Archive for June, 2006

Sticking to Their Story

Sunday, June 25th, 2006

“We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandated of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them.” — Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), September 19, 2002.

The issue of weapons of mass destruction WMD is a central question concerning the liberation of Iraq. Before the operation by Coalition Forces in 2003 began, there was a broad and deep consensus among leaders of both the Democratic and Republican Parties and indeed the world that Saddam’s Iraq had retained a portion of his stockpiles of WMD from the pre-1991 war era and was still actively seeking such capability and the means to deliver them. All of these activities were in direct violation of the cease-fire agreement with Coalition Forces in 1991 as well as numerous United Nations resolutions.

In the immediate aftermath of the war, the Kay and Reports clearly demonstrated that Saddam’s Iraq was trying to maintain WMD capability and extend its ability to deliver them, though no stockpiles of WMD were found. The categorical “no WMD” assertion was not technically correct because about 30 chemical weapons were found. This number was small enough that it could be believed that the Saddam regime may have lost these to sloppy accounting. The headlines could still “No WMD Stockpiles Found.” Rhetorically speaking, it was possible for some to assert that Bush lied to us about WMD with the same certainty that they assured us before the war that such weapons existed.

It has always been intuitively unsatisfying to believe that Saddam had really come clean with regard to WMD, yet still would not allow international inspectors to unequivocally certify it. After all, interfering with international inspectors cost the regime billons in oil revenues that it might have otherwise enjoyed. Some suggest that interfering with inspectors was a big bluff by Saddam in order for him to save face in the Arab world. In retrospect, if Saddam’s regime had turned over its WMD in the first months after the first Gulf War, sanctions would have ended in a year and the regime could have re-started its WMD program in a few years financed by increasing oil revenues. The bluff would have been irrational. Though, it must be conceded that Saddam has often miscalculated.

One explanation is that some of the WMD had been transferred to Syria prior to the second Gulf War. There is precedent to this behavior in that prior to the first Gulf War, Saddam’s sent some of his Air Force to his implacable enemy Iran rather than see them destroyed by Coalition Forces. Iran declined to return the planes. It is not commonly known, that the Duelfer Report specifically did not rule out such a weapons transfer. In a recent a book Saddam’s Secret, a former Iraqi Air Force General Georges Sada asserts that weapons were moved to Syria, though his sources are second-hand.

Now we find that in the years since the completion of the Duelfer Report, additional weapons have been found. The weapons are in widely varying states of operational readiness, but now the number totals 500, certainly enough to be considered a stockpile. This certainly less than might have been expected based on pre-war intelligence, but still remains a critical conclusion. Unfortunately this new information contradicts the story line of the past couple of years and consequently has difficulty fighting its way into a mainstream media that already has its mind made up.

It seems that such news released by Republican Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) from previously classified documents would be front page news whatever assessment one makes of the credibility of this new information. If the released report is true, it must compel a re-assessment of the conventional wisdom about WMD stockpiles. If the evidence is weak, then it speaks negatively of yet another attempt by some who supported the initial invasion to desperately justify their decision. This latter point is key. If the newly released report is false or misleading, then that would provide powerful evidence of deception and play into the Left-wing assertion that “Bush lied.” The day after the release there was scant evidence of it in the mainstream media. It was not a top AP story. Does the scant coverage actually provide evidence of the report’s compelling credibility?

The Washington Post on June 23, 2006 relegated the story to page A10, under the rather self-serving headline, “Democrats Criticize Claim on Iraqi Arms.” While several days later, the front page of the Sunday Washington Post ran a story, probably leaked from the CIA on how prior to the war the CIA warned against the credibility of a “fabricator” who was providing evidence of pre-war WMD in Iraq. The former story officially released by a Senator contracting the story line of “no WMD” is buried or ignored, and a story from an unnamed source supporting the “no WMD” narrative is featured on the front page.

It is clear that the “no WMD” is the mainstream media’s story and they are sticking to it.


Sunday, June 18th, 2006

In an exodus from persecution in Illinois, Brigham Young, led a vanguard group of Mormons through the Great Plains of the central United States to the Great Salt Lake Valley. After an arduous journey and gazing down upon the area, Young proclaimed, “Here is the place where my people Israel shall pitch their tents.” Young saw a place where his people and their descendents could prosper. We leave it to present day Utah residents and Mormon adherents to decide whether a “promised land” was reached.In a more literal sense, the Great Salt Lake Valley is the home of a new high-tech UTOPIA (Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency). Rather than a land flowing with milk and honey, this is a land flowing with data and information. This bandwidth promises to ease commercial transactions and enable the electronic delivery of content and services to individual homes. As we gaze upon this new world, we might paraphrase Young, “Here is the place where my people shall be connected.”UTOPIA is a publicly-chartered and owned institution that controls the network that connects a number of cities in the Great Salt Lake Valley. The agency is installing an optical fiber network promising 100 Mbits/second residential and commercial bandwidth. This bandwidth is more than an order-of-magnitude faster than conventional high-speed cable or other residential optical networks offered by companies like Verizon. It is sufficient to pipe down high-definition video with additional bandwidth available for growth.However, UTOPIA only provides the digital pipes, not any content or services. The idea is that the physical network is a natural monopoly like electricity or water services and ought to be a regulated monopoly. Once this pipe is in place, the assumption is that there will competition to provide services like phone connection, Internet connections, and video programming driving down prices.

There are many communities where a cable company will come in an drop coax cable to every home while a telecommunications company will follow, perhaps years later, and drop optical fiber to the same houses. There is duplication of effort which, on the face of it, appears to be an inefficiency. Moreover, service providers are limited to those companies with the economic resources to build a full-scale network. Competition for services is either non-existent or fought out between only a few large companies. Prices tend to stay high. The UTOPIA plan tries to circumvent this by treating bandwidth itself a public utility.

UTOPIA is an interesting and novel concept. Municipalities and states ought to track the progress of this model for providing bandwidth. The potential downside is that public utilities tend to be lethargic and avoid innovation. If UTOPIA had been conceived a decade ago, they might have decided to lay copper instead of optical fiber. Once this investment is made, would a UTOPIA be eager to replace this infrastructure? The inefficiency of two companies laying two types of lines may be part of what is termed “creative destruction” where innovative economic transformations are built on the ruins of previously successful enterprises.

Other municipalities may adopt similar or hybrid models to deliver bandwidth. Overtime we may see what mix of government-regulated monopoly, private enterprise, and technological progress will create the freest possible environment for innovation and growth in residential and commercial bandwidth.

Reaction to the Death of Zarqawi

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

When light is absorbed and refracted by the atmosphere, the resulting light spectrum often says as much about the nature of the intervening atmosphere through which it passed as it does about the original source of light. In much the same way, the manner in which a person responds to news is as much a measure of perspective of the person as it is about the news.

Consider for example, the news of the past couple of weeks. Information came to light that suggested, but has not yet proved, that some US servicemen deliberately killed civilians in Haditha, perhaps in a fit of rage. Why certainly no one condones the alleged actions, those opposed to the Iraq War were quick to seize on the incident as a metaphor for all the challenges that have occurred in Iraq and tried to tie the incident to the Bush Administration. Those against the war wanted the incident, no matter how rare or atypical, to become a metaphor for the war. The fact that painting with such a broad brush might also taint the large majority of US service people who have behaved nobly and bravely seems some how lost or is less important than the opportunity to damage the Bush Administration.

This last week, in a well-coordinated and professional attack, the US military in conjunction with Iraqi forces managed to kill Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He was the Al Qaeda terrorist who entered Iraq before the Coalition liberation and has sparked sectarian Sunni and Shiite violence. By brutally targeting and killing Iraqi civilians, many times woman and children, Zarqawi has kept alive the violence.

No morally serious person is displeased with the outcome. While our better natures might be uncomfortable with rejoicing at the death of any human being, we can all be delighted in knowing that some people will likely be saved from future terrorist actions and still others might be dissuaded from following Zarqawi’s lead.

Most public officials, even those opposed to American involvement in Iraq, have expressed their approval at Zarqawi’s death. However, Democrats could only bring themselves to praise troops and refused to grant the Administration any credit. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, stated that “This is a good day for the Iraqi people, the U.S. military and our intelligence community.” It would too much to expect much praise of President George Bush.

Perhaps most revealing is the initial reaction of some on the Left. One can check out the web site called the Democratic Underground to obtain a glimpse of the loonier Left wing.

In the hours after Zarqawi’s death, the first reaction was denial followed by the assertion that Zarqawi was not really as bad a guy as painted by main-stream media and the Administration. Then came the suggestions that this particular operation was planned for Bush’s political advantage. Here are some selected Democratic Underground posts from the morning of June 9, 2006.

”Sorry. Don’t buy it.”

“ABC has a highly detailed special report going. breaking late night… They’ve been blaming him [Zarqaewi] for every ill for the past 15 minutes. Oil rigs, hotels, the UN compound, Nick Berg. (ABC says he actually killed Berg himself). This guy was a regular one man super army. Such BS. The boogey man Goldstein is finally dead? Right.

“Convenient too that this would happen now… guess we should just all forget about that Haditha mess, the fact that we are approaching 2,500 dead and the fact that our economy is in big trouble.”

“Gawd! Please, no disrespect — but this is only `a tool’ that is used by the BushBotBorg to pick-up morale. It sort of equates to 1984 Announcements that our `chocolate rations’ will be upped for the next month.”

“It’s all the distraction in the news media and that average people can not keep it all straight. Anew I see the value of the DU [Democratic Underground], because of smart people who catch this sort of thing.”

Of course, the Democratic Underground is aptly named since it is the cesspool into which the scum of the Left drain. Yet, one wonders about the embarrassment saner Democrats must feel when Representative Peter Stark from California averred that the entire Zarqawi killing was a stunt, “just to cover Bush’s [rear] so he doesn’t have to answer” for the events in Haditha. Former Democratic presidential candidate and Ohio’s 10th District representative in the House of Representative, Dennis Kucinich, dismissed Zarqawi as only a small part of the insurgency.

The natural inclination of most Democrats like other Americans is to be overjoyed at the removal of a brutal enemy of Americans and Iraqis. However, such is the state of American politics that anti-Bush anger makes it difficult for some to accept good news lest it reflects positively on the President.

Supporting the Troops

Sunday, June 4th, 2006

Between February 13 and 15, 1945 during World War II, the British Royal Air Force and the US Air Force firebombed the German city of Dresden. Dresden was a beautiful Baroque city near the eastern border of Germany. Firebombing by Allied forces consisted of dropping explosives which destroy structures, especially roof tops, followed by incendiary explosive designed to ignite a firestorm. The ensuing firestorm not only destroys building but is particularly lethal to people on the ground.

The purpose of the bombing, particularly near the train stations, was to prevent the Germans from rapidly exchanging troops from the Eastern and Western fronts. Despite this ostensible motivation, thereremains a critical question as to whether the destruction of life was proportionate to the net benefit to the Allied war effort. Recent scholarship suggests that 25,000 to 35,000 Germans on ground were killed.

Though Dresden was an important transit point, it did not contribute to the German war effort to the extent of other cities.  On this basis, many now claim that the bombing of Dresden was a war crime. In retrospect, at best the Allied commanders were too cavalier is balancing the level of possible civilian casualties and shortening the war. Perhaps there was more than a little revenge for the bombing of London poisoning the hearts of Allied commanders. This assessment is re-enforced by the comment of Arthur Travers Harris, Marshall of the Royal Air Force, who wrote, “I do not personally regard the whole of the remaining cities of Germany as worth the bones of one British Grenadier.”

Nearly 60 years later, American troops needed to suppress insurgent actions in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which had become an insurgent haven. US troops urged as many civilians to leave the city as possible. At this point, it would have been possible to literally and thoroughly destroy the city from the air. However, to do so would have risked remaining civilian lives and made reconstruction both from a physical and political stand point more difficult. American troops went through Fallujah house-by-house and door-by-door to root out insurgents. About 1,000 insurgents were killed and 92 Americans gave their lives so that many Iraqi civilians would live.

We cite these disparate examples to illustrate the extreme care and sensitivity with which the Iraq War has been conducted. The number of American and Coalition casualties is higher than it otherwise would have been because of efforts to conduct a just war. This is what makes aberrations like the prisoner abuse by a minority at Abu Grab and an alleged massacre by US forces at Haditha so disappointing and so out of character.

After Dresden, Paul Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Propaganda Minister, used the bombing to undermine the moral authority of the Allies for political purposes. He showed pictures of destruction and exaggerated the number of civilian casualties by a factor of 10. No doubt, the modern heirs to the Goebbels tradition will exaggerate Marine and Army mistakes. We hope that this exploitation will not be aided by American news sources that are so angry at President George Bush that any bad news will be exploited.

No one argues that the press should not aggressively follow and report the Abu Grab and other stories. However, to write about these without balancing the coverage with positive stories of American soldiers or without other context is knowingly misleading. When this happens, the American press fails in its responsibility to inform. It allows the modern Middle Eastern counterparts to Goebbels to exploit American errors.

Unfortunately, the goal of the angry Left is to embrace events like Abu Grab a metaphor for the Iraq War even if in the process it unfairly paints American soldiers as barbarians. By most accounts, the overwhelming fraction of soldiers have behaved honorably and nobly taking increases risks to save Iraqi lives. Some on the Left become upset when it is suggested that they don’t support the troops. Unbalanced reporting or excessive criticism of isolated errors by American troops without perspective renders them fairly susceptible to such criticism.