OxBlog

Monday, May 24, 2004

# Posted 11:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE PRESIDENT'S SPEECH: It was an impressive performance. Or perhaps I should say an impressive text, since I only read it. But let's get to the criticism first. The praise can wait.

The purpose of this speech was to chart a course for the future of America in Iraq. As expected, Bush placed considerable emphasis on the June 30th handover date. Too much emphasis:
On June 30th, the Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist and will not be replaced. The occupation will end and Iraqis will govern their own affairs.

America's ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte, will present his credentials to the new president of Iraq. Our embassy in Baghdad will have the same purpose as any other American embassy: to assure good relations with a sovereign nation.
The suggestion that a nation will govern itself with 150,000 foreign soldiers on its soil and without an elected government is simply not credible. While most critics emphasize the first of those two points, I think the latter is just as important. The fact is, interim governments don't truly govern. Their purpose is to dissolve themselves and pave the way for an elected, constitutional authority.

By raising expectation of what the June 30th handover will accomplish, Bush is only hurting himself. From what I can tell, few Iraqis expect much to change on that date. What I expect is an updating of the artificial consensus that produced the current Governing Council. Once again, the US -- this time along with the UN -- is trying to provide Iraq with a government that won't offend anyone.

But governments that don't offend anyone are governments that don't govern. Without the mandate provided by an election, no Iraqi government can make the controversial decisions that will have to be made during the process of reconstruction. And if Iraqis can't make those decisions, then Americans and UN officials will. That is why it is thoroughly disingenuous for Bush to describe Negroponte's post as just another embassy.

Now on to the good parts of the speech. First and foremost, I was overwhelmed by the President's unabashed Wilsonianism. Even Reagan's most idealistic speeches never went this far, either in terms of emphasis or specificity. On far too many occasions, Reagan embedded his democratic aspirations in vague formulas that had few practical implications.

In contrast, Bush has now lain out a very clear schedule for the transition to electoral democracy in Iraq. His remarks announced specific deadlines for elections to the constitutional assembly, for a referendum on the draft constitution and for general elections. He has invested his America's prestige -- and perhaps the survival of his administration -- in this process.

He is also investing American soldiers. With Bush's approval ratings in the midst of an extended plunge, critics have suggested that the President was getting ready to cut and run. But now he has explicity promised to hold the size of the occupation force steady at 138,000 or even increase it if necessary. While Bush held "the commanders" responsible for estimating that only 115,000 troops would be necessary at this point, he did admit that the American effort to create self-sufficient Iraqi security force has resuled in failures.

Finally, Abu Ghraib. It will be razed. To be sure, Bush refused to admit that the abuses there went beyond the actions of a "few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values". Yet, in this instance, actions may ultimately speak louder than words.
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# Posted 9:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DISTURBING: Human rights violations at Abu Ghraib have brought the perils of the American prison system back into the public spotlight. To some degree, this (re-)revelation of the horrors we tolerate at home detracts attention from the seriousness of what happened abroad.

However, I would argue that focusing more on the failures of the domestic prison and mental health systems provides a proper context for understanding how American soldiers committed such brutal and hypocritical acts at Abu Ghraib. Our domestic failures reproduce themselves abroad.

This fact in no way mitigates the guilt or responsibility of those who violated the human rights of Iraqi prisoners. It simply points to the fact that we may not be able to set the standards we want abroad until we commit ourselves to setting them at home as well.
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# Posted 9:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN: I need a vacation to recover from my vacation. Bachelor party in Vegas. Drive to LA. Rehearsal dinner. Wedding mass. Wedding party. Flight back to Boston. Arabic final the next morning.

Although deprived of sleep, I am quite well-rested intellectually. I am actually excited to start working on my dissertation again. But I am a little apprehensive about blogging. Dissertation research behaves itself while you're away. When you come back, it is exactly where you left it.

But the blogosphere goes wild. How can I possibly catch up on hundreds of news articles and thousands of blog posts? How can I say anything without exposing myself to withering criticism from those who are now better informed than myself?

Yet strangely, I didn't feel at all disconnected from the world when I wasn't blogging. I threw an occasional glance at the headlines, but nothing seemed all that important. My life went on exactly as it had been going. No one I talked to seemed all that concerned about the news. What really mattered was that one of my closest friends ever, someone I lived with for four life-changing years, was entering into a life-long relationship with the woman he loves.

For someone who spends hours a day reading about, thinking about the news, this break served as an important reminder that very few of us inhabit the insulated reality known as the blogosphere. By the same token, it served as an important reminder that neither journalists nor politicians, no matter how important, play a prominent in the lives of most Americans.

One might argue that Americans should be more publicly-minded and better informed. But how much information is enough? At what point would the experts agree that American citizens know enough?

Of course, I am hardly the first one to consider the implications of such questions. Two hundred twenty-five years ago, the Founders sought to strike the right balance between creating a democracy and creating a republic. To what degree must elected representatives obey the will of the voters and to what degree must they act in what they believe to be the voters' best interests?

I have no new answers to these questions. I am simply glad that taking some time away from OxBlog enabled me to confront the real-life conditions that give rise to these eternal dilemmas.
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Saturday, May 22, 2004

# Posted 11:19 AM by Patrick Belton  

SURPRISE! So it looks as though Rachel's planned me a surprise birthday trip to my ancestral city of Dublin - I'm writing this from a kiosk at Gatwick, where she's whisked me away from Oxford's Gloucestr Green. I'll see all of you on Tuesday, and a year older - till then, slan agus dia dhuit!
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# Posted 8:00 AM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG'S AFGHANISTAN CORRESPONDENT goes on a diet with 1974 vintage weight watcher cards. (Joel, can't you at least come up with a version featuring the delights of Afghan cuisine?)
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# Posted 7:00 AM by Patrick Belton  

WELL, I HAVEN'T GOT ONE OF THOSE ANYWAY: Porsche owners are more likely to cheat on their spouses than the owner of any other genus of car, with 49 percent taking a spin in the wrong lane according to a survey. Want to boost your chances of marital fidelity? Try a trusty Vauxhall.
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# Posted 6:50 AM by Patrick Belton  

INDIA WATCH: Outlook India speculates on what Indian national security policy will look like under Congress. Also, the Economic Times argues that Congress's election had more to do with astute alliance management than in increasing its vote share (which actually declined slightly from the 1999 elections).
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Friday, May 21, 2004

# Posted 10:49 AM by Patrick Belton  

SRI LANKA WATCH: OxBlog friend and Nathan Hale member Vikram Raghavan has just returned from Sri Lanka, where he formed part of a World Bank team to explore how best to go about the reconstruction of a country ravaged by two decades of civil war. He writes about his travels and thoughts there on his new blog.
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# Posted 9:58 AM by Patrick Belton  

THINK TANK WATCH: Over at Rand, Bruce Hoffman considers the effect of killing Osama on the corporation succession plan of Al Qa'eda. Cheryl Bernard considers how the west might best assist reformers in the Islamic world without actually hindering their cause. OxBlog favourite John Lewis Gaddis speaks at CFR on surprise, security, and the American experience. DCIs Turner, Woolsey, and Webster talk about in which directions their alma mater agency should change in the future. Yale Law hosts a senior USAID official and two UN ambassadors to discuss whether nation-building is in fact possible. Brookings looks at labour standards in trade agreements and whether the market is moral, while CSIS looks at Afghanistan security, US options toward Pakistan, and security and migration across the US-Mexican border.
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# Posted 9:47 AM by Patrick Belton  

GOVERNMENT TO BRITAIN: NIPPLES ARE FOR TABLOIDS, NOT FOR BREASTFEEDING - Brief shots which included the nipple of a breastfeeding mother were cut from an advert to encourage voting in upcoming elections for members of the European Parliament which will be shown in 2,200 British cinemas, on the orders of the Cinema Advertising Association.

Britain is the only country to require the deletion of the offending breastfeeding scene, which contravene long-standing British social standards that breasts are to be used to sell newspapers rather than feed young Britons. French censors are uncomfortable about a brief shot of a stern-looking female judge receiving a jury verdict. Ireland has reportedly decided not to screen the advert at all.
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# Posted 4:57 AM by Patrick Belton  

PIGEON WARFARE: As most people know, Britain and the Forces Françaises Libres relied upon the services of trained homing pigeons to transmit messages across enemy lines. As is less known, British counterintelligence came to realise that the Axis nations also had their own pigeons relaying mesages to the continent from Blighty. So as BBC reports this morning, Britain established a falcon brigade to intercept enemy pidgeons. Other intelligence agencies considered, against the advice of MI5, the training of pigeons for suicide missions; much better to be a chicken, where your duties would merely consist (in another rejected British war plan) of sitting on a nuclear bomb.
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# Posted 4:49 AM by Patrick Belton  

MORE ALEXANDRA KERRY: Apparently Alexandra was having a lovely evening before she ran into Michael Moore in the same dress.
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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

# Posted 9:22 PM by Patrick Belton  

DEMOCRACY BRIEFER: I've written a quick democracy briefer over on Winds of Change, focusing on recently announced Palestinian local elections, the paring-down of the Greater Middle East Initiative, and elections in a number of countries making democratic transitions or consolidating after them. I won't say it's a must-read, because it's by .... me; but if you're the sort of person who'd be interested in this sort of thing, then this is the sort of thing that might interest you.
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# Posted 5:06 PM by Patrick Belton  

ROBERT TAGORDA'S blogging at his best - you should definitely go pay him a visit.
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# Posted 5:01 PM by Patrick Belton  

ONE DAY LATE, BUT, happy birthday, Matt! The three of us are always happy to have you out there as a very respected interlocutor, and we wish you many very happy returns of the day.
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# Posted 4:06 PM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG'S ESTEEMED INDIA CORRESPONDENT ANTARA DATTA helps us continue our conversation about India's tumultuous elections:
Dear Patrick,
Two quick points about the post on india:

1. I'd be wary about the statistics indicating a drop in poverty. Poverty rates declined because the Indian government switched over to World Bank prescriptions to measuring poverty. In particular, this involved questioning people about their 'weekly consumption' rather than their 'monthly consumption'. Since the sampling method changed, rates too changed. I'd be more curious about the total number of people below the poverty line.

Also the definition of the poverty line in India is a hugely political question. Various definitions abound and were suggested by various committees set up by different governments in power, all determined to prove that poverty had declined during their tenure. So as I said, I'd be very wary of using data based on poverty lines in India- it's a political tinderbox!

This is not to say that poverty hasn't declined. And that things haven't gotten better under BJP rule. But we've also seen the highest suicide rate among farmers under them as well. So makes me wary again of making generalizations about how far their policies have benefitted the poor. As far as the upper middle classes are concerned, there is no doubt that we are certainly better off...but for the rest, perhaps this election was an indication that all is not well. Also, a lot of the reforms began under the Narasimha Rao led Congress government, and if we accept that it takes almost a decade for most reforms to bear fruit, it is a bit rich for the BJP to take credit, and then claim that the Congress would reverse these reforms!!

There is also a tendency in Western media coverage of Indian elections to think of the average voter as poor and illiterate. That they might be, but my experience of rural life in India, however limited, has shown that they are also incredibly politicized and know exactly what the crucial issues at stake are, so I would really respect the decision of the Andhra electorate as a good indication of what was happening within the country, especially in the agricultural sector.

The BJP called the elections six months early because they hoped that a good monsoon would benefit them. What they forgot was the unprecedented drought in north India last year, which they hadn't handled very well (despite the fact that we have fairly large quantities of foodgrains rotting in our warehouses). And after all, you can't really take credit for a good monsoon, can you?! I also find baffling the reactions of the stock market. If Sonia was going to be PM, Manmohan Singh was definitely going to be Finance Minister and would set the agenda on reforms. So how does his becoming PM alter the agenda so much, that the stocks make such a rapid recovery? I'm not sure what the stock brokers were really thinking. Also, it would be foolish to take the Left's statements very seriously. In my home state of Bengal, they've been vigorously trying to attract foreign investors, and besides, they are staying out of government anyway. So they can't really influence government policy all that much. I honestly suspect that on the important question of economic reform, not much will change at all. I also suspect that P. Chidambaram, a Harvard educated lawyer will be the next FM, and he's extremely pro-reform. So that should set some doubts at rest.

2. On Sonia:

It's a brilliant move from her. She's removed the last real 'issue' that the BJP could have used against her. She's made them look very silly (especially the Chief Minister who resigned yesterday morning to launch a campaign against her, only to find that she'd withdrawn). Now they really look like poor losers, and many of their supporters are quite dismayed by what they see as blatant political blackmail. In fact, from what I've been reading in the media for most of today, there is a reasonable groundswell of opinion lauding her act, and many former detractors are quite stunned at what is seen as an act of 'political sacrifice' quite unprecedented in Indian politics.

Part of the reason why the BJP were so taken aback is because most of them couldn't even imagine someone being offered PMship on a platter, and refusing it. So they expected Sonia to become PM, and this to be their main agenda for at least a while.

The other aspect is this: when the BJP says it's launching a 'nationwide agitation', it has ominous overtones. It means that they would have fomented trouble in the villages by targetting minorities. (also remember that Sonia is a Catholic, and the more extreme wing of the RSS has been saying for a while that if Sonia came to power, she would take her orders from the Vatican and so on...) If anything, the fear of what that would do, might have forced Sonia to make up her mind. Note she refers to maintaining the 'secular fabric' of the nation in her speech, which would otherwise seem odd, unless you read it in this context.

In the light of what I said in my last email, yes, I am indeed disappointed that in a way, the BJP's agenda has won the day. But I think, there is a silver lining to all this. And frankly if you vehemently oppose the BJP, like I do, I think this is the best possible thing that could have happened. And it's a really shrewd move from her. Makes me think that she's not as politically inept as most people think!

Anyway, I really ought to get back to revision!!

take care,
Antara
Thanks, Antara!
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# Posted 11:54 AM by Patrick Belton  

MA'AM, WE NEVER KNEW: OxBlog, officially one of the disadvantages of monarchy!
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# Posted 11:30 AM by Patrick Belton  

PAKISTAN DEMOCRACY WATCH: On Monday, and in a marked shift of tone if not policy, the United States demanded a transparent trial for a political prisoner in Pakistan and urged the Pakistani government to prepare for "fair multiparty elections" in 2007.

Javed Hashmi, a member of Parliament and leader of the opposition Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy, was arrested last fall on sedition charges and received a 23-year sentence in April for producing a letter in Parliament demonstrating the opposition on the part of many of the nation's senior generals to the military's continued interference in politics and support for a restoration of deomcracy. Hashmi's family and lawyer complained about a lack of transparency in his trial and that he was provided with inadequate access to counsel to prepare his defense.

UPI for more.
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# Posted 10:16 AM by Patrick Belton  

TODAY'S READING MATERIAL ROUND-UP: Christopher Hitchens is responding to Seymour Hersh's New Yorker piece, and ends by noting
So a Sarin-infected device is exploded in Iraq, and across the border in Jordan the authorities say that nerve and gas weapons have been discovered for use against them by the followers of Zarqawi, who was in Baghdad well before the invasion. Where, one idly inquires, did these toys come from? No, it couldn't be. …
On India, the editor of the Hindu, currently a journalism fellow at the Kennedy School, calls Sonia's rejection of her proferred crown an 'ennobling moment for Indian democracy', even though another perspective might see in it an unwarranted legitimation of precisely the nativist claims the BJP was making against her during the campaign - which, in turn, do not ennoble Indian democracy, particularly. Also on India, TNR's Sunil Khilnani reviews Nehru's legacy of state secularism, and in the Wapo, Sebastian Mallaby points out that interpretations of the past election notwithstanding, the poorest of the poor in rural India area are actually doing rather better thanks to the last growth spurt:
People don't seem to have noticed that, whereas India's poverty rate stuck obstinately above 50 percent during the low-growth 1960s and 1970s, it is now falling precipitously: To 36 percent in the government's household survey of 1993-94; to 29 percent in the next survey, six years later. The idea that the countryside has not benefited is simply spurious. In the interval between the two most recent surveys, rural poverty fell from 37 percent to 30 percent.
A number of commentators take the opportunity of the fiftieth anniversary of Brown to comment on racial equality in today's America. The centrist DLC uses the anniversary to endorse the No Child Left Behind Act, while the San Francisco Chronicle tells the story of black schoolchildren who were the first to enter previously segregated schools.

Elsewhere, Slate's William Salletan introduces 'Kerryisms', triumphantly proclaiming 'This one can't talk, either!' The NYT Book Review looks at books on China, books on integration, and Somalia. The New York Review of Books looks at Saul Bellow and Osama. In the Prospect, Lord Falconer and friends discuss Labour's constitutional reforms. And The Onion takes a trip to my beloved Dearborn, Michigan.
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# Posted 6:49 AM by Patrick Belton  

LEWIS ON ISLAMIC DEMOCRACY: Bernard Lewis, an impeccable scholar whose deep respect for his region of study makes him able to speak of democratic reform in the Muslim world without that stench of Islamophobia often infecting the opinion pages, has a lengthy interview in the Atlantic Unbound today on anti-tyrannical and contractual elements in the Islamic political tradition:
What about democracy? How compatible is it with Islamic law and custom?

Well, there are certain elements in Islamic law and tradition which I think are conducive to democracy. The idea that government is contractual and consensual, for one thing. According to the Islamic Treatise on Holy Law, the ruler comes to power by an agreement between the ruler and his subjects. This is bilateral. Both sides have obligations. It is also limited. The ruler rules under the Holy Law, which he cannot change and which he must obey. So these two elements, I think, of consent and contract, also have the element of limitation, and can be very conducive to the development of democratic institutions. There is also a deeply rooted rejection in traditional Islamic writing of despotism or dictatorship, of the capricious rule of the ruler without due regard to the law and to the opinion of the various groups in society.

What do you make of the thesis that Islam is another version of the anti-liberal, anti-modern dogmas of the twentieth century? Some pundits have been using the term "Islamo-fascism" to describe the ideology of bin Laden and his ilk. Do you think that the militant form of Islam stems more from recent utopian movements than from Islamic tradition?

No, I don't. There is an Islamic saying, "The first to reason by analogy was the devil." Certainly there is a Fascist element in the Islamic world, but it's not in the religious fundamentalists. It's rather in people like Saddam Hussein and his regime and the Syrian regime. These were directly based on the Fascist regimes. We can date it with precision: in 1940, the French government capitulated and a collaborationist regime was established in Vichy. The rulers of the French colonial empire had to decide whether they would stay with Vichy, or rally to De Gaulle. And they made various decisions. Syria and Lebanon were at that time under French mandate, and these French officials stayed with Vichy, so Syria and Lebanon became a center of Axis propaganda in the Middle East. That was when real Fascist ideas began to penetrate. There were many translations and adaptations of Nazi material into Arabic. The Ba'ath party, which dates from a little after that period, came in as a sort of Middle Eastern clone of the Nazi party and, a little later, the Communist party.

But that has nothing to do with Islam. The Islamists' approach is quite different from that and has its roots in the history of Islam. Though, of course, it is also influenced by outside ideas. I would not call it Fascist. I would say it is certainly authoritarian and shares the hostilities of the Fascists rather than their doctrines.

On Iran: For example, what they have now in Iran, for the first time, is a theocracy—a country which is actually run by the professional men of religion. This is totally unknown in the Islamic past. They now have the functional equivalent of a Pope, Cardinals, and Bishops, and above all, an inquisition that punishes heretics. One hopes that they may in due course have a reformation.

On secularism: The word secular is a Western term. It has only recently been imported into the Middle East. The idea of Church and State as two distinct institutions which can be either joined or separated is a Western and more specifically a Christian idea. In the past, if you talked to Muslims about separation of Church and State the usual answer you'd get was, "Oh, this is a Christian remedy for a Christian disease"—and therefore of no relevance to them. Now I think that they are beginning to realize that perhaps they have contracted the Christian disease and that it might be a good idea to try the Christian remedy.

On western media coverage: when I listen to the broadcasts from the media people who are in Iraq at the present time, they almost always mispronounce the names of Iraqi towns. One town which has been very much in the news is spelled in Latin letters N-a-j-a-f, and I hear one announcer or newsreader after another, even those who are calling from over there, say Na-jaf' (emphasis on the second syllable). Well it isn't Na-jaf', it's Na'jaf (emphasis on the first syllable). Anyone who's ever heard an Iraqi pronounce the name will know that. The fact that this sort of name is systematically mispronounced is really alarming. One wonders who they've been talking to.
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# Posted 6:24 AM by Patrick Belton  

INDIA ROUND-UP: Time will tell whether crashing markets or eleventh-hour concerns about her background (which received full flushing-out by the BJP during the campaign, to no great consequence) played the greater role in Sonia's decision to step aside. Joe Gandelman praises the high-minded selflessness with which Sonia declined the prime ministership, but if she in the end accepts the position the more dramatically inclined of our readers might find themselves thinking of Richard III instead.

Prime Minister-presumptive Manmohan Singh is profiled by CNN, Kerala News, Guardian. He is by self-definition an apolitical technocrat, an academic with unimpeachable research credentials, and an economist seasoned by government experience whose selection has quite literally caused India's stock instantly to rise.
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# Posted 5:53 AM by Patrick Belton  

AND WHO SAYS LOS ANGELENOS DON'T APPRECIATE CLASSICAL MUSIC: History of the 'General Kyd' 'cello, one of roughly 60 made by Straviarius (and metaphorical exegeses noting the implications of this story for the cultural descent from the Enlightenment to mass popular culture are not welcome.....):

* made, 1684, in Cremona, Italy
* acquires its current name at end of 18th c. from British general who brings it to England from Italy
* purchased, Los Angeles Philarmonic Association, c. 1975
* left outside 'cellist Peter Stumpf's home by accident, April 25
* picked up by bicyclist, then dropped off roughly one mile away
* discovered by nurse Melanie Stevens, 29
* Stevens asks cabinetmaker boyfriend to convert the Stradivarius into a CD holder
* cello saved from an eternity as a CD holder on May 7th when Ms Stevens, an assiduous viewer of television, notices a news report about the Stradivarius, and returns it.

And who says L.A. residents don't appreciate the arts.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2004

# Posted 1:35 PM by Patrick Belton  

SONIA STEPS ASIDE: Amid speculation she acted out of deference to her children's wishes and out of threats made against her for being born overseas, she has indicated that she is backing Manmohan Singh (whose prime ministerial prospects we took note of last Tuesday).
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# Posted 12:55 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OH, RATS! I'm headed to California for my college roommate's wedding, so no posting from this OxBlogger until next week.

PS It is my birthday on Wednesday. In lieu of gifts, please make a donation to the David Adesnik Legal Defense Fund. Remember to specify criminal or civil on your cheque.

PPS It is Matt Yglesias' birthday on Tuesday. He doesn't yet have a legal defense fund, but you can find a good cause to donate to here.
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Monday, May 17, 2004

# Posted 8:16 PM by Patrick Belton  

AND YOU THOUGHT BRITAIN WAS BAD: The alcohol consumption rate in Australia's Northern Territory is an estimated 1,120 standard drinks, per person, per year (2001).
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# Posted 7:07 PM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG GIRL CORRESPONDENT Rachel says that in the now-famous picture of Alexandra Kerry from Cannes sporting what in America would be called a 'wardrobe malfunction', Ms Kerry may have been simply subjected to an unfortunate lighting moment:
In some types of lighting, clothes that one imagines to be opaque are exposed as unfortunately and surprisingly translucent. The hypothesis is grounded in the fact that her underwear does not appear to be of a type that one would intentionally wear-to-show. If Kerry knew her panties were to be on public view, one would hope she would choose a more interesting type.
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# Posted 3:47 PM by Patrick Belton  

IRAQ BRIEFER: Just since tactical-level reporting from Iraq is not always what we'd like it to be, I'd like to provide here General Kimmitt's situation briefer from this morning and the ensuing question session with reporters, just in case it might interest any of our readers. The devil is in the details, after all:

GEN. KIMMITT:  Good afternoon.

            The coalition continues offensive operations to ensure a stable Iraq in order to repair infrastructure, stimulate the economy and transfer sovereignty.  To that end, in the past 24 hours the coalition conducted 2,000 patrols, 26 offensive operations, 46 Air Force and Navy sorties, and captured 57 anti-coalition suspects.

            In the northern area of operations, 47 police officers from Najaf began a weeklong advanced skills training program at the Irbil police academy.  This training will enhance their capabilities and provide officers from both regions the opportunity to build better relationships and share effective tactics, techniques and procedures.

            In Baghdad, at 0955 this morning a suicide car bomb exploded near a coalition checkpoint in central Baghdad, killing seven civilians, to include the current Governing Council president, Mr. Izzedine Salim. Five civilians and two soldiers were wounded in this attack.  A quick reaction force and medical personnel were on the scene within minutes of the attack, along with Iraqi emergency responders and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps members.  Coalition military forces join in denouncing this horrible crime and ask Iraqi citizens to contact telephone number 778-4076 with information leading to the arrest of any attackers.

            The Iraqi Survey Group confirmed today that a 155-millimeter artillery round containing sarin nerve agent had been found.  The round had been rigged as an IED, which was discovered by a U.S. force convoy.  A detonation occurred before the IED could be rendered inoperable.  This produced a very small dispersal of agent.  The round was an old binary type requiring the mixing of two chemical components in separate sections of the cell before the deadly agent is produced. The cell is designed to work after being fired from an artillery piece.  Mixing and dispersal of the agent from such a projectile as an IED is very limited.  The former regime had declared all such rounds destroyed before the 1991 Gulf War.  Two explosive ordnance team members were minor exposure to nerve agent as a result of the partial detonation of the round.

            In the western zone of operations, the situation in Al Anbar remains stable.  The reduction of hostilities in Fallujah has seemingly had a calming effect across the area.  Yesterday coalition forces hosted 43 government, religious, medical and ICDC leaders at the Camp Ramadi detention facility and 17 leaders at the Habbaniya facility.  The visit was well received, with positive feedback from the local leaders.  There was also one prisoner released to a sheik as a goodwill gesture.

            Coalition forces met with the Fallujah Brigade leadership today and continue to plan with the brigade for future joint patrols in Fallujah.  There were no violations of the cease-fire agreement, but neither were there any weapons turned in during this period.

            In the central-south zone of operations, coalition forces defending the buildings near the Mukhaiyam Mosque in Karbala continued to be attacked with sniper, RPG and mortar fire.  There were numerous engagements last night originating from the Iranian quarter in the downtown area of Karbala near the two holy shrines.

            Polish multinational division reports Muqtada militia elements are staying close to the shrine of al-Imam al-Hussein, as they are aware of concerns that the shrines not be damaged.  Sounds of fighting in the downtown area could be heard for much of the night and the Polish forces estimate 17 Muqtada militia killed in the vicinity of the shrine's area; 13 killed in other areas.

            This morning coalition forces near the Mukhaiyam mosque were attacked with two rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. Multinational Division Central South reports that Muqtada militia has occupied the second floor of the al-Imam al-Hussein shrine in downtown Karbala and is directing sniper fire from the western wall of the shrine on to coalition forces at the al-Mukhaiyam mosque.

            Muqtada's militia is also firing on them from the streets and buildings of the Iranian quarter across from the al-Mukhaiyam.  Phone calls from private citizens to the CPA elements in Karbala are also overwhelmingly supportive of continuing to fight Muqtada militia.

            People from the Iranian quarter neighborhood are phoning to complain that coalition forces are not attacking Muqtada militia who have moved into their neighborhood.  They say there are no religious sites in their neighborhood and they want Muqtada's militias out of their home.
 
           In Najaf there have been three attacks this morning on Iraqi police stations.  The enemy used a combination of mortars, rocket- propelled grenades and small-arms fire during each of these attacks. Coalition forces assessed these attacks as harassment and hit-and-run as the enemy has immediately broken contact and efforts to regain contact have not been successful.  A coalition quick-reaction force was dispatched to assist in defending the police stations.  One enemy was killed from these attacks and coalition forces continue to assist in the defense of these police stations in an Najaf.

            In the southeastern zone of operations, enemy forces continued to engage coalition forces in Nasiriyah.  From 21:00 until 01:00 last night, the CPA building was attacked on three separate occasions. Camp Libeccio, the coalition and Iraqi police liaison building in the center of town, was attacked on four occasions and these attacks led to a withdrawal from the building to a more protected site.  One coalition soldier was killed and seven were wounded from these attacks.  A coalition fixed-wing aircraft engaged five targets this morning. The targets were five vehicles that had been observed loading and unloading ordnance.  And we estimate 20 enemy forces were killed during these strikes.  Within Nasiriyah, coalition forces are continuing to patrol the city.

Q: some IGC members have expressed that they are blaming the coalition for not providing enough protection for them and, obviously, for Mr. Salim, and that was the result of why he was targeted today -- was a successful target.  What could you guys respond to that?

 A: (Mr Senor):  Well, first of all, I'd say it's a very difficult time for everybody, and we understand that there are a lot of high emotions.

            As for security that we provide, since the Governing Council has been formed, the coalition provides financial assistance for security, we provide body armor, weapons for personal security details, vehicles, in some cases armored vehicles.  We offer close protection service training -- six-week courses back to back.  That's approximately 200 individual personal security members of various GC members have gone through the courses.  We offer a refresher course for these PSDs.  Approximately 40 personal security service members from various GCs -- for various Governing Council personal security details have gone through the program.

            Mr. Salim's security detail consists primarily of family members, which is the case with a number of the GC security details.  He's chosen to rely on cousins and nephews, which was his choice.  And unfortunately, our records show that none of his personal security detail members ever participated in any of our training programs. Again, his choice.  We make the resources available, we make the training available, but it's up to the individual GC members and the security details if they want to participate in it.

           Clearly, their security is a very high priority for us, and that's why we provide the funding, that's why we provide the body armor, that's why we provide the weapons, and that's why we provide this training.

Q, Sewell Chan from The Washington Post.  A question for General Kimmitt.  Sir, the Army right now is facing a continued insurgency in much of southern Iraq; obviously a lot of activity in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, and also this attempt at a takeover, the city of Nasiriyah.  And now we're hearing that soldiers who are stationed in South Korea might be called into Iraq.  Is the Army stretched thin?  Are there enough resources here to deal with this continuing insurgency as we lead up to June 30th?  Could you comment on that issue?

GEN. KIMMITT:  Let me take the second point, then the third point, then the first point.

            Number one, these fights that we are having against Mugtada militia are not stretching us thin at all.  They are pretty much street thugs with weapons.  They don't present much of a military threat.  They're a nuisance.  They're a harassment.  And sadly, as you can imagine with street thugs with weapons, sometimes they kill and wound our soldiers.  But in engagement after engagement, they have not been able to stand and fight.  They're incapable of acting and responding as a disciplined force.

            And it's sad that they have taken to hiding within the holy sites for the Shi'a religion as their only capability to defend themselves because they know that we have one of two choices, which is to either attack them and risk provoking an outcome which would have strategic implications, or we can be a little more precise, reposition if necessary.  And of course, we've taken the latter.

            I don't know that we are repositioning any forces from South Korea to Iraq.  I've seen those reports.  I haven't heard it from DOD. Certainly we're looking at all our force stationing throughout the world, but I think that the decisions being made with regards to Korea are not being made because of the tactical situation on the ground here in Iraq.   That was a long-standing discussion that we've had with the Republic of South Korea.  That country is more than capable of providing for its own defense.  And Secretary Rumsfeld has said numerous times that we've got to look at a relevant force posture and relevant force positioning throughout the world.  But to suggest that the decisions driving our withdrawal from Korea is a more pressing need in Iraq is a stretch that I'm not willing to make and I don't think anybody else in DOD will make as well.

            To answer your final question, is the Army stretched thin, go back and ask DOD.  I think, again, Secretary Rumsfeld as recently as his visit out here the other day talked about trying to find more capacity within the existing force.  But these are the types of decisions that are being made in Washington, D.C.  I don't think that those decisions are being driven by Iraq, but I think it's a recognition of the entire global war on terrorism and the capability   for the military to be able to respond to that.  Thus far we've been able to respond to it quite well.

            Will it have a long-term effect on the Army if we continue this type of OPTEMPO for a period of years?  Personally, I can tell you, it probably will.  But I'm not an expert on force structure.

            The Army is certainly back there now, taking significant strides to revamp the force structure from 33 to 45 brigades.  But we're too busy fighting a war down here to be worried about those kind of things.  We remain absolutely confident that the Army is back there, in the States, thinking about the best way to man, train and equip the force that we're going to need to be able to continue a long-term operation, not only here in Iraq, but whatever threat that comes up.

Q, Charlie Mayer from NPR.  Do you have any idea at this point on who might have done this?

GEN. KIMMITT:  It would have been our first impression that this was classic Zarqawi network.  I understand about 10 minutes before I came in here that another group has popped up and is now, on the Internet, taking responsibility for this.  We don't know if that's a cover for Zarqawi network or if it's an actual organization.  But the fact remains this is the classic hallmarks of what we've seen on Zarqawi attacks: suicidal bomb, spectacular effect -- tried to go after a large number of civilians -- and also tried to go after a symbol, in this case two symbols; obviously -- clearly a high government official for the Governing Council as well as near a coalition checkpoint.  So all of those indicators -- suicidal, spectacular, symbolic -- line up here.  But we have this new group that has come in, and we don't know who this group is.  We'll have to do some analysis on it.

 
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# Posted 12:29 PM by Patrick Belton  

BOOK REVIEWS! GET YOUR BOOK REVIEWS! A very interesting and burgeoning corner of the internet (like wikipedia and Project Gutenberg), H-Net is a growing orbit of thriving academic listservs on almost every topic imaginable in the humanities and social sciences. In fact, we're planning on launching an H-Democracy through them to serve as a listserv to bring together scholars and practitioners in the democratization and democracy promotion community, just as soon as we can get their staff to write us back.

Anyway, one thing that's particularly nice about H-Net is that its listservs provides free and easily accessible reviews of academic books - these are usually thoughtful and knowledgeable, they cover all of the books released by the leading academic presses, and they're not noticeably different in quality than, say, most of the ones that appear in journals. And it's awfully useful to have one place where you could read reviews on new academic work on subjects as diverse as, say, the seventeenth-century House of Commons, liberalism in Georgian England, women in Congress, religious and secular perspectives on ethical pluralism, ancient Greek cavalry operations, reading, society, and politics in early modern England, medieval Islamic jurisprudence on legitimacy in leadership, pamphleteering in early modern Britain, the evolution of the White House press secretary, and many, many more.

So kudos to the good people at H-Net, and for all the rest of you, this is a site that's worth checking back every now and again.
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# Posted 8:07 AM by Patrick Belton  

READING MATERIALS: Carnegie has a new Arab Reform Bulletin out, with pieces on upcoming Palestinian local elections, political reform prospects in Egypt and in Jordan, and more US revision of the Greater Middle East Initiative. Carnegie has also begun to publish these in Arabic, thereby making an already excellent resource even more excellent.

Also, one of our Deisi correspondents sends in www.allindianewspapers.com as a nice new portal collecting current stories from all major Indian newspapers in one spot.
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# Posted 5:51 AM by Patrick Belton  

LATIN AMERICA WATCH: Our friends in Latin America, including Brazil correspondent Cisco Costa and a few other of our friends, tip us off with the conclusion of the expulsion of the NYT's bureau chief from the country for reporting on public concerns about Lula's alcoholism, a.k.a. Tipplegate, a.k.a. Winogate. Thus Cisco, our own Brazil bureau chief:
Larry Rohter, the NYT reporter that was to be expelled by the Brazilian government, wrote a document asking for reconsideration of the cancellation of his visa. Though he did not explicitly apologize, he said enough ("did not intend to offend the president", "the portuguese version of the text isn't faithful") that Lula could reverse his sorry decision without looking chicken. With this, the Workers' Party administration managed to back down from its counter-productive and brutish censorship and save some amount of face.

Rohter's text is reproduced here.
Xavier Botero appends this:
I'm not quite so sure myself that it was a "retraction," though it definitely was an apology, which, despite the shoddy journalism, was not necessary:

[Rohter] declares that he never had the intention of offending his honor the Most Excellent Mister President of the Republic, whom he has been able to interview on occasion, and he reaffirms his great affection for Brazil and his profound respect for Brazil's democratic institutions, including that of the Presidency of the Republic. In [Rohter's] opinion, the article limited itself to conveying commentary without presenting any value judgment on the part of [Rohter], who, regardless, reiterates that the text was not written to offend Mr. President, even if the repercussions and subsequent polemics on the reporting might have caused him embarrassment, which [Rohter] laments.

Is it a retraction? It doesn't seem to be. It's really just an apologetic note.
And of course, what Latin America Watch could be complete without reference to the blogosphere's resident Latin America expert, Randy Paul - who this week is handicapping Chile's upcoming presidential elections. With Chile's conservative parties self-destructing (with, bizarrely, each of their leaders accusing the other of participation in sadomasochistic sex rings, giving new political meaning to the term circle je), charismatic centrist defence minister Michelle Bachelet and foreign minster Soledad Alvear are emerging as the most attractive candidates. Either Dr Bachelet or Ms Alvear would, incidentally, be their country's first female president.
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# Posted 4:24 AM by Patrick Belton  

IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL PRESIDENT IZZEDINE SALINE HAS BEEN ASSASSINATED, in a car bomb attack this morning in Baghdad.

Mr Salim, a Shi'a and leader of the moderate Daa'wa Islamic Party, was a writer, philosopher and political activist.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has called President Salim's assassination a terrorist act aimed at disrupting the transfer of power. Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari responded to the assassination with the statement 'We will not be intimidated'.

UPDATE: By email, the statement of UK Special Representative David Richmond on the death of Iraqi Governing Council President Izzadin Salim:
“The assassination of Iraqi Governing Council President Izzadin Salim is an appalling crime. My thoughts and condolences are with Mr Salim’s family, and the families of others killed in today’s attack.

“I knew Mr Salim well, and I respected him enormously. He worked tirelessly in the best interests of Iraq and the Iraqi people. He made a huge contribution to the work of the Governing Council. He was a man of courage and a man of vision, whose moderate voice and gentle manner set an example to all of us. His loss will be keenly felt.

As the Foreign Secretary has said, the perpetrators of this terrible crime are enemies of the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people want a peaceful, democratic and free Iraq. We best honour Mr Salim’s life and work by renewing our efforts to achieve this goal.”
 

ALSO, the Iraqi Governing Council has announced that it has selected Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer, a Sunni Muslim civil engineer from the northern city of Mosul, to replace Saleem.
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Sunday, May 16, 2004

# Posted 2:03 PM by Patrick Belton  

THIS on the other hand - the UK's virtual online church - is rather neat. Not only does it receive official sanction from the hierarchy - the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, presented its maiden sermon last week - but, perhaps in a concession to evangelicals, occasionally an officiating cleric will be raptured directly from within its virtual 3-d walls:
Minister 'raptured' at opening service

Church of Fools got off to a flying start on Tuesday May 11th, until a computer crashed somewhere in York, England. At the computer was Revd Jem Clines, who was logged in to the church as its minister. His onscreen character, wearing a dark suit and a dog collar, turned to face the sanctuary wall and then simply disappeared, as Revd Clines' computer died some 225 miles away.
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# Posted 7:33 AM by Patrick Belton  

LATIN AMERICA WATCH: Leading members of the two leading conservative parties in Chile, National Renewal and the Independent Democratic Union, have each accused the other of: taking part in a sado-masochistic sex ring (via Economist).
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# Posted 6:59 AM by Patrick Belton  

FOREIGN SERVICE WATCH: State Department dropout John Brady Kiesling follows up on his inglorious debut article in the WaPo (argument: North Vietnam bravely defeated the US then became an outstanding member of the international community and UN; therefore, we should let an Iraqi despot do the same) with an interview in which he says 'Iran should be our best ally -- they desperately want in Iraq most of the same things we desperately want (hands up, who here wants weakness and theocracy? you there, in the corner? oh, okay you were just stretching...), and the price they will ask -- no permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq -- is something we'll end up paying whether we work with the Iranians or not. '
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# Posted 5:26 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE DUMBING-DOWN OF NETWORK NEWS: RatherBiased.com takes a look at the profusion of cheap ploys for viewership ('toys that are dangerous to your child' stories and similar ratings staples) over serious reporting.
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# Posted 2:38 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ABU GHRAIB VS. NICK BERG: Glenn Reynolds has a long post up on how the mainstream media are paying far more attention to Abu Ghraib despite the fact that the American public has shown a much greater interest in the beheading of Nick Berg.

For Glenn, this constitutes evidence that the media has an anti-Bush agenda and will gradually lose its audience share to more reader-responsive sources of information. I strongly disagree.

There is no question that the media has made a subjective judgment that Abu Ghraib is far more important than the beheading of Nick Berg. But that is a judgment that I strongly endorse and for reasons that should be very familiar to conservatives.

We have known for a long time now that Al Qaeda has no shame and no respect for human life. No matter how gruesome, the beheading of Nick Berg did little more than confirm that fact.

In contrast, the events at Abu Ghraib have severely tarnished America's reputation as the foremost defender of democracy and human rights. In order to restore that reputation, we must ruthlessly pursue justice and punish those responsible for the abuses in order to ensure that this never happens again

American power rests just as much on its reputation as it does on its military and economic might. If we want to continue to use that power to promote American values, then we must restore our reputation.

Historically speaking, American journalists have long believed that they have the right to make judgments on their readers' behalf. There is no question that journalists have often misused this power of judgment.

Yet those who criticize the emphasis of Abu Ghraib at the expense of Nick Berg should remember that the New York Times and Washington Post provide extensive coverage of foreign affairs only because of their subjective judgment that such news is important.

If the leading newspapers and television networks responded exclusively to audience demands, domestic news would quickly displace almost all foreign coverage. And in time, entertainment, weather and sports would displace news about domestic politics.

Again speaking historically, American journalists are most willing to exercise their judgment when American behavior contradicts American principles. That is exactly what happened at Abu Ghraib. I do not doubt for a second that such abuses would receive just as much attention if there were a Democrat in the White House.

The exercise of judgment is an integral but often unacknowledged part of journalism. In this instance, that judgment is absolutely right.

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# Posted 1:49 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG TAKES A COURAGEOUS STAND: I have been thinking about this for some time now. Since four o'clock this afternoon to be exact. And I have come up with an answer: Ashley is definitely the hotter Olsen twin.

This important truth began to dawn on we while watching the E! special on the Olsen twins. At first, I thought it was just the make up or the clothes. After all, they're identical, right?

Wrong. Mary Kate and Ashley are fraternal twins. Moreover, they each have very distinct personalities. It is only the ignorance of mainstream journalists that perpetuates the notion of their being the same.

For example, look at the different roles each of the twins played while hosting Saturday Night Live tonight. Whereas Mary Kate excels at the physical humor of a Chevy Chase or Dan Akroyd, Ashley prefers the biting and understated satire of a Bill Murray or Harold Ramis.

Alright, so I made that up. The only real difference between the twins is that Ashley dyes her hair blonde. And what ultimately matters most is that they will both turn eighteen at exactly the same time. (You can follow the countdown here.)

The Vegas oddsmakers are already taking bets on who will get there first. The odds on Justin Timberlake are 3-1, Kobe Bryant 4-1 and Bill Clinton 12-1. If you are looking a big pay day, you can put your money on a Bryant/Clinton four-way at 25-to-1 or a Bill Clinton double-down at 45-to-1.

Side bets are also being taken on which Middle Eastern state Clinton will bomb in order to divert attention from the affair. Top picks are Syria at 2-1, Saudi Arabia 5-1 and Israel 9-1. In the event of a Clinton double-down, a nuclear strike on Tel Aviv is considered imminent.

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Saturday, May 15, 2004

# Posted 8:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MAKING CHOMSKY PROUD: I have no idea how this op-ed made it into the WaPo, nor how its author managed to serve as a US diplomat for over 20 years. Matt Frost has more.
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# Posted 2:05 PM by Patrick Belton  

AND WE HAVE A NEW PROFESSOR-ELECT OF POETRY: It's Christopher Ricks, the scholar known most recently for his work on Dylan.
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# Posted 8:30 AM by Patrick Belton  

SLATE'S COMMENTATORS say Diane Kruger's face only succeeds in launching about three ships.
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# Posted 7:23 AM by Patrick Belton  

FUNNY PARLIAMENT TRICKS: These via BBC,
• Members may not eat or drink in the chamber. One exception to this is the Chancellor, who may have an alcoholic drink while delivering the Budget statement.

• Members are not allowed to have their hands placed in their pockets; this offence was committed by Andrew Robathan MP (Con) on December 19th 1994.

• Speeches are not permitted simply to be read out during debate; notes, though, are permissible.

• Finally, members must take particular care not to die on the premises. This is because the Palace of Westminster is a royal palace in which commoners are simply not permitted to die. Any deaths on the premises are thus said to have taken place at St Thomas's Hospital - the nearest hospital to the palace.
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# Posted 3:42 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

INTERVIEW WITH A LEGEND: The New York Observer talks to NYT correspondent John Burns. (Hat tip: Greg Djerejian) Lots of interesting stuff, but I especially liked the following:
"Things have progressed so much in my lifetime, that when I started as a foreign correspondent in difficult environments, you could spend half or three-quarters of the day finding a way to transmit what you’d written. Finding a cable. Finding the man who’s supposed to be operating the cable, who’s gone off for tea. All that time has come back to us in the form of productive reporting and writing time."
Also:
The Times bureau has a bulletin board where all the major Iraq stories from other papers are posted. "Every morning, first thing we do is read what The Washington Post has done," Mr. Burns said. "Anthony Shadid in particular, but all of them.
I wonder if they read the NYT, too.
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# Posted 1:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MEMO TO FRANCE: STOP EMBARRASSING KERRY. We now know exactly what kind of response John Kerry will get when asks for French help in governing Iraq:
France's new foreign minister, Michel Barnier, [said] that France would never send troops to Iraq, not even as part of a peacekeeping force.

"It is out of the question," Mr. Barnier said in an interview published Thursday in Le Monde. "There will be no French soldiers in Iraq, not now and not later."
While one should probably blame (or credit) Bush for France's unwillingness to become involved, the fact is that Kerry can't go on insisting that he will get our allies to do more for the occupation.

On a related note, France has issued a set of demands that America must accept if it wants France to support a Security Council resolution on the June 30 transfer of power in Iraq. Perhaps the demands are just an initial negotiatiating position from which the French will compromise. Otherwise, they are simply ridiculous.
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# Posted 12:43 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AGING ISRAELI FEMINIST ROCK STAR INSULTS MUSLIMS: That would be Gene "Chaim" Simmons, of course. (Via Gnu Hunter) Simmons' comments are sort of unfortunate, since he is one of the few celebrities who actually believes in promoting democracy in Iraq. Not long ago, Simmons told an interviewer that
The Iraqis for the first time in their history will decide what they want to do or not, whether there are U.S. troops there or not, and any transitional phase, whether it is Russia throwing off Communism, Germany coming out of Nazism, or Japan coming out of Emperor worship, has a 20 to 50-year transition, you know, giving birth is a painful experience...
I guess the guys in KISS were taking the right kind of drugs all those years.
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# Posted 12:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WAS OXBLOG COMPLETELY WRONG? A couple of weeks ago, KH sent me an e-mail with the subject line "Tables Turned". The text of the message consisted entirely of a triumphant I-Told-You-So post I put up the day that Baghdad fell. It begins:
The time has come for those who had faith in American war plans to mock those who didn't. All I add is a note of caution, lest those who now mock become overconfident and leave themselves open to having the tables turned.

Right now, the NYT website is running a headline which says "Jubilant Iraqis Swarm the Streets of Capital; U.S. Says Hussein Has Lost Grip on Baghdad" That would seem to resolve the 'liberation' question. (And if the NYT isn't good enough for you, check out the Guardian for similar reports.)
So, KH is suggesting that the tables have in fact turned and that it is time for OxBlog to admit it. But I'm not so sure that I should. There is no question that the Ba'athist insurgency has proven more resilient than many of us -- including OxBlog -- expected. But is there any real evidence that it has much public support outside the Sunni Triangle? If anything, it seems to have alienated most Iraqis with its violent tactics.

Next come the Shi'ites. A few weeks ago, when Moqtada Sadr launched his rebellion, the NYT eagerly reported that this was the beginning of nationwide revolt that not only united the Shi'ite community but was bridging the Shi'ite-Sunni divide.

So much for that. Consider, for example, the extraordinary story in today's WaPo entitled "US Forces Attack Iraqi Holy City". It sounds like a classic mistake: showing contempt for Islam, losing hearts and minds, legitimizing Shi'ite radicals, etc.

But what do we hear from the residents of Najaf? At one point, three bullets hit the golden-domed shrine of Imam Ali.
"If it was done by the Americans, I don't think they did it intentionally," said Ali Awad, a 28-year-old Najaf resident, of the bullet holes. "If they wanted to destroy the shrine, they could destroy it. But they don't."
Unless Mr. Awad suffers from an extreme from of the Stockholm Syndrome, I'd have to say that his heart and mind are in the right place. Of course, it's not that America is so great or wonderful. It's the fact that most Shi'ites seem to accept Ayatollah Sistani's belief that the best thing for the Shi'ites to help America build a democratic Iraq so that it can withdraw its forces sooner rather than later.

But that's what winning hearts and minds is really about: persuading others that you share the same interests. Now, does Mr. Awad resent America for what happened at Abu Ghraib? I'd imagine so. If most Americans are outraged at what happened, how could an Iraqi not be? (Don't answer that question. There may a disturbing number of Shi'ites and Kurds who think that torturing Sunnis is exactly what America should be doing.)

Anyhow, the bottom line is that Mr. Awad and many Shi'ites like him seem to be just as committed to cooperating with the United States as they were when Baghdad first fell. Will Abu Ghraib change that? I don't know. If it did, the real tragedy would not be that Iraqis never saw Americans as their liberators, but that Iraqis once saw Americans as their liberators, only to lose faith in the United States because of its shameful conduct.
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Friday, May 14, 2004

# Posted 12:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OIL AND DEMOCRACY: Not in Iraq. In Sao Tome. It's an interesting story and Bill Hobbs has been following it pretty closely, especially since the attempted coup last year against Sao Tome's elected government.
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# Posted 12:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"NO CASH REWARD FOR THE OUTLAW FISH": How often do you read something like that in the newspaper?
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# Posted 9:20 AM by Patrick Belton  

HARVARD, IN A NUTSHELL:
Warm Ties not Cold Calls: Leveraging Your Network - May 17th 6-8 p.m.
Hogan & Hartson 555 13th Street, NW, Washington, DC - FREE for members!
Harvard alums in career transition should join us on Monday, May 17th for Joe Loughran's (MBA '83) presentation on how to optimize the use of networks to accelerate their transitions and advance their careers. Our personal, business and "extracurricular" contacts can make introductions that will pull out our resumes and provide access to their Hidden Job Market of opportunities never posted. Learn how you can enhance your ability to generate and capitalize on your hidden network  This event is FREE for club members and only $10 for non-members.  You may register online through Friday, May 14th at http://www.harvard-dc.org,/ or contact Executive Director Caren Pauley at (contact information).
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# Posted 8:27 AM by Patrick Belton  

BEST OPENING LINE OF AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY: 'I joined OSS after Army basic training. Held at Area A while a Full Field Investigation was conducted, I was assigned to the Reproduction Branch. When I saw my orders, my thought was: "Well, they do strange things in war, so I wondered whether I was intended to be used as a stud for some reason."' (credit Paul A. Fisher)
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# Posted 4:19 AM by Patrick Belton  

CENTCOM ANNOUNCES COURT MARTIAL PROCEEDINGS AGAINST THE FIRST US SOLDIER involved in the mistreatment of detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison, 37-year old reservist Staff Sgt. Ivan 'Chip' Frederick:
Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, commanding general of III Corps, referred charges against Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick II to a general court-martial on May 5.

Frederick is charged with conspiracy to maltreat subordinates (detainees); dereliction of duty for willfully failing to protect detainees from abuse, cruelty and maltreatment; maltreatment of detainees; assaulting detainees, and committing indecent acts. 

Article 32 hearings, similar to a civilian grand jury proceeding, were held April 2 and April 9-10.  The investigating officer found reasonable grounds exist that Frederick committed the offenses and recommended trial by general court-martial.

A date and place have not yet been set for the court-martial.  It is anticipated that Frederick will be arraigned on May 20. 
As perhaps the only cause for hope in the entire affair, it will be interesting at least to see how a swift and fair administration of justice and demonstration of accountability in the Abu Ghraib events will be received in the Middle East. Startlingly, in his journal (though it was admittedly begun after military investigators began looking into abuse claims), Frederick wrote that conditions in Abu Ghraib prison were not nearly as bad as in the Virginia state prison where he worked in civilian life.
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# Posted 3:16 AM by Patrick Belton  

US RELEASING 300+ PRISONERS FROM ABU GHRAIB: BBC breaks the story.
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# Posted 12:37 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE GREAT BOOKS MEME: Someone, somewhere, came up with this list of great brooks and asked people to post on their websites, with the books they've actually read in boldface. Pejman and P&F have answered the call.

But I won't. Not because the books aren't great or because I'm embarrassed at how few of the books I've read. The real problem is that I read so many of these books in high school. While I may have benefited considerably from reading them as a student, I have only vague memories of them today.

More importantly, one ability's to appreciate great literature increases dramatically along with one's life experience. Thus, the real question isn't "Have you read this book?" but rather "How recently have you re-read this book?" Lists are fun, but it may be more productive to ask ourselves which works of art and literature have had a tangible impact on our lives.

UPDATE: Nitin over at HawkenBlog has some interesting thoughts on this subject.
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# Posted 12:25 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BOOT SAYS GIVE HIM THE BOOT: Another conservative has turned against Rumsfeld. Max Boot writes:
What, then, is the case for Rumsfeld resigning? Simply that this scandal has caused devastating damage to America's moral standing in the world, and we need to recover fast. Apologizing ad nauseam isn't going to do it. Even court-martialing the perpetrators, though important, isn't enough. We need to regain the initiative as more nightmarish pictures emerge.

Having the Defense secretary resign might salvage some good out of this house of horrors by causing Arabs to ask why their governments tolerate torture and ours doesn't. If the resignation were coupled with other steps, such as moving up the date of Iraq's first election and beefing up U.S. forces, it might even help to put Iraq back on track.

Against this prospect, what are the arguments for keeping Rumsfeld? Dick Cheney's claim that "Don Rumsfeld is the best secretary of Defense the United States has ever had" doesn't pass the laugh test.
Robert Tagorda thinks that Boot's argument is solid, but that the moment for a Rumsfeld resignation has passed. Somehow, I suspect that there may be more such moments in the future.
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# Posted 12:10 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THEY'RE CALLED FOOTNOTES: When you the exact same thing someone else said the day before, you're supposed to give them credit.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, the Washington Times is stealing from Rob Tagorda.
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Thursday, May 13, 2004

# Posted 10:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FIFTEEN MINUTES OF BRILLIANCE: As Kevin Drum said on NPR, the events at Abu Ghraib have made Phil Carter's website a must-read for anyone who wants first-rate insight into the news. I disagree. Phil Carter is always a must-read for those who want first-rate insight into the news. But now more than ever. I can't even recommend a specific post. Just go to Phil's site and start reading from the top.
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# Posted 8:08 PM by Patrick Belton  

FIRST BRAD PITT, THEN: Thus Crooked Timber, always one of my favourite liberal blogs:
The release of the movie Troy prompts me to wonder again about why certain things are named after the Trojans. Take sports teams, for example, like the USC Trojans. Now, there is just one story cycle involving the Trojans and conflict, and in it the Trojans decisively, utterly lose. I’m not saying they’re losers, per se; I’m always rooting for the Trojans because I love Hector. But imagine a coach giving an inspirational speech along these lines: “Guys, I want to you get out there and fight with all your hearts, only to see all you hold dear destroyed. At the end of this bowl game, I want you to feel like the original Trojans did when the saw their ancestral altar run red with the blood of aged Priam, beheld the pitiful spectacle of little Astyanax’ body broken on the walls of Troy, and heard the lamentations of their daughters, mothers and wives as they were reduced to slavery in a foreign land.” It’s not exactly “win one for the Gipper”, is it?


And then, there are the condoms. What do you think of when you hear the word “Trojan”? Possibly, you think of the heartbreaking scene of farewell between Hector and Andromache, when little Astyanax is frightened by the nodding plumes of Hector’s helmet. But probably not. Probably, you think: Trojan horse. So consider the context. There’s this big…item outside your walled citadel, and you are unsure whether to let it inside. After hearing the pros and cons (and seeing some people eaten by snakes), you open the gates and drag the big old thing inside. Then, you get drunk. At the height of the party, hundreds of little guys come spilling out of the thing and sow destruction, breaking “Troy’s hallowed coronal”, as they say. Is this, all things considered, the ideal story for condom manufacturers to evoke? Just asking.
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# Posted 7:42 PM by Patrick Belton  

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 'There is an audience for these guys. We proved that. Most of America, frankly, is much smarter than television assumes they are.' Kelsey Grammer, commenting on the end of his prize-winning series 'Frasier' after 11 years.
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# Posted 6:52 PM by Patrick Belton  

MORE ON BRAZIL'S DESCENT INTO AUTHORITANISMISM: We'd mentioned yesterday that, incredibly, Brazilian President Lula had expelled the NYT bureau chief for reporting on his alcoholism. The NYT follows up on the story, noting the initial public support for the decision is beginning to wane. Further, our correspondent in Rio (and the author of the Brazilian blog Filisteu), notes that the Supreme Court has granted the NYT's Larry Rohter habeas corpus, suspending his deportation and permitting him to question his expulsion in the courts.
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# Posted 5:59 PM by Patrick Belton  

UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR OF POETRY: The Oxford Professorship of Poetry has been filled by, among others, Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, Matthew Arnold, Robert Graves and WH Auden. I'm personally awfully grateful to the institution, as it's permitted me in the course of my four years here frequent opportunities to hear and often speak with a poet I've always esteemed as my favourite, Paul Muldoon. Rather unfortunately for us, come next Michaelmas he requires a successor, and any of our friends who already hold an Oxford degree and have been graduated can vote on Saturday, in Divinity School, from 11 to 4. Results are to be announced in Convocation House at 5. Rules are here.

The candidates are (alphabetically): Anne Carson (a Canadian currently at the University of Michigan), lighthearted Yorkshireman Ian McMillan, the prolific Australian native (a Londoner since 1951) Peter Porter, English expat in Boston (and frequent NYRB contributor) Christopher Ricks, and self-proclaimed 'stunt candidate' Mark Walker.

The Guardian, whose literary reportage is always quite good, goes to Ladbrokes and reports 'Following the close of nominations on Wednesday, Ladbrokes put the odds on Professor Ricks getting the job at 2/1, followed by Anne Carson (5/2), Peter Porter (4/1) Ian McMillan (5/1) and Mark Walker (5/1).'
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# Posted 11:07 AM by Patrick Belton  

A STATESMANLIKE MOVE FROM KERRY: In what strikes me as one of the wisest moves yet from his campaign, Senator Kerry announced his short list of candidates for Secretary of Defense yesterday on New York's Don Imus show. Two Republicans, Senators John McCain and John Warner, were included among the list of possibilities, as were Democrats Senator Carl Levin and former Secretary of Defense William Perry. Admirable choices all.

(My only other thought is that while announcing a short-list including respected Republican senators from across the aisle would be an extraordinary act of statesmanship from a president-elect, coming from a candidate it can't help but place Senators McCain and Warner in a rather awkward position - as they'd instantly come under pressure from their own party to demonstrate that they support its own candidate for reelection. They both, incidentally, also come from states with Democratic governors who would then appoint their replacements, but Kerry can't be begrudged having the interests of his party at least somewhat to heart.)
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# Posted 7:24 AM by Patrick Belton  

PLAYING WITH ADESNIK: Congratulations, David, on your radio play!

I was just in the process of trying to come up with a witty remark on the fact that David's last name had evolved to 'Odesnik' on the web page of the Boston NPR affiliate, when it struck me - heck, they're actually right! In the transition Odesnik (as in, 18 year old tennis legend Wayne Odesnik) -> Adesnik (as in the 26 year old blogging legend David Adesnik, or the equally legendary biophysicist Milton Adesnik whose age I won't mention as he occasionally lets me sleep on his sofa) to indicate 'someone who derives from the city of Odessa', we have a lovely example of the Russian reduction of unstressed orthographic /o/ to [a], which is a phenomenon that has intrigued linguists for a century and a half once they discovered that it occurs across languages. While on the one hand, Slavic languages and even individual dialects of Russian and Ukrainian differ considerably in how they make these assimilative and dissimilative vowel shifts, we can see, for instance, in English the reduction of intial /o/ in the transition from 'lobe' to 'lobotomy', where it is unstressed, or in Catalan and Portuguese, in the shift of quality of unstressed 'o' to /u/. So 'someone deriving from Odessa' would be spelled 'Odesnik' while pronounced [a]desnik, in the same way that eto and spasibo are pronounced et[a] and spasib[a].

Which is all to say that the folks at WBUR probably either have a wonderfully dry wit or wanted to take extra care yesterday to be orthographically correct.
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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

# Posted 10:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KERRY ON THE AIRWAVES: While trying to find a transcript of Kerry's comments from today about Iraq, I came across the webpage with all of his recent commercials.

The biographical commercials are really impressive. My only question is: How much did the Yale admissions office have to pay him for the endorsement?

In contrast to the bio ads, Kerry's Iraq commercial is patently ridiculous. The Senator starts out strong by saying "Let me tell you exactly what I would do to change the situation in Iraq." Hey, I'm all ears. We need some new ideas for the occupation.

Then Kerry says: Have our allies send their troops to Iraq so not as many American soldiers have to die. I can just imagine Kerry on a conference call with Chirac and Schroeder some time in January 2005. "Jacques, Gerhard, could you send some of your boys to die in Iraq so that my poll ratings don't suffer? That's the least you owe me for getting rid of George Bush."

Anyhow, the good news for Kerry is that he sounds very presidential. He has a reputation for being wooden and stand-offish, but I think he comes across as both personable and thoughtful in his ads. He seems like someone you could trust.
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# Posted 10:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHY ISN'T KERRY SURGING? Pew's Andrew Kohut makes an interesting argument in a NYT op-ed. Like the current president, Jimmy Carter and George Bush Sr. also watched their approval ratings plummet in the first months of their re-election years. Yet both Carter and Bush I continued to lead their challengers in the polls until well into the summer. That's when it hit the fan.

Lesson: Voters don't immediately shift their support to the challenger when dissatisfied with the incumbent. But if their opinion of the incumbent doesn't change, switch they will. So is Kerry going to win in the fall? I don't know. Carter and Bush I couldn't do anything to fix the economy. But this time the election is about national security.
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# Posted 10:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THIS IS WHERE I'M NOT: A tribute to the young men and women who've left the comforts of home to volunteer for the CPA.
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# Posted 10:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IS THAT REALLY MY VOICE? GOD, I HOPE NOT: If you want to hear what I had to say on NPR, click here. For commentary, check out Matt Yglesias.
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# Posted 10:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORON:
"I'm probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment," [Sen. Inhofe (R-OK)] said. While saying a few "misguided" and "maybe even perverted" perpetrators of abuse needed to be punished, he suggested that much of the criticism was exaggerated and misplaced.

"These prisoners, they're murderers, they're terrorists, they're insurgents," he said. "Many of them probably have American blood on their hands. And here we're so concerned about the treatment of those individuals."

He went on: "I am also outraged that we have so many humanitarian do-gooders right now crawling all over these prisons, looking for human rights violations while our troops, our heros, are fighting and dying."
That's 'Idiotarian' with a capital 'I'.

UPDATE: DR writes that "I agree with Inhofe's statements 100%. You sir, are the moron."
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# Posted 8:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WATCH OUT FOR HEROES: Both the WaPo and NYT have posted unabashedly positive profiles of Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba. In a scandal plagued with lies and incompetence, Taguba has emerged as one of the few individuals whose honesty and professionalism can be admired by all. By himself, Taguba has done more to restore the good name of the armed forces than all of the President's apologies combined. Without question, Taguba is a hero.

My concern, however, is that the comforting presence of such hero may prevent both politicians and journalists from fully exposing the personal and institutional failures that created Abu Ghraib. According to the WaPo account of Taguba's congressional testimony, the General
found no evidence the misconduct was based on orders from high-ranking officers or involved a deliberate policy to stretch legal limits on extracting information from detainees.

Instead, Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba attributed the scandal to the willful actions of a small group of soldiers and to "a failure of leadership" and supervision by brigade and lower-level commanders.
While technically accurate, this description creates a false dichotomy between orders-from-above and initiative-from-below. Yet Taguba himself was careful to note that
he did not conduct his investigation any higher in the chain of command than General Karpinski, leaving open the possibility that responsibility for the failure in leadership went higher than General Karpinski.
According to Gen. Karpinski, she sparred constantly with May. Gen. Miller and Lt. Gen. Sanchez about how to run the prison system in Iraq. The involvement of officers as high-ranking as Miller and Sanchez means that the issues being discussed were important enough for the Secretary of Defense and his subordinates to be playing close attention. An exploration of their role is critical to this investigation.

The place to begin such an investigation is with the contradictions between the testimony of Gen. Taguba and Undersecretary of Defense Stephen Cambone. Until we reconcile their statements, we won't really know what American policy in Abu Ghraib was. While neither Rumsfeld nor his subordinates have been exceptionally forthcoming in response to public and congressional, I think the NYT gets things very wrong when it says that
The administration and its Republican allies appear to have settled on a way to deflect attention from the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib: accuse Democrats and the news media of overreacting, then pile all of the remaining responsibility onto officers in the battlefield, far away from President Bush and his political team.
Yes, Dick Cheney said that "Don Rumsfeld is the best secretary of defense the United States has ever had," and that "people ought to get off his case and let him do his job." But the administration's real strategy for dealing with this scandal is far more prosaic: distort the truth and hope that nobody is paying attention.

When President Bush first went on Arab television to denounce the human rights violations at Abu Ghraib, I had hoped that his response was the first step that this administration would take to correct its mistakes, not the last. But since then, the President has let Cheney, Rumsfeld & Co. evade responsibility. While I don't believe that Bush is complicit in this effort, his inability to recognize the ethical failures of his closest advisers is a sort of moral blindness all its own.
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# Posted 11:57 AM by Patrick Belton  

NATIONAL SECURITY WATCH:
• One day after the United States announced sanctions on Damascus for its support of terrorism, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, who is broadly regarded as a Syrian puppet, showed he had a sense of humour and said 'This is yet another proof that the U.S. administration is biased and reels under Israeli influence.’

• The U.S. Navy is considering slashing the American submarine fleet by nearly a third, from 55 to 37 vessels.

Five-party talks have begun with North Korea, with Pyongyang making an opening foray for increased US aid in return for it freezing its nuclear programme.
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# Posted 11:41 AM by Patrick Belton  

JUST IN THE OFF CHANCE THAT THE EVENT doesn't attract much attention from the print media, sovereignty passed today from the CPA to Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This makes the Foreign Ministry the eighth Iraqi ministry to quietly, and successfully, assume autonomy in the hands of the Iraqi people.

These were Bremer's remarks on the occasion:
It is a great pleasure to be with you today.

Today we take an important step on Iraq's path to sovereignty, elections and a democratic government. In 50 days occupation ends and Iraqis will once again exercise sovereignty over the Land between the Two Rivers.

But Iraqi autonomy in foreign affairs begins today with control over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs formally passing to you, Mr. Minister.

Of course, as each of us here knows, this is a formality. Already for months the professionals of the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been making their own decisions and acting upon them.

And those decisions and acts, Mr. Minister, have led to a remarkable record of achievement:

• You and your colleagues have spearheaded Iraq's reinstatement into the Arab League, the United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
• You have reopened nearly fifty embassies and now offer effective and open consular services so that no Iraqi need fear seeking help and advice from his government.
• The visa policy you have developed will play an important part in excluding from Iraq those who would harm the national interest if admitted.

Mr. Minister, you and your highly skilled staff, working harmoniously with Senior Advisor Marc Sievers and his predecessors, have opened Iraq to the world, playing a critical role in ending the isolation Saddam both provoked and encouraged.

Mr. Minister, your description of the world that Iraq is re-entering as dangerous is apt, as is your recognition that the problems Iraq and so many others face are multi-faceted.

Your clear understanding of these challenges has proven invaluable in restructuring the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the help of Ambassador Edward Glover to meet the needs of a modern democracy. Your long-range strategy for the ministry is sound and your emphasis on gathering a new generation of diplomats to represent Iraq to the world will serve your country for years to come.

We were speaking before of how impressive this auditorium is, but you know, Mr. Minister, that what really impresses about the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs are not the spaces it occupies, but what you and your staff have accomplished.

On behalf of the Coalition, I congratulate you and each member of your team.

Mabruk al Iraq al Jadeed.
Aash al-Iraq!
Iraq's Foreign Minister is Hoshyar Zebari, a British-educated Kurd. The Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs may be accessed online here.
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# Posted 11:36 AM by Patrick Belton  

CARNEGIE ON RUSSIAN DEMOCRACY: The Carnegie Endowment is hosting a panel discussion afternoon, which if you like you can follow online live and subsequently, on whether Russia a democracy, whether it will be in ten years, and how Putin's rise has influenced the course of democratic consolidation, or the lack thereof. The panel features Carnegie's Michael McFaul, AEI's Leon Aron, and CFR's Amb. Stephen Sestanovich.
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# Posted 8:44 AM by Patrick Belton  

PRESS FREEDOMS IN BRAZIL: The government of Brazil announced yesterday that on President Lula's express wishes, it is expelling the New York Times bureau chief for reporting public knowledge of a drinking problem of the president. The original piece by Larry Rohter, which appeared in Sunday's Times, is here.

Next stop for Brazil: look for Lula to begin smoking large cigars.
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# Posted 5:22 AM by Patrick Belton  

REQUIEM FOR A CHECHEN WARLORD: The always provocative Sobaka (which covers some of the world's more interesting regions and authoritarians with a style reminiscent of some of the better Parisian left-bank writing of the Satrean period) presents an obituary for recently killed Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov.
It's still hard for me to see what's inside with Akhmad Kadyrov. Written two decades before anyone knew who the Chechen strongman assassinated yesterday in a monstrous bomb-blast was, Gabriel Garcia Marquez sculpted the perfect metaphor for it in Autumn of the Patriarch. Breaking into the presidential villa, the rebels find the old man's body caked in mold, and his body is found to be stuffed with flowers.
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