Sine Qua Non Pundit

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Thursday, April 03, 2003

The Un-Quagmire

Bob Schieffer is telling Larry King that he has never been prouder of any journalists reporting on the war. If only Big Media felt that way about our troops and their commanders. He’s now defending the armchair generals. Jumping bejebus, only 5 more days and I’ll have FoxNews back.

Aaaaaahhhhh. Bob Schieffer just repeated the NY Times front-page lie about not war-gaming against this enemy. Don’t these talking heads have editors?

In other CNN news, Dr. Sanjay Gupta did an honorable thing today trying to use his skills to save the life of a child:

"Medically and morally, I thought it was the right thing to do," Gupta said later in a report from the scene.

In his report, which I saw, he said this several times, as though he felt he had to apologize or justify himself for trying to be a decent human being -- instead of a journalist. Honestly, do you have to have some sort of moral lobotomy to be a capital letter "J" journalist these days?

DOWNDATE: As all the cool kids say, advantage Sine Qua Non Pundit:

''You don't leave your humanity behind when you put a press pass around your neck,'' said Tom Rosenstiel, director of Columbia University's Project for Excellence in Journalism. But Bob Steele, director of the ethics program at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, said he was uncomfortable with Gupta's situation, now that the operation is over.

''I'm hoping and trusting that he and CNN set some thresholds,'' Steele said. ''I think it's problematic if this is a role that he's going to be playing on any kind of frequent basis. I don't think he should be reporting on it if he's also a participant. He can't bring appropriate journalistic independence and detachment to a story.''

Rosenstiel agreed that Gupta's objectivity is now in question, especially since Dr. Rob Hinks, the officer in charge of the unit, appeared on CNN yesterday and welcomed Gupta has ''an honorary member of the Devil Docs.''

The simple answer to my last question appears to be "yes."


The Scourge of Richard Cohen, Vol. LXXXIII

(Ed. -- The following is a bit of mean spiritedness that will be an on-going feature of this blog. Normally the author will endeavor to be reasonably fair, but this is an exception.)

Splish splash, we’ll be freeing Iraq, long about a Saturday night…

I’ve noted before that a Scourge delayed is a Scourge denied, so I apologize for my delay in getting to this column two days late.

Boom, boom, we got the whole gang
Hiding in a suburban home, yeah!

And I apologize again for not being able to spend enough time to fill out all the lyrics on Bobby Darin’s fine song.

But there was bad Saddam, in his bunker too
And Qusay, and Uday was-a even there, too!
A- well-a, splish splash, forget about the Baath
Now go and put your dancin' shoes on, yay...

But I’m not nearly as sheepish as Richard Cohen, since Dick’s premature emasculation of our war efforts should have left him more than a little embarrassed in Democracy Delayed:

… is democracy denied. But who’s been denying the Iraqi people democracy for 30 years?

In about a week, the Bush administration has done in Iraq what the Johnson administration took more than a year to do in Vietnam: opened a credibility gap.

If the Bush administration has a credibility gap, then the Hussein regime must have a credibility Grand Canyon. I'm sorry, but I can’t think of any sufficiently large adjectives to describe Big Media’s credibility gap.

This one is about "the plan," which the Bush administration describes as both "brilliant" and on schedule.

That would be “the plan” which Richard Cohen knows nothing about, whose “brilliance” would continue to elude Dick if it bit him on the ass. As to the schedule, well, Richard Cohen’s record on predictions like this rivals the fabled Sports Illustrated curse. Or to abuse an old palindrome with Dick's obsession, "a man, a plan, a root canal, Vietnam."

As anyone can see -- and as some field commanders keep saying -- it is neither.

Well, I am “anyone” and I can’t see that it isn’t brilliant not not on schedule. And would that be Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace (Braveheart?), the commander whose “bits” where excluded in a crude Raines-man attempt to alter the meaning rather substantially?

By rank, I rose no higher than Pfc. in the Army, so my inclination is simply to (smartly) salute my superiors and accept what they say.

And all this time, I thought Dick’s inclination was to (smartassly) criticize his superiors and doubt what they say – and their motives for what they say.

Nevertheless, I wonder about a timetable that increasingly threatens one of the stated goals of this war -- to bring the manifest blessings of democracy to the entire Arab world.

Ooo ooo ooo ooo – the manifest blessings of democracy are increasingly threatened, by uh, um, well, uh, a Richard Cohen column. Alert the media!

By the time we get around to doing that, the regimes we want reformed may well be history -- and replaced by ones that are at our throat.

Dick continues to be an excellent straight man. Maybe this is what John Kerry meant.

Last winter in Europe I met with an important Arab leader who, like George Bush, wanted Saddam Hussein gone -- but he wanted him gone quickly.

The first shots of the war weren’t soon enough? Man, there’s just no pleasing some Dicks.

Anything else -- a war that dragged on -- could cause lots of trouble.

Yes, as I type this it may drag on until … wait for it … Sunday!

Television pictures of dead Iraqi civilians, the destruction of Baghdad, the natural desire to root for the underdog and the already virulent hatred of the United States might prompt the storied "Arab street" to rise and threaten moderate regimes throughout the region.

That is an amazing amount of nonsense for one sentence. Let’s see, there are the televised pictures of dead Iraqi civilians, which really only matter if you choose to ignore the circumstances of their deaths and the millions of civilians murdered by the Iraqi regime since Saddam Hussein. Or is Dick implying it would have been better if we managed to keep all media suppressed like Saddam has for so long? I’m curious, did Al Jazeera ever do a 60 Minutes-like expose on any of Saddam’s toture palaces? Then there’s the destruction of Baghdad – right. As for any rooting that Dick may do, the Arabic proverbs always speak of them picking the strong horse over the weak one (remember?). Siding with the underdog is a uniquely Western, nay, American, trait. And as my memory serves me, Polly Purebread was substantially more likely to find herself in trouble from Saddam Hussein and his minions than from the US. I don’t think Underdog would have been fighting on the side of Saddam Hussein. Maybe Dick was thinking of Uday-dog instead of Underdog. Then I’m supposed to be afraid the already virulent hatred of the US by the “storied” “Arab street” is going to mutate into a – this is a good one – virulent hatred of the US. Then this “storied” “Arab street” will rise like a yeast infection and threaten moderate regimes throughout the region. Uh huh. The moderate regimes in the region. Isn’t that something of an oxymoron? Better the boogeyman we can conjure up than the one we know, as long as there's a Republican president, I guess.

I know, we've heard that before.

And in the immortal words of Beetlejuice, it just gets funnier every time we hear it.

But "before" was before the United States was so universally reviled as the protector of not only Israel but also the regimes hated by Islamic militants -- Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf states.

And nothing less than our surrender and submission to Sharia law will ever satisfy them. So what’s your point? That we should yield to the looniest amongst us?

Even Turkey has turned out to be a dicey proposition. Public sentiment ran so strongly against the United States that Ankara decided to mostly sit out this war.

And in the bizarro universe of reality, we respected their decision. Hard to believe isn’t it!

It has cost us dearly.

No, it has cost them dearly. We saved about $34B.

Right now, assurances that pro-American regimes in the Muslim world will weather the current trouble sound uncomfortably similar to assurances that Hussein's regime would instantaneously collapse and "Welcome Yanks" banners would flap from every window in Iraq.

In historical terms, this has been an almost instantaneous collapse. The first Gulf War required a 6-week bombing campaign first, and all we had to do then was drive the second-string troops of Iraq out of Kuwait. In just over two weeks we will have completely conquered all of Iraq and successfully destroyed Iraq’s “elite” Republican Guard. Yea, that’s pretty damn close to an instantaneous collapse. I wonder what General George S. Patton would have thought of Iraq's stiff resistance? As for those “Welcome Yanks” banners, well, Dick’s timing remains virtually perfect. What a maroon.

The longer the war goes on –

Why, it might last for days more at this point.

… the more Fridays anti-American mullahs sermonize at their mosques -- the greater the danger to pro-American regimes.

Or perhaps, the greater the danger to anti-American mullahs sermonizing in their mosques.

The fact remains that moderate Arab and Islamic leaders are now scared. They fear their own people.

And I fear Big Media. I call it -- fear of a flack planet.

So if, as Don Rumsfeld and others say, the U.S. effort remains on schedule, then the question is why was this the schedule in the first place?

Because Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld didn’t buy into Dick’s painful, burning desire for a quagmire.

In other words, wouldn't it have been better to keep the diplomatic effort going –

Hans Blix -- the Energizer bunny.

… the additional month asked for by the six swing votes on the Security Council –

So we could wait for the average temperature to rise another 20 degrees? After giving them an extra four months already? Perhaps Dick missed the statements by Hans Blix that he probably never would have found anything -- even if he kept going, and going, and going...

… so when war came, it came swiftly?

Yes, that snail’s pace of 30 miles a day simply cannot be tolerated. Or is Dick referring to the 48-hour ultimatum given by President George W. Bush to Saddam Hussein? Should we have only given him 20 minutes?

An additional month would have meant that all U.S. forces would have been in the region, ready to go.

No Dick, "all" US forces have a number of other jobs to do as well. Remember all those fears Dick expressed just a few paragraphs ago? That’s ok, neither does he.

As it is, the 4th Infantry Division still is not in place.

And boy, oh boy, are they going to be pissed that they didn’t get a chance to get in the fight when this is over.

The answer is that the Bush administration really believed that the war would be brief -- that "shock and awe" would work, that southern Iraq would rebel and that some clear-thinking person close to Hussein would "exile" him with a bullet.

Well, now. I guess we’ll have to save “shock and awe” for the next bastard that deserves it -- several come to mind. And for what it’s worth southern Iraq, and northern Iraq, have rebelled. Personally, I find it highly suspect that there have been any clear-thinking people around Saddam Hussein for a long, long time. And anyway, what’s the point of shooting a corpse?

None of that has happened . . . yet.

Almost all of that has happened … yesterday!

Maybe that's because Iraqis are afraid of the goons in their midst, maybe they are waiting to see the outcome of the war, or maybe -- just maybe -- they hate the United States as much as they do Hussein, but fear him more.

Maybe they are waiting for the mother ship to beam them up. And for those that suffer from occidentaphobia, that is their problem, not mine.

Even after the U.S.-led coalition wins -- and it will surely win -- what has happened so far suggests that keeping the peace is going to be more difficult than expected.

Probably no more greatly exaggerated by Big Media than was the liberation of Iraq after the first couple of days.

It just could be that administering Iraq after the war is going to be as expensive and dirty as some recently rebuked Pentagon planners suggested.

Or maybe it won’t be.

Lyndon Johnson's credibility gap turned out to be a mortal wound. He became such a polarizing figure that he limited himself to one elected presidential term. It is too soon to say that Bush is Johnson redux.

Or even Reagan redux.

Certainly the war in Iraq is nothing like the war in Vietnam.

Endless comparisons notwithstanding.

But what the two wars are beginning to have in common is a bristling arrogance coupled with an insistence that everything is going according the plan.

Perhaps our commanders' confidence is seen as bristling arrogance by those blinded by their hatred because the military does have a plan that works.

There's almost certainly light at the end of this tunnel -- but the tunnel is clearly longer than expected.

Items in Dick’s rear-view mirror are not larger than they appear.

But did you notice the dogs that didn’t bark in Dick’s dark, dank tunnel of love for his nostalgic Vietnam War memories – the weapons of mass destruction, the links to Al Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam, and the war crimes committed daily by Iraqi forces? Apparently Richard Cohen can’t bring himself to be any more reasonable than the virulently hateful “Arab street.” Kind of makes some of the Right’s hatred of Bill Clinton look pale in comparison.

But if I really wanted to get nasty, I would have started in with the whole pathetic Vietnam analogy, but frequent readers don't need any help with that one.


My Anemic Sense of Humor

As I listened this evening to BBC World News give what seemed to be equal credibility to the reports from CentCom and the Iraqi Information Ministry, I started wondering – is this the fabled British sense of irony that I am supposed to lack as an American?


My 12.5 Cents

Question: How is leaving "a bit" out of a sentence on the front page of the NY Times to give it an entirely different slant different than modifying a photo on the front page of the LA Times to give it an entirely different slant?

Answer: The LA Times photographer was fired when he was caught.

Whatever else the blogosphere has done, it has given wide visibility to "corrections" in major newspapers that rarely got much attention before. Until corrections make it above the fold on page one, I think that's a good thing.


Schlock and Bawl

Seriously, what is wrong with the DNC?

I would never start this war if I were President, Former US Vice President Al Gore said via videoconferencing at the Economist Conference "Seventh Roundtable with the Government of Greece", which takes place April 2-4 in Athens.

I know this will come as a shock to Al Gore (but then again, much of reality is a shock to Al Gore), but President George W. Bush didn't start this war, Osama bin Laden did. Operation Iraqi Freedom is just one large engagement in the War on Terrorism. Please quit your crying and move on.

Can we please hold the 2000 election over again now?


Europe Demands Authority, Refuses Responsibility ... Again

Aw, screw it. I'm not wasting time linking or commenting on these asses.

But I will note that even Secretary Powell is telling them to pound sound. And there's certainly plenty of sand to pound in Iraq.


John Kerry: Anti-Constitutionalist Party

And I thought he was running for president. Now we know he wants to be our next regime leader:

''What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States,'' Kerry said in a speech at the Peterborough Town Library.

I searched the US Constitution, and I can't find the word "regime" anywhere in there. Is John Kerry advocating the overthrow of the legitimately elected government of the US? And why would my asking this be any more obnoxious and over the top than John Kerry's slanderous attempt to equate Saddam Hussein's Iraq with "George W. Bush's Amerikkka?"

By echoing the ''regime change'' line popular with hundreds of thousands of antiwar protesters who have demonstrated across the nation in recent weeks, the Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential contender seemed to be reaching out to a newly invigorated constituency as rival Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont and a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq, closes in on Kerry in opinion polls.

Oh, I see. John Kerry wants to be Howard Dean. Lemmings would seem to provide an inadequate metaphor for the speed at which the Democratic Party is racing for the cliff.

Kerry said that he had spoken with foreign diplomats and several world leaders as recently as Monday while fund-raising in New York and that they told him they felt betrayed when Bush resorted to war in Iraq before they believed diplomacy had run its course. He said the leaders, whom he did not identify, believed that Bush wanted to ''end-run around the UN.''

Whaaaaaat? John Kerry is speaking to foreign diplomats and world leaders at fund-raising activities? Um, isn't raising money from foreigners, well, illegal? I predicted long ago that the UN, NATO, and the EU were probably headed for the scrap heap of history because of the liberation of Iraq. I guess we can soon add the DNC to this list as well.

When asked to square his criticism with his pledge of restraint two weeks earlier, Kerry first said that he had tempered his criticism of the administration's diplomatic efforts. Then he said: ''It is possible that the word `regime change' is too harsh. Perhaps it is.''

Gee, ya think?

Kerry was equally critical of his rivals for the Democratic nomination. ''I believe that I have a better capacity than any other candidate running in the field to be able to stand up and address questions of national security and America's role in the world with credibility and history, and to be able to move us to those areas where we win, which is on the domestic agenda,'' he said.

So it's still the economy. Is that what you're saying, stupid?


A Quick Observation

Many of the news reports I read about the fighting in Iraq frequently end with something like this:

By full dusk, the sporadic mortar fire had ceased, and everything was quiet except for an occasional bit of light arms fire in the farm fields beyond the bridgehead.

Just keep in mind that "the occasional bit of light arms fire" would be a very frightful thing in your neighborhood. It is also worth noting that many of us citizens have weapons that are at least as powerful as the AK-47s the Iraqis are probably using to deliver this light arms fire. It's all relative.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

About That J-School Crack in the Last Post...

The Drudge Report provides an interesting story illustrating that facts aren't important when searching for the Truth:

The Los Angeles Times said Wednesday it fired a photographer for altering a front page photo of a British soldier and a group of Iraqi civilians.

I still find it fascinating that the phtographer was fired strictly on procedural grounds. The LA Times apparently has no complaint about the content of the photos. Here are the original photos and the combined photo.

At least he won't have to go far for a new job. After all, Hollywood specializes in trying to pass off fiction as fact.


Embedded Reporters Are a Good Thing

Last night on CNN, I heard a woman from Time magazine complaining about the culture clash between the military and the journalists. She noted that the military is very secretive and not forthcoming about stuff she wanted to know, even when she had determined that it was something that wasn't all that important. She then went on to state that journalists are paid to be malcontents and cynics. Her entire attitude and approach perfectly summarized what I dislike about the professional media class as it exists today.

But there is hope for CNN and the professional journalist class as shown by this item forwarded today from a senior government leader:

Martin Savidge of CNN, embedded with the 1st Marine battalion, was talking with 4 young marines near his foxhole this morning live on CNN. He had been telling the story of how well the marines had been looking out for and taking care of him since the war started. He went on to tell about the many hardships the marines had endured since the war began and how they all look after one another. He turned to the four and said he had cleared it with their commanders and they could use his video phone to call home. The 19 year old marine next to him asked Martin if he would allow his platoon sergeant to use his call to call his pregnant wife back home whom he had not been able to talk to in three months. A stunned Savidge who was visibly moved by the request shook his head and the young marine ran off to get the sergeant. Savidge recovered after a few seconds and turned back to the three young marines still sitting with him and asked which one of them would like to call home first, the marine closest to him responded with out a moments hesitation " Sir, if is all the same to you we would like to call the parents of a buddy of ours, Lance Cpl Brian Buesing of Cedar Key, Florida, who was killed on 3-23-03 near Nasiriya to see how they are doing". At that Martin Savidge totally broke down and was unable to speak. All he could get out before signing off was "Where do they get young men like this?".

Might I suggest, not at J-school.

DOWNDATE: I have learned from James Taranto that this vignette came from L.T. Smash. I am forwarding a note back through channels regarding the proper use of attribution. My apologies to "Dad."

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

The Forest and the Trees

The following was in David Frum's online diary for April 1:

Bravo to NBC for sacking Peter Arnett. One footnote to this controversy: In his paean to Iraq’s “resistance” and “determination,” Arnett made a claim that you often hear even from uncompromised reporters – that the U.S. forces had been forced to change their plans. I have no idea whether this claim is true. Personally I doubt it. But even if it were true – so what?

I don't think NBC deserves many kudos at all. What the hell did they hire Mr. Arnett for in the first place given his abysmal track record? But as to David's last point, he doesn't go nearly far enough. Skipping over the obvious conundrum that most of the plan's critics don't know the plan and still don't grasp that the inherent essence of the plan is flexibility, our military's ability to change its plans on the fly is not a bug, it's a feature. Waging a war is not like building a house, where each element of the process can be laid out a priori with precision and clear linear relationships between the events that must take place. As long as our goals remain constant, I would fully expect our imaginative, highly trained commanders to change their plans constantly to exploit the rapidly evolving (or devolving in the sense of the RG) battle environment. If Saddam can cause us to change our goals, then he has really accomplished something that merits severe criticism. Unless that happens, anybody complaining about the military changing the plans is, frankly, an idiot.

DOWNDATE: Just read Richard Cohen's column today. My prescience regarding his bi-weekly lunacy is getting a little spooky. Expect an unfair, mean-spirited Scourge (is there any other kind?) sometime late tonight.

Monday, March 31, 2003

A Question

When does President George W. Bush go to Iraq?


Don't Mention The War

In the Congo, that is:

Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt Sunday toughened his position against the war in Iraq. Speaking at a meeting of his liberal VKD party in the city of Antwerp, Verhofstadt denounced the US as "very dangerous." "America, a power deeply injured, and has become very dangerous, and it thinks to take over the whole Arab world..."

Unlike the good old days when Belgium and France wanted to carve up Africa and Southeast Asia, eh Guy?

Verhofstadt added that everything must be undertaken to restore the international legal order.

No! Not everything! Well, ok. But can we start with the liberation of all people living under unelected tyrants?


Imagine a UN Dominated by Free Nations

Hosni Mubarak thinks that the liberation of Iraq might be a bad thing:

"When it is over, if it is over, this war will have horrible consequences," Mubarak told Egyptian soldiers in the city of Suez. "Instead of having one (Osama) bin Laden, we will have 100 bin Ladens..."

But that might also mean we would have 100 Afghanistans, i.e., 100 countries freed from the oppression of unelected tyrants. In the long run, this could be a good thing. And maybe that's why Mr. Mubarak seems to be a bit worried.


Peter Arnett

Well, CNN must be so proud of their former correspondent. Kind of puts the whole baby milk factory into perspective, doesn't it? Ol' Pete puts the urn in journalism, or is it the other way around? Mr. Arnett is truly appalling, but it has been kind of interesting watching CNN squirm about this one a little.

I understand NBC has issued a statement supporting him or something. I haven't particularly cared about what NBC has done for at least 15 years. But I am going to miss National Geographic if they keep this traitorous idiot on their payroll.

DOWNDATE: Mr. Arnett has been (belatedly) thrown out on his keister by NBC. As Glenn Reynolds noted, it's still surprising it took public pressure for this to happen. Maybe Mr. Arnett can apply for a job at Al Jazeera. I'm sure he will feel more at home there. No word about National Geographic yet.

DOWNERDATE: Ok, National Geographic has fired him too. But something still bugs me. It seems to me that National Geographic and NBC gave only procedural reasons for his firing. The fact that his statements were incredibly stupid, profoundly anti-American, and that they may lead to the death of many more Iraqi's didn't seem to be all that important to them.

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