only Democrat who could win a Presidential election is a Southern Democrat. Senator John Edwards of North Carolina must cherish the examples of Messrs. Carter and Clinton.

But at the same time it is becoming more difficult for a Democrat to be elected in the South who is sufficiently palatable to the national Democratic Party to be nominated in the first place. Polls indicate that Senator Edwards is in trouble in North Carolina. And while the media (including much of the Blogosphere) and some Democratic contributors adore Senator Edwards, his own campaign staff and associates seem to see the handwriting on the wall.

Democrats are probably wary of candidates who can't carry their own state. And that seems to rule out more and more Southern Democrats as presidential nominees.

President Kerry? Another pathological waffler? Senator Kerry makes Al Gore, who was badly hurt by his flexible interpretation of facts and his own history, seem like a stickler for truth, detail and clarity.

President Lieberman? Well, at least he would carry his own state. But without Monica around, what's the point?

On the other hand, whenever the economy is in the tank, there is hope for the party out of power!
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Questioning Hillary and Bill? Please - Don't Ask, Don't Tell!

Yahoo! News and AFP report:

Former US President Bill Clinton blasted US foreign policy adopted in the wake of the September 11 attacks, arguing the United States cannot kill, jail or occupy all of its adversaries.

"Our paradigm now seems to be: something terrible happened to us on September 11, and that gives us the right to interpret all future events in a way that everyone else in the world must agree with us," said Clinton, who spoke at a seminar of governance organized by Conference Board.

"And if they don't, they can go straight to hell." ...

"We can't run," Clinton pointed out. "If you got an interdependent world, and you cannot kill, jail or occupy all your adversaries, sooner or later you have to make a deal."

He said he believed Washington overreacted to German and French opposition to US plans for military action against Iraq and suggested that the current administration had trouble juggling foreign and domestic issues.

"Since September 11, it looks like we can't hold two guns at the same time," Clinton said. "If you fight terrorism, you can't make America a better place to be."

Howard Kurtz wonders what's going on:

You have to wonder about [Mr. Clinton's] timing. ... After all, Clinton, despite some occasional potshots, supported Bush's tough stance against Saddam. ... [T]he timing of his latest blast suggests that he just can't stand being off the stage for long. ... Shouldn't the former commander-in-chief be congratulating America's soldiers? Maybe Clinton is just trying to boost interest in his "60 Minutes" debates with Bob Dole.

But Mr. Clinton's likely motivations don't seem obscure. Like most things he does and says now they should be viewed through the prism of his ongoing obligation to enhance Hillary Clinton's political standing and his own need to defend his presidential "legacy." With respect to Mr. Clinton's own "legacy," his statements probably reflect his resentment of the Iraq victory being such a clear refutation (at least for the moment) of the policies of his own administration. He has been openly accused of policies that allowed the disasters of September 11 to occur, of running down the American military and of failing to address effectively international terrorism and troublespots - including Iraq. Naturally it bothers him that his successor is benefitting for the moment from a refutation of so much of what Mr. Clinton is associated. Of course his statements are inconsistent with many of his past acts and prior nominal support of President Bush. Mr. Clinton is often inconsistent, feckless and striving to be on both sides of an issue. Voters and the media have rewarded him by repeatedly being stupid enough to allow him to win elections with his approach. So what else is new?

Much of Senator Clinton's New York political base is up in arms over her defense of President Bush's handling of Iraq, as indicated in her recent confrontation with an anti-war group:

"I admire your willingness to speak out on behalf of women and children in Iraq," [Senator Clinton] said. "The only way to change this is for Saddam Hussein to disarm, and I don't think he will. We are in a very difficult position right now. I'd love to agree with you, but I can't." But when one of the protest leaders, Jodie Evans of Venice, Calif., tore off her full-length pink slip and presented it to Mrs. Clinton, the senator walked out. "I am the senator from New York," she said, "and I will not put people's security at risk."

Sure Bill Clinton is advocating policies here that Senator Clinton would "love to agree with" but can't, because she is the senator from New York and will not put people's security at risk. And it is hard to believe that Bill Clinton has uttered such remarks without coordination with his wife. As far as Senator Clinton is concerned, the whole thing seems to be a banal, characteristically Clintonian (of either sex) device for being on both sides of the issue: Bill Clinton's views are still associated with Senator Clinton, so she can expect to be able to exploit them with the appropriate interest group, even as she nominally backs President Bush's policies with other interest groups - even though no intelligent person could believe she actually, personally agrees with Mr. Bush's policies. Are New Yorkers stupid enough to fall for this kind of thing again ... and again ... and again?

There is a mild perplexity here: Why has neither Clinton been questioned about any of this by the media? After all, the apparently nearly-pathological bad liar John Kerry is being accused of being "Clintonian" by trying to be on both sides of the Iraq issue. Shouldn't both Clintons be examined and questioned about the same tendency on the same issue at the same time? But the question is hardly out before the answers are apparent: the media have almost never adequately questioned the Clintons and, if the questions were asked, straight answers would not be returned. So the media seems to say: why bother? Of course that's an abdication of what the news media say they do and care about. What else is new?

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Tuesday, April 15, 2003

The ICC Simply Must Go IV: Coalition of the Deranged

The National Post of Canada is reporting:

A coalition of lawyers and human rights groups yesterday unveiled a bid to use the UN's new International Criminal Court as a tool to restrain American military power. In a move Washington said vindicated U.S. claims that the court would be used for political purposes, the rights activists are working to compile war crimes cases against the United States and its chief ally in Iraq, Britain. ... As a non-member, the United States would normally be outside of ICC jurisdiction unless it was suspected of crimes in a country that is an ICC member, which Iraq is not. But the fact that Britain is a member has given the rights activists a springboard for a case that argues U.S. air raids that killed civilians were war crimes.

It is hard to imagine a development more likely to lead to the effective destruction of the ICC than its acceptance of this line of reasoning. Indeed, for the ICC even to accept jurisdiction over a serious case brought against Britain and/or Tony Blair would probably be enough to expose the ICC for the farce it was always destined and designed to be.

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