Sean LaFreniere

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Sean's Political Dictionary
So that YOU know what SEAN is talking about when he opens his big mouth:



Date: 1831. From Latin conservare, for "to keep", "guard", or "observe". A Conservative relies upon family traditions and figures of authority to establish and maintain values. 

A Conservative puts group security above personal freedoms. 

A Conservative believes that successful use and maintenance of power proves God's favor for the government. 

A Conservative believes that social values, religious rules, and forms of governments may only be altered gradually. 

Stability and continuity are the goals of government.



Date: 1820. From Latin liberalis for "free". A Liberal uses reason and logic to set personal, social, and religious values. 

A Liberal places personal freedom above group security. 

A Liberal believes that governments rule by the consent of the governed. 

A liberal believes that governments may be changed or removed at the will of the people.  

A Liberal supports rapid change in the pursuit of progress and reform.

Freedom and Justice are the goals of government.


Note: a nation, and an individual, may move back and forth between these positions often. They rarely sum up a personality completely. And they should never be permanent blinders for anyone to view the world.

When a people succeed in a Liberal revolution, for instance, they often find themselves in the Conservative position protecting these gains. Similarly a person might have a Liberal view on public financial assistance and then move into a conservative position once these demands are met.

One might say that Affirmative Action is a prime example. At one point instituting Affirmative Action was a Liberal position, it was needed to reverse decades of discrimination following the end of Slavery. However, today the Liberal position might well be the ending of Affirmative Action, as it has largely completed its task and now stands as a stumbling block to truly moving the nation beyond race as a discriminatory trait. Meanwhile, the position of defending AA is now actually a Conservative stance (whether its so-called "liberal" defenders realize it or not).

Another way to think about this is that these terms describe a way of thinking about issues, not the positions on those issues. That is a Conservative might support a war because politicians they respect urge it, because the enemy scares them, and ultimately because it just "feels right". A Liberal might also come to support the war in spite of the position of authority figures and celebrities, not because it feels right, but because hours of research and consideration support the cause.

Neither is a "better way" of coming to a position, necessarily. Sometimes too much thinking interferes with a solid moral judgment, such as on the Abortion issue. And then other times only rational examination can skip over the emotional baggage and come to the most reasonable decision, as we see in the Abortion issue.

I realize this might be difficult for some people to accept after a long time of hearing party dogma on the issue. Personally I find value in BOTH positions. On some issues I am myself rather Conservative and on others I am quite Liberal. The same with the terms Radical and Reactionary, noted below. I found that stepping beyond these labels opened up my thoughts and cleared my head of a lot of bs.



Date: 1840. From Latin reagere for "to act". A Reactionary uses government pressure as a means of containing and responding to changes in society.



Date: 14th century. From Latin radicalis from radix for "root". A Radical supports social movements and political pressure groups as a means of affecting change in government.


The Right:

Date: early modern. The term comes from  English Parliamentary Rules; which place the party in power on the right of the Speaker. As the Conservatives held sway for a long time, the term Right came to be associated with the "Establishment" and thus with Conservative politics.


The Left:

Date: early modern. The party in Opposition sits on the Speaker's left. The Left came to be associated with labor movements, the lower classes, and socialist politics. It has also come to be associated with Liberalism. This was useful for Conservative politicians, and Socialists as well, during the 60's. But I find this to be a big intellectual and political mistake.


Capitol Goods:

Date: circa 1639. From the French from Latin capitalis for "top", used in French for "principal" or "chief". (1) : a stock of accumulated goods; especially at a specified time and in contrast to income received during a specified period (2) : accumulated goods devoted to the production of other goods (3) : accumulated possessions calculated to bring in income



Date: 1877. An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market



Date: 1837. From Latin socialis for "friend" or "companion" or "associate". Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods; usually there is no private property; in Marxist theory this is also considered just a transitional stage between capitalism and communism and it is distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.



Date: 1840. From French communisme, from Latin communis for "common". A doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed. It is the final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably. In its only examples of practical application, in the USSR, China, and Cuba it became a totalitarian system where a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production and the people are enslaved in production geared to support the power of this party.


Note: in Marxist theory these three systems represent a sliding scale, with Capitalism on the Right, Socialism in the middle, and Communism on the Left. A nation was supposed to move from one to the other over time. However, in practice few systems in the world have ever been purely one or the other. Most national economic models employ some of all three.

While the US and Europe are considered the paragons of Capitalism, they both retain many Socialist elements. Both the US and Europe offer state sanctioned monopolies of public utilities. The American Postal Service is a state owned enterprise, as are the European aerospace entities. Europe offers state run healthcare, as do many American states, and both regulate the health industry heavily.

Through out history Europe and the US have also held some Communist elements. The common grazing lands of town centers and the great unfenced Western plains were both representative of these traditions. One might say that Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the Dole are also holdovers from our more communal days.

On the other hand, while China has long been a paragon of Socialism / Communism, it still has many elements of free enterprise. They allow small farmers and craftsmen to sell excess production on the open market, they have private telecoms and industrial companies, and now they have a stock market, the ultimate symbol and apparatus of Capitalism.

When one system or the other fails to serve a nation, many proponents argue that actually the system simply was not implemented purely enough. However, attempts to purify these systems require a heavy hand in government, education, and economic practice. And this has led to oppressive regimes and brutalized citizens.



Date: 1576. From Greek dEmokrati, from demos "people" + kracy "rule". A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections; usually accompanied by the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges.



Date: 1604. From Latin respublica; from res "thing" + publica "of the people". A government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who is elected by popular vote.


Note: that the root of the word Democracy is Greek, while the root of the word Republic is Latin. These terms are NOT antithetical, they do not even derive from the same language.

In common use they both have come to describe types of Liberal governments, specifically the one is a type of the other. It is possible for a nation to be a Democracy, but NOT also a Republic. However, a nation that is a Republic is ALWAYS also a Democracy. A Republic is a TYPE of Democracy.

The UK is a Democracy, but not a Republic, because of the Queen. Ireland became a Republic only after it dropped from the Commonwealth and replaced the Queen with an elected President



Date: 1921 From Latin fascis for "bundle" or group. Last, but not least, is this term, which actually combines the economic system and the political system entirely. In this system the state and large corporations merge, the rights of the individual are subordinated to the glory of the State, and all dissent is suppressed. It often utilizes a racial or religious cause to motivate the people into giving up their rights in the first place. These states usually rise out of an economic collapse or hardship with high inflation and unemployment.

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Monday, September 29, 2003

The New New Beirut

Joe Katzman at Winds Of Change gives some links to more of those suprising positive updates on Iraq in the Lebanon Daily Star.

You really can find positive news like these stories, if you look for them... I blogged one here.

When I followed Joe's links to the Daily Star, my eye was caught by an ad on the left sidebar for a new luxury condo tower development on the Beirut waterfront.

Designed by the renowned firm of architects Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, the Marina Towers Project is built on over 7,000 sqm of land with the main Tower reaching a staggering height of 150 meters.

The contemplative, clean-lined architecture consists of 26 floors that stretch 150m above sea level. The entire structure uses stone and glass with a combination of aluminum curtain walls and clear double-glazing that extends all the way to the top.

A crescent shape has been used in the design of the structure to incorporate the naturally rounded forms of waterfront architecture and provide each of the apartments with dramatic panoramas to the sea, the mountains, the Beirut Central District Park and the Marina.

Views over the Beirut Western Marina and its waterfront epitomize affluent accommodation and yachting lifestyle virtually at the water's edge, all within a minute's walk of the bustling city center.

Linked to the Beirut Western Marina [by a tunnel[, residents of Marina Towers will have exclusive private residential access to the marina's mooring facilities and leisure activities, showcasing the luxury of quality urban living combined with immediate access to the yachting lifestyle.

Despite its scheduled completion in 2005, over 60% of the apartments have already been sold.

Beirut was once considered the "Paris of the Middle East". A vibrant mix of influences from French and Arab culture; Christian and Muslim religion; Mediterranean cooking; and a stunning natural setting of mountains and the sea offered much to please the sophisticated tastes of the cosmopolitan set.

This stunning cultural success was held together by an equally complex political system left by the French. This system balanced the power of Maronite Christian, Shia Muslim, and Druze Muslim communities (with a large group of displaced resident Palestinians for spice) by a three person executive branch.

However, this "balance" was thrown off when the Shia Muslim section of the country out bred its neighbors. Naturally, they made a power grab, attempting to assassinate the Christian leader Pierre Jumayyil, and the ensuing civil war brought Beirut, and Lebanon, to its knees.

Both the Syrian and Israeli armies invaded the country and attempted to enforce military solutions. Meanwhile, international negotiations were overseen by both the US and the former USSR. Muslim committees made up of heads of state from as far away as Morocco and Kuwait participated; and even Israel was represented.

An uneasy truce was hammered out and there has been relative calm since the 1992 elections. Reinvestment has been creeping in slowly and the central business district has been mostly rebuilt. This latest project shows that someone is willing to make a rather large gamble on Lebanon’s future.

Lebanon and Iraq have both seen positive and negative foreign involvement. They both suffered racial, sectarian, and confessional violence. If Beirut can recapture its past glories it would be a welcome sign, a beacon to the beacon, that Iraq might actually turn out to be another Arab success story.

Comment: The juxtaposition of futures, rich and poor, is jarring to say the least. This looks like a project for the 1% of Lebanon. In fact, I suspect that much of that 1% is really OUR 1% vacationing, doing business, and living dual citizenship. Is this the Davos Culture? Is this the future for Iraq? And is it "right"?

Sean: Monday, September 29, 2003 [+] |
Thursday, September 25, 2003
An UnHoly Alliance

NPR covered the visit of Iraq's president, Ahmed Chalabi, and foreign minister, Hoshiya Zebari, and America's own President, Gee Dubya, to the UN in New York, Sept. 24th, 2003.

Dubya made a rather lame plea for more international assistance in Iraq. I don't think his heart was really in it. I don't think he much likes the idea of the French Foreign Legion marching into Baghdad.

Then the Europeans stood up. As expected, the French and the Germans waxed languorously about the need for the stamp of international legitimacy, read: their own approval, for any "so-called" government of any nation to be taken seriously.

"The transfer of power and sovereignty to Iraqis themselves constitutes the only realistic option," Mr. Chirac said, "[and] the United Nations alone is fit to provide [this government's] legitimacy."

Listening to the European ministers trumpeting the importance of their diplomatic approval made it hard to believe that the UN is not the court of some distant Empire.

Making Talleyrand proud, they also managed to deny being the enemy of the US and claimed to be eager to once again work alongside their American "partners".

"The partnership between Europe and the United States, our premier (junior) ally, constitutes a fundamental element in world security," he said.

UN Secretary General Kofi Anan piped in with a reminder that everyone needs the UN (despite its being an American creation?).

"Above all, UN involvement does bring legitimacy, which is necessary for the country, for the region and for the peoples around the world," said Anan.

This conservative rhetoric and commentary was contrasted to the honest and heart felt words of Iraq's Hoshiya Zebari on the struggle of the people of Iraq to seize their own destiny.

"This is our right. We are claiming our legitimate right to be here and to be represented," he told reporters. "Our message is: We're the representatives of de facto Iraqi authority."

It hardly matters that it required US military intervention to remove the former government of Iraq (and with it all apparent civil order). In fact, lots of past revolutions took place with outside intervention.

The Peninsular War, the civil war in Spain that gave the world the term "guerilla", was sparked and won by British intervention against Napoleon's attempt to prop up another dictatorship.

America itself received financial and diplomatic support from the French (monarch) against the British.

In fact, the Holy Alliance of 1815 was designed to help Europe's monarchs defend themselves against Liberal rebellions sparked from abroad and fought in their capitols and palaces.

Meanwhile, UN approval is quite beside the point, the Balkans were rescued with out (in spite) of the UN and is being ruled as a NATO protectorate with out the "by and leave" of Kofi Anan.

What struck me as most odd during last night's coverage was the very tone of the Europeans. The lords of Europe sounded like the ministers of the Holy Alliance. In their eyes it is the approval of the established "family of nations" that bestows "legitimacy" upon the rulers of other nations.

While the Iraqis sounded like 18th century American patriots proclaiming the right to self-determination and the power of the people. It was by merely standing up and proclaiming themselves a new nation that Zebari and Chalabi asserted their legitimacy.

What happened to Liberal Europe? Is the Holy Alliance back? Do we need a new Monroe Doctrine? It is up to the people of the "so-called" Liberal Democracies of the world to support the new Iraq, not an unholy alliance of the little Lord Metternichs of the EU and the UN.

Update: Check out Michael Totten's latest article on Techcentral, related and well said.

Sean: Thursday, September 25, 2003 [+] |
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
The Real Real Iraq

Support for Bush and for the war in Iraq has been slipping slowly but surely since the war reached its "tipping point" (I wont say that it is over yet, but we are at the beginning of the end). Today only 50% support Bush and agree that the war was worthwhile. But this opinion is based solely on bad press. And by bad I mean inaccurate.

USA today reports that it is bad news -- not good -- that sell.

''It's the nature of the business,'' Time's Brian Bennett says. ''What gets in the headlines is the American soldier getting shot, not the American soldiers rebuilding a school or digging a well.''

When Bennett visited the USA a few weeks ago, he realized that, five months after the U.S. invasion, the Iraq he lives in doesn't mesh with the bleak picture that friends here are getting from the media.

''I'm not saying all is hunky-dory,'' Bennett says. ''But in the States, people have a misperception of what's going on.''

Honestly, not all is milk and honey in the cradle of civilization. There certainly is plenty of bad news, if that is what you are looking for.

The Baghdad that Bennett sees is a city where gunfire erupts every night and dozens of Iraqis are reported dead in the morning. Looting and robberies are common. ''There is a mounting terrorist threat, and the people who want to kill American soldiers are getting more organized,'' he says.

But you have to willfully ignore the good news if you wish to convince yourself that you were right to stand against the war. The truth is that plenty of positive change has come already and much more might be on its way.

But he also sees a city where restaurants are reopening daily, where women feel increasingly safe going out to shop, where more police means intersections aren't as clogged as they were this summer. ''My neighbors are nice,'' he says. ''My street is a pretty quiet place.''

This is the other side of the coin that people simple MUST keep in mind. I am repeatedly amazed by how much and how fast Americans expect Iraq to be turned into Disneyland. Come on people!

And after any war, ''it's usually chaotic for a year or two,'' MSNBC's Bob Arnot says. ''I contrast some of the infectious enthusiasm I see here with what I see on TV, and I say, 'Oh, my God, am I in the same country?'

Fox News' Greg Kelly just returned to Baghdad. ''This time around, it seems considerably on the road to normalcy,'' he says. ''It's still dangerous. You still hear gunfire, but a lot less of it. There's less hostility and the streets are cleaner.''

I notice that many Lefties use the chaos of Baghdad as a reason not to have supported its liberation. But these are the same people who wouldn't let you use the children's prison and the Olympic torture building as reasons to be for its liberation (i.e. the war).

National Geo did a series of articles before and after the war. They showed poor Shia children playing in a slum and a rich Tikriti debutante in her animal skin and gold gilt parlor and claimed that both were "bravely" facing the imminent chaos with trepidation (sure, but for two completely different reasons). They talked about life under Saddam in a wistful tone, as if efficiency itself was so wonderful that we should all overlook torture.

Our new federal courthouse in Portland has a quote from Jefferson inscribed on a wall fountain: "The boisterous sea of Liberty is never with out a wave". What he meant, of course, is that freedom is messy.

Sure, the trains ran on time in Hitler's Germany, but at what cost!?

Sean: Tuesday, September 23, 2003 [+] |
UN Conflict Avoidance 101

Ireland On Line reports that Kofi was sorely shaken by the violence in Baghdad:

"There is a meeting taking place right now, reviewing the situation in light of what has happened, and we will decide as we move forward what our posture should be," he said. "We will go forward, but of course if it continues to deteriorate then our operations will be handicapped considerably."

And the Age (Australia) reports that the UN is ready to "cut and run":

"The United Nations intends to quickly and drastically reduce its remaining international staff in Iraq because of security concerns after the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad and continuing violence, UN officials said."

Doesn’t the UN understand the precedent they are setting? After the first bombing the UN cuts back operations, after the second they cut back even more, do they not expect a third now? I think they make their own case that the UN should NEVER be placed "in charge" of anything during the War On Terror. As if the world didn’t have lesson enough after Rwanda, The Balkans, Somalia, and East Timor.

Sean: Tuesday, September 23, 2003 [+] |
The BBC Spins The Spinners

The BBC reports that even the Arab press is expressing its outrage:

"The Syrian Arab Republic strongly condemns the terror bombing which targeted the UN HQ in Baghdad... and sends a message of condolence to the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, and the families of the bereaved... We condemn this criminal act which will not affect the role of the UN in helping the Iraqi people to regain their freedom and independence." Al-Ba'th - Syria

"A new blow has struck the UN efforts to help the Iraqi people to restore their security and sovereignty, to resume their ordinary lives and rescue them from their sufferings. The terrorist act against the UN HQ in Baghdad yesterday is only one of the many signs of instability in which our sister country is now living." Al-Rayah - Qatar

"The attack against the UN HQ is an absurd atrocity perpetrated in the name of the opposition against foreign occupation and which caused several victims even among Iraqi citizens and foreign employees who were there to help the ill-fated Iraqis... It is unlikely that those who perpetrated this act against the UN HQ had any political aims such as a revenge against the UN for its role in Iraq... Those who perpetrated this act simply want to cause chaos and insecurity." Akhbar al-Arab - UAE

"This attack was not justified. It targets the role of the UN in its attempt to salvage what can be rescued in Iraq under American occupation... What is happening in Iraq today confirms the failure of American foreign policies and the lack of any plan to maintain peace in Iraq." Al-Quds Al-Arabi - London

"The UN, which represents all mankind, has said that the Baghdad bombing will not break the will of the UN... such horrible acts will not prevent the UN from carrying out its duties ... the culprits know what they are doing: they want Iraq to remain in the circle of violence and bloodshed so that they may benefit from the occupation, continue chaos and continue the culture of looting, killing and crime." Al-Ra'y - Jordan

"The Iraqi opposition against the US-UK occupation has increased dangerously during the past few days. It has become clear that major changes have taken place in the way this opposition is operating... This is an indication that the situation is getting worse... The only way to end more bloodshed and deterioration is to end the occupation and leave Iraqis on their own to shape their country the way they want, without foreign interference." Al-Ahram - Egypt

"As for the situation now, everything in Iraq has turned into an enemy, as the Americans say: the land, the environment and the people... Iraq will become a quagmire of stagnant waters where America will sink." Al-Riyadh - Saudi Arabia

So the BBC is spinning Arab media spin, again. Sigh.

Sean: Tuesday, September 23, 2003 [+] |
Monday, September 22, 2003
Saddam Offers Desperate Deal To Americans

Evidently the "resistance" in Iraq isnt going so well. The Sunday Mirror claims that Saddam Hussein, is trying desperately to strike a deal with the US forces.

The Iraqi dictator is demanding safe passage to the former Soviet republic of Belarus. In exchange, he has vowed to provide information on weapons of mass destruction and disclose bank accounts where he siphoned off tens of millions of dollars in plundered cash.

He maintained that Saddam had decided to seek a deal "because he is desperate, trapped and finding fewer and fewer people willing to give him shelter."

He added: "He resorts to arriving with a posse of armed men, and forcing them to give him hospitality. When he leaves the frightened 'hosts' are told they'll be killed if they say a word."

It is believed the US authorities will simply string Saddam along, aiming to track the go-betweens until they know exactly where to find the rogue leader.

"There's no doubt the net is closing, and that his supporters' efforts to get the Americans to pull out of Iraq are not succeeding," said the source.

"They can cause disruption and problems, but this does not bring Saddam any nearer to coming back to power, and he now knows it."

Hey Saddam, I've got your "deal" right here!

Hat tip: Secular Blasphemy.

Sean: Monday, September 22, 2003 [+] |
Sullivan: The Dem Dean Dilema:

Andrew Sullivan exposes the bs in the anti-Bush rhetoric regarding his war claims, in their own words the Dems look a bit silly.

On the one hand they claim that Bush "made up" the Iraq and Al Queda link:

"There was no imminent threat. This was made up in Texas," - Senator Edward Kennedy, describing the Bush administration's case for war.

And then they admit that he didnt:

"The president has never said that Saddam has the capability of striking the United States with atomic or biological weapons any time in the immediate future." - Howard Dean, Face the Nation, September 29, 2002.

What he really said was:

"Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option." - president George Bush, State of the Union, 2003, clearly conceding that the threat from Saddam was not imminent.

Then Andrew addresses the cynicism behind the Clark campaign:

I was particularly amused by the far-left... getting solidly behind a general who almost started World War III with the Russians. None of them cared much about Clark's actual positions, however. All they cared about is his perceived ability to win.

[It] strikes me that the left really cannot criticize Bush as a cipher for other forces aligned behind him, when they are doing exactly the same with a general they view as a purely Potemkin figure. "Look, if it means we get Gene Sperling and Robert Rubin running the country again, I don't much care who they put up as a front-man," one partisan gleefully explained.

All of this reminds me of Bill Kristol's flirtation with Colin Powell as a Republican candidate a few years back. Why the Powell boomlet? He was black and could win. Er, that was it. Powell was a cipher to inoculate the Republicans from seeming too white-bread. Similarly, Clark is a perceived winner and a cipher to inoculate the Democrats from seeming ... Unpatriotic [and] weak on defense.

It all smacks of phoniness and opportunism. And it's a clear sign that those who control big Democratic money are worried.

If I were a Dem, it would make me want to vote for Dean even more. After all, what would be healthiest for the future of the Democrats - a party still run by principle-free sleazeballs like McAuliffe and the Clintons or one built up from the grass roots by people with passion and ideas?

If Dean remains the best ideological choice and Clark is the best pragmatic choice, then the Dems are in real trouble.

The common thread here is that the only part of the Democratic party that is truly principled, idealistic, and energized is the "hate Bush" anti-war crowd.

But that is the part of the Left and of the Democrats that LEAST interests me, as a born and raised Liberal Democrat.

If a serious candidate (of any party) would get on the platform of the Environment, Education, Health Care, and Jobs... and seemed serious and viable, I would vote for them... so long as they were also not a dangerous dove.

I will not vote for Dean because he honestly thinks that appeasement is the answer. And I will not vote for a general who pretends to agree.

But could I actually vote for Bush?

Sean: Monday, September 22, 2003 [+] |
Friday, September 19, 2003
Useless Terror

Michael Totten stumbled upon an article on recent "happiness polls" that appears to stand terrorism on its head. Check it out for yourself here.

The polls report that the most terrorized nation on Earth is also the "happiest". Evidently, being shot at increases community feeling. This solidarity is able to overcome even terrorism to make people more happy.

I said earlier that the 9-11 attack was "the single most stupid act of political/religious violence ever conceived". Looks like the data supports this assumption.

Stoopid terrorists.

Sean: Friday, September 19, 2003 [+] |
Thursday, September 18, 2003
Freedom Fighters?

Knight Ridder's Hanna Allam reports that there are true Iraqi patriots facing off against Allied forces in Iraq today.

Cell leaders said they were willing to talk because they didn’t want the story of what was going on in Iraq to be told only from the American military’s standpoint. [They] wanted to tell people they didn’t consider themselves as terrorists, but the enemies of U.S. imperialism. “Can you describe a man who defends his country as a terrorist?”

Of course some of the people attacking US soldiers really believe themselves to be “freedom fighters”. Probably in every group there are some who think they are actually “patriots” mixed in among AL Queda, Baathists, and plain ‘ol jihadis. And some of these people will die with a clear conscience in their own mind.

This shouldn’t fool any Western observer. This man said that he was fighting “for his country”, but it is not “your country” when you are not in charge. The men who fought in the American Revolution literarily fought for their freedom, for the freedom of others, and for “possession” of their nation because they knew that they would be living with a representative government if they won.

This same man admitted that his family was one of the elite ethnic group from Tikrit who were the real “owners” of Saddam’s Iraq. This man fought “for his country” in the same way that pro-apartheid white-supremist thugs attacked blacks in South Africa in the 1980’s. He fights to return himself to power and to keep others down.

Listen to his story:

He [said] he was 19. [He] called the American victory in April a humiliating defeat for his family, which has roots in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit and includes several officers in the former army.

A friend of [his] said the young man had an uncle among the U.S.-led coalition's 55 most-wanted figures from the former regime, though he declined to divulge the uncle's name or whether he is still missing.

Family connections to the Baath Party brought raids and arrests of several relatives. [And] in June a cousin confided that he had joined the anti-American forces. He accepted his cousin's invitation to watch an attack and was seduced instantly by the thrill of revenge.

This man isn’t a patriot, he isn’t even a terrorist, he is simply a criminal thug. Imagine if a member of Al Capone’s family started up a local gang and began killing Chicago police officers in revenge for his father’s arrest. This is the same motivation and action behind this young Iraqi. Let us not dignify this behavior with the title of Freedom Fighter.

Listen to the account of the second cell leader:

Superiors sent [him] to meet with Knight Ridder one evening in late August to vet the journalists before a second meeting. A middleman accompanied a reporter and photographer to the Mansour building.

[He] paid a child standing outside a handful of Iraqi dinars, presumably to act as a lookout during the hour-long interview. Then [he] led the way to a dim, first-floor office where [the young cell leader] sat behind a desk, wearing a tightly wrapped head scarf that revealed only his eyes.

His thin frame slumped under the weight of a Kalashnikov and a military-style vest packed with hand grenades and ammunition. His hands shook, and he explained that he was nervous because U.S. raids were growing closer to the leadership.

Raids in recent weeks had resulted in the arrest of one member, he said, and two others had narrowly escaped capture.

Fear of informants restricts recruiting to family members, close neighborhood friends and military buddies, he said.

This man has to live in absolute secrecy for fear of his own neighbors, who know that his actions can only make their lives worse, turning him in to the Allied forces. And he will likely engage or plan in an “act of resistance” which will kill the young lookout, or some child like him…

One attack was scrapped at the last minute because a van carrying an Iraqi family pulled next to the targeted convoy and could have been hit by mistake. Typically, however, most attacks are carried out, and Iraqis who happen to be around are "sacrificed," he said.

How can anyone call a person who is so at odds with their neighbors a “patriot”?

If the U.S.-led military coalition leaves Iraq, [he] said, his group will turn to the U.S.-appointed Governing Council as a new target.

When your country has been conquered by foreigners who plan on moving in to stay, who will leave your country worse off then when they found it, and who will constrict your rights, then fighting might be a noble cause and perhaps some dastardly deeds could be excused. But people continue to forget (or is that word correct?) that HOW you fight is only one part of the equation, why you fight is also important. To what goal does the US employ its soldiers in Iraq and what goals are the boys in this account fighting for?

And then there is the story of The Foreign Fighter:

After a 20-minute wait, noise from the path signaled the arrival of [the young foreigner] and three other men, one of whom sported a Saddam Fedayeen logo – a winged heart - tattooed on his hand. [The foreigner] wore track pants and a T-shirt [and] had covered his face with a black-and-white scarf, though the other men weren't disguised.

He said he left Jordan for Iraq just before the war, when volunteers from neighboring Arab countries lined up at the borders to show their willingness to help Iraqi soldiers. He was drawn not by religious beliefs, he said, but by fear that war in Iraq would lead to Western rule of the Middle East. He said he since had met like-minded Syrians, Egyptians and Afghans from other cells.

"I saw what the Zionists did to Palestine, how they destroyed Palestinian homes," he said. "I told myself I could never let this happen to another Arab country. The Americans are only coming to occupy Iraq, to drain this land of its natural resources. Americans want to split us," he said. "Those heretical people want to finish Islam, to kill our religion. So, we will fight."

This “resistance” is made up of foreigners and zealots, young and ignorant, who are basically fighting out of a misunderstanding. The US is not in Iraq to steal its oil or to crush their religion, and any sane Westerner knows this to be true. We want out of Iraq ASAP and we couldn’t care less about their religion so long as they continue to pump and sell oil, which they must do anyway since it is their only livelihood.

Compare the story of these boys to the account of this visiting US Federal Judge, a man who was strongly opposed to the war until he visited Iraq in person.

This is the Iraq that the boys above claim to be defending:

I saw one little girl: she was slender, very pretty, about 5 or 6 years old, in a tattered dress with a broad red hem, part of which was torn and dragging in the dirt. She would touch her heart and make hungry gestures. She was duplicated a thousand times during the journey.

The poverty in Iraq is a sharp contrast to the lives of Saddam and his sons. Saddam alone, not counting Ouday and Qusay and the leading Baathists, had 43 palaces. We are using several for civilian government.

The one where OPCA is located is the main republican palace occupying over 2000 acres. It is a monument to narcissism, four 25 foot tall heads of Saddam decorate the front of the palace, and his portraits and statues are everywhere.

We went to a second palace by the airport. It is surrounded by a lake, which was created by diverting the Euphrates water, which limited agricultural irrigation downstream. He used his palace in Basra only once I am told.

Basra functions fairly well, except for the power. There are 6 lines into the city, but it does not have a standard power grid. Saddam used power and other essentials as a method of punishing a city of 3 million! He would cut power for days to punish them.

When I tell you the temperatures there, you will understand how bad that was. I am told that in high summer, it will hit 155 degrees, even 160! He has made no investments in this area that is overwhelmingly Shiite and consequently has few friends there.

And this is the Iraq they would return to:

I have seen the machines and places of torture. I will tell you one story told to me by the Chief of Pediatrics at the Medical College in Basra. It was one of the most shocking to me, but I heard worse.

One of Saddam's security agents was sent to question a Shiite in his home. The interrogation took place in the living room in the presence of the man's wife, who held their three-month-old child.

A question was asked and the thug did not like the answer; he asked it again, same answer. He grabbed the baby from its mother and plucked its eye out. And then repeated his question.

Worse things happened with the knowledge, indeed with the participation, of Saddam, his family and the Baathist regime.

This account is not meant to be gratuitous, it directly informed this man’s conclusion that:

Thousands suffered while we were messing about with France and Russia and Germany and the UN. Every one of them knew what was going on there, but France and the UN were making millions administering the food for oil program. We cannot, I know, remake the world, nor do I believe we should. We cannot stamp out evil, I know. But this time we were morally right and our economic and strategic interests were involved. I submit that just because we can't do everything doesn't mean that we should do nothing.

These young “freedom fighters” are opposing a LIBERATING army. If you are one of those die-hard “Leftists” who hate Dubya so much that you just now scoffed out loud when you read that word then you are blinded by your emotions. The Third ID is not there to oppress the locals but was used to remove Saddam only and will leave ASAP.

In fact, the longer these kids “resist” the longer the US forces will have to stay. They won’t leave until Iraq is a better place then when they came. That objective was basically met the day Saddam took to this hills, but that change has not yet been made permanent, and so the Third ID (or their replacement) must remain.

Meanwhile 70 American kids who only wished Iraqis well have been murdered by a handful of local yokels and crazy foreigners who are simply criminals and thugs, not patriots or freedom fighters. The Allied soldiers and their Iraqi "colaborators" are the real Freedom Fighters.

Update: recent polls show that most Iraqis are sold on the US's stated goals for their country and want to us to stay on and finish the job.

Comment: if these men continue to assault our troops I would suggest that these reporters either assist in their capture or accept that they risk serious jail time.

Hat tip: to Jeremy W, Michael Totten and Andrew Apostalou

Sean: Thursday, September 18, 2003 [+] |
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Immigration Reloaded

The Guest Worker bill is back in the pipeline for this year's legislation. But the AZ Republic reports that Hispanic activists are rather cool to the concept. That adds a curious twist to the debate.

Meanwhile, the NY Times reports on the Freedom Ride. Evidently several immigrant activists, presumably the same as above, do what something done. But they don't appear to be offering up any specifics (and who says that we aren't all politicians?).

The immigrants' ride sponsors are not seeking specific legislation but are pushing for several goals, among them letting immigrants who work in the United States legalize their status, and providing full labor protections to and respecting the civil rights of all immigrant workers, even illegal ones.

[Organizers claim that] the immigration system [is] badly in need of change because illegal immigrants [are] often exploited, because it [is] often hard for immigrants to reunite with their families and because hundreds of illegal immigrants have died in the desert from heat and thirst.

Organizers are calling for expanding the number of family reunification visas, which give priority to relatives of legal immigrants.

Another concern, especially since the Sept. 11 attacks, is that some immigrants are imprisoned indefinitely pending rulings on their status, and the legal rights of others have been reduced.

We have one of the best political systems on Earth, a vast country with enourmous resources, and a long positive history of immigrant contributions to our economy, science, and government. We can handle lots of newbies.

So, why not make the US the easiest nation on Earth to move to? We should make the VISA process a snap and naturalization a breeze. Let us focus the time, money, and people of our immigration service and border patrol on catching terrorists and smugglers.

If Mexicans know they can sign up for a VISA at the I-5 freeway border then they would stay out of our deserts, right? We could remove those water barrels and let Nature defend the border. Meanwhile the border patrol can stop looking for "people smuggling" and can assume that all trespassers are drug runners or terrorists and just shoot em.

The money saved by simpler immigration and the money raised by taxing newly legal incomes would more than pay for increased social services and law enforcement related to immigrant needs. And being legal would elliminate a hammer held over our "guest worker's" heads and put them back in control of their new lives.

I guess I just talked myself into accepting amnesty for current illegals as well (although I like a certain politician's idea to somehow penalize these scofflaws by reducing their benefits or the like). Well, why not? We make a buck or two and they get freedom, our values and our interests are served.

It is time to once again welcome the world's poor, sick, and tired, those "huddled masses yearning to breathe free".

Sean: Wednesday, September 17, 2003 [+] |
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
Capundit Interviews Paul Krugman

Kevin Drum at Calpundit scored an interview with the indefatigable Paul Krugman, and blogged it.

Paul talks about his latest book:

The central theme is, we're being lied to by our leaders, and I just felt I really needed to put that very strongly in context.

Reagan [only] lied a little bit, and his policies were often crazy, but they wouldn't do 2 -1 = 4. They'd say, if we have our tax cut we'll have this wonderful supply side thing and the economy will boom and it will pay for itself, which was a crazy theory, but it wasn't a blatant lie about the actual content of the policy.

[But] Bush says, I've got a tax cut that's aimed at working people, ordinary working people, and then you just take a look at it and discover that most of it's coming from elimination of the estate tax and a cut in the top bracket, so it's heavily tilted toward just a handful of people at the top. It's just a flat lie about what the tax cut is.

So this is different, this is really more extreme. We're not talking about disagreements about policy at this point, we're talking about people who insist that things that are flatly not true are true, that black is white, up is down. [Many a] liberal or moderate just can't believe that Bush isn't another Reagan, that this is something really much more radical even than that.

The NY Times bio on Paul Krugman states that he "joined The New York Times in 1999 as a columnist on the Op-Ed Page and continues as professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University. Mr. Krugman received his B.A. from Yale University in 1974 and his Ph.D. from MIT in 1977. He has taught at Yale, MIT and Stanford. At MIT he became the Ford International Professor of Economics."

But he is most famous these days for his regular Financial Times columns where he foams at the mouth about the Conservative revolution that no one is noticing. Judge for yourself if he is a prophet or a crackpot or both.

Sean: Tuesday, September 16, 2003 [+] |
Monday, September 15, 2003
Some Iraqi War Blog Plugs...

Check out Riverbend at Baghdad Burning. She is a young Iraqi blogger, but her English is pretty darn good, so she is easy to read. She hates Bush as much as any American Lefty (and she often gets the "blame and effect" out of whack), but her hatred of all things American Bush inoculates her against any hint of fawning, so you can trust her when she says anything positive about the occupation efforts, (if she ever does).

Also catch up with Salam Pax, in Where Is Raed. Salam is the original Baghdad Blogger and is now world famous, having been "outed" by the Guardian (they have since also co-opted him as a columnist). Back before the war he was just some guy, claiming to be Iraqi and yet still willing to bitch about Saddam and wonder about the coming war. Today he has the inside scoop on Baghdad journalists and local Iraqi NGO workers. Salam is able to "tell it like it is" and complains about both Americans and Iraqis.

Blogging from the other side is Chief Wiggles, who had a blog maintained for him by email during much of the war and now keeps up a running account of the occupation. The Chief is in Military Intelligence and was influential in maintaining a large number of Iraqi "generals" who turned over their assets to the Americans and now wait in captivity while the military decides what to do with them. The Chief is an amazingly compassionate man, which is especially interesting considering the uniform he wears and the work he does.

Then there is Sean, writing as Moja Vera, at Turning Tables. Sean is in the US military (Army I think) and has been in Iraq since the start of the war. He is now looking forward to returning state-side. But if you read up in his archives you can get one hell of a trench-level perspective. Sean's is a new find for me, from Riverbend no less (hat-tip).

I find it invaluable to know what the "intelligent middle" is thinking about Iraq. The quality English and fairly good rhetorical skills of these writers show that they are certainly not idiots, they can be won over... by more information and more experience. These are the people that the US convince in order to be successful in revolutionizing Iraq.

As long as Riverbend continues to blame the US for Iraq's own internal religious and ethnic divides (these strains are always revealed when the dictator falls, check out Yugoslavia), as long as she believes that DU shells in the southern deserts cause babies in Baghdad (the mid-north) to be born with one eye and three legs, as long as she believes that the US bombed civilians shelters because we knew they were civilians shelters (and what, wanted a higher civilian casualty rate broadcast in CNN?), then we are not making progress on the "information front".

Obviously we must back up the information effort (disillusioning people on the DU b.s., for one) with solid progress on security and political reform. The gangs of Baghdad must be put down, the borders with Iran and Syria secured, and the public utilities guarded and working. Only then will the hard work of accustoming the people and the leaders to democracy even matter.

But before we all get too despondent, we should keep in mind that Germany took decades to get to even a basic liberal society... and yet there still remain racist and demagogic elements in their society today. Iraq may take even longer and be less successful in the end. But I still have hope for both our countries and am rooting for the best of possible outcomes. And so I turn to these bloggers to see how we are doing. Thanks guys.

Sean: Monday, September 15, 2003 [+] |
Friday, September 12, 2003
9-11 Questions

Victor Davis Hansen comments on the impact of 9-11:

So many things about September 11 have coalesced to define the attack as a singular event in American history. Three thousand Americans did not die in a fire, earthquake, or flood. No, they were slain by the deliberate hand of formidable enemies.

Their murderers were neither armed soldiers nor ad hoc terrorists, but rather a large, well-financed group of stealthy commandos that had used the freedom and liberality of the United States to attack its iconic monuments and butcher as many civilians as possible.

There is something, from ancient Greek times, elementally horrific about visitors devouring their benefactors, the wide-awake guests seeing hospitality and liberality as the very weapons to murder the snoring host and his family, and torch his home.

How odd that we were so often told that Middle Eastern traditional hospitality made it difficult for thousands to turn over a bin Laden or Saddam Hussein who sought refuge and succor in their homes, but did not deter Mohammed Atta and his cadre from killing the very people who had so generously welcomed them in.

The injury was frightening: More dead than any other precursor to an American war, from those lost at Lexington and Concord to Pearl Harbor; an entire city-block in New York vaporized and our nation's military nerve center gravely wounded.

We forget the economic devastation — $100 billion in direct material damage (as much as the two-year cost of rebuilding Iraq) in New York alone, hundreds of billions more lost in harm to the airline and tourism industries and diverted to security, ruining the once free and easy association in almost every element of our lives from the airport to the office lobby.

Who can put a cost on all that disruption, either material or psychological?

The mass murderers jolted us into remembering how vulnerable is a sophisticated society such as our own, at this, civilization's greatest epoch of material affluence, complexity, and thus abject fragility.

Then he asks the questions that many of us are afraid to raise aloud:

Were Saudi Arabia and Pakistan friends — or rather regimes staffed by a corrupt elite who clung to power by bribe money and pardons to killers, deflecting their citizens' frustrations at their own failed kleptocracies onto us?

What in the world has become of the UN, of our childhood memories of Halloween UNESCO buckets and UNICEF Christmas cards — when Iran, Iraq, and Libya arbitrate questions of legality and human rights and a Security Council serves as a surrogate for a nonexistent French fleet and phantom Gallic divisions?

Did the measured response after a series of attacks on Americans the past decade — in Lebanon, Africa, Saudi Arabia, New York, and Yemen — suggest to our terrorist enemies that it was [easy] to kill reasonable and affable people?

Why do suicide bombers blow up women and children alike in both Jerusalem and New York? And if there is not a connection to be made in method and ideology, why not?

Is there something about fundamentalist Islamism that makes their brand of fanaticism scarier, more lethal, more global than even their counterparts among Christian, Buddhist, or Hindu rejectionists? And if so, could we ever say so?

What disinterested observer would ever believe that in just 24 months we have liberated 50 million people, destroyed the odious Taliban and Saddam Hussein, and routed 60% of the al Qaeda leadership — all at the cost of less than 300 American dead?

It will require an economist, politician, historian, philosopher, and artist to make sense of the world turned upside down after September 11, which unlike Y2K really did prove to be the abyss between the millennia.

Sean: Friday, September 12, 2003 [+] |
Thursday, September 11, 2003
Killing The World

I will always find the attacks on the World Trade Center to be the single most stupid act of political/religious violence ever conceived.

The assailants targeted everyone: people of all skin colors and religious backgrounds; immigrants and natives; visitors and residents.

These photos from the second anniversary show the panoply of victims.

In any sane world every citizen of every nation would recoil in horror from those who planned and executed the 9-11 attacks and the causes that they sought to advance would be forever defiled.

UPDATE: Saddly, political violence knows no borders and everyone can become a victim.

Sean: Thursday, September 11, 2003 [+] |
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Squandering Sympathy

Andrew Sullivan links to Fouad Ajami's article in

Pollsters report rising anti-Americanism worldwide. The United States, they imply, squandered global sympathy after the September 11 terrorist attacks through its arrogant unilateralism. In truth, there was never any sympathy to squander. Anti-Americanism was already entrenched in the world's psyche—a backlash against a nation that comes bearing modernism to those who want it but who also fear and despise it. - FP Editor

And Andrew reminds us that we never had French sympathy before 9-11, nor after it.

Just a little reality check. The French today do little intellectually but constantly circle the drain of complete ressentiment. They have no other guiding political philosophy but envy and regret. The notion that they would ever engage in a U.S.-led campaign against global terror (when they are close to the tyrants that spawn such terror and dedicated to the immiseration of Israel) is a presposterous fantasy. Far from being criticized for not being sympathetic to such opportunists and frauds, the Bush administration should be congratulated for trying to deal with them honestly at all. -Andrew Sullivan

America as the global dream:

“America is everywhere," an idea of it, a fantasy of it, hovers over distant lands. And everywhere there is also an obligatory anti-Americanism, a cover and an apology for the spell the United States casts over distant peoples and places. In the burning grounds of the Muslim world and on its periphery, U.S. embassies and their fate in recent years bear witness to a duality of the United States as Satan and redeemer.

The embassies targeted by the masters of terror and by the diehards are besieged by visa-seekers dreaming of the golden, seductive country. It is of visas and green cards and houses with lawns and of the glamorous world of Los Angeles, far away from the mullahs and their cultural tyranny, that the crowd really dreams. The frenzy with which radical Islamists battle against deportation orders from U.S. soil— dreading the prospect of returning to Amman and Beirut and Cairo— reveals the lie of anti-Americanism that blows through Muslim lands.

The world rails against the United States, yet embraces its protection, its gossip, and its hipness. Tune into a talk show on the stridently anti-American satellite channel Al-Jazeera, and you'll behold a parody of American ways and techniques unfolding on the television screen. That reporter in the flak jacket, irreverent and cool against the Kabul or Baghdad background, borrows a form perfected in the country whose sins and follies that reporter has come to chronicle. -Fouad Ajami

Even the Sheiks are conflicted:

Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, arguably Sunni Islam's most influential cleric, at Omar ibn al-Khattab Mosque, a short distance away from the headquarters of the U.S. Central Command, delivers a khutba, a Friday sermon.

The cleric's big theme of the day is the arrogance of the United States and the cruelty of the war it unleashed on Iraq. [Aside from] his themes, a great deal of the United States had gone into the preacher's art.

Consider his Web site,, where the faithful can click and read his fatwas (religious edicts)— the Arabic interwoven with html text— about all matters of modern life, from living in non-Islamic lands to the permissibility of buying houses on mortgage to the follies of Arab rulers who have surrendered to U.S. power.

Or what about his way with television? He is a star of the medium, and Al-Jazeera carried an immensely popular program of his. That art form owes a debt, no doubt, to the American "televangelists," as nothing in the sheik's traditional education at Al Azhar University in Cairo prepared him for this wired, portable religion.

And then there are the preacher's children: One of his daughters had made her way to the University of Texas where she received a master's degree in biology, a son had earned a Ph.D. from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, and yet another son had embarked on that quintessential American degree, an MBA at the American University in Cairo. Al-Qaradawi embodies anti-Americanism as the flip side of Americanization. -Fouad Ajami

And even the locals are stumped, hating America even when they can find no better avatar:

A friend of mine recently retold a converstation he overheard at a Portland coffee shop on Belmont Ave:

Several hippies at the next table were discussing the political scene in America today.

They all agreed that Bush was a huge moron and that our foreign policy moves around the world were horrendous failures.

"God, we suck" one of them exclaimed and they all fell silent with bowed heads.

My friend walked over and asked "Compared to whom?"

The hippies looked up, kinda dazed and confused.

After a while one of them offered... "Compared to what we could be."

"Right" my friend said, "that's what I thought". -Mike T.

Compared to most nations on Earth the US has a wonderful scorecard. Just when you begin to pipe up about Sweden and France stop yourself and research their history, recent and past, and add up their contributions on the world scene to those of the US. If your addition is fair you will find that no one comes close to the US. Could we be better sure, but dont fall into the trap of believing our enemies own press.

Sean: Wednesday, September 10, 2003 [+] |
Tuesday, September 09, 2003
No Quagmire?

John Sullivan tells us that Iraq isnt a Vietnam style quagmire, a no brainer. But now he even suggests that Vietnam wasnt a quagmire. What's up?

Vietnam was really two wars — a war between the Communist North and the anti-Communist South, and a local skirmish in the Cold War that pitted the U.S. and its allies against the Soviet Union and its allies.

North Vietnam won the first of those wars in 1975 — or so it seemed at the time. But the ruthless imposition of a Stalinist straitjacket on the whole of Vietnam led not only to the forced departure of hundreds of thousands of "boat people" but also to hopeless economic stagnation. Victory brought not prosperity but poverty and isolation.

Eventually the North Vietnamese political leadership realized that reform was necessary and in 1988 embarked on a program of liberalization on the Chinese model — that is, a gradualist program of free-market economic reforms under a continuing one-party "socialist" government.

A Martian landing in Saigon or Hanoi today with no knowledge of history since 1970 would assume that the South must have won the war. These cities have all the boutiques and designer labels of London or Venice — and more homegrown entrepreneurial vitality than both. (He would probably dismiss the occasional hammer-and-sickle in neon lights or Red Star poster as the kind of kitsch nostalgia for Marxism-Leninism found also in Manhattan night-clubs or on Paris's left Bank.)

A few years ago, the more far-sighted Vietnamese had a saying: "Our past is French; our present is Russian; our future is American." That future is almost here — with foreign investment beginning to feel secure, with Vietnamese exiles in France and the U.S. returning to establish businesses, and with European, Australian and Japanese tourists discovering that Vietnam offers wonderful beaches, a fine cuisine, and astonishingly low prices.

What of the significance of Vietnam as a local skirmish in the Cold War? Lee Kuan Yew, the first [prime] minister of Singapore, pointed out that the American intervention in the war halted the onward march of Communism southwards from 1960 to 1975. In that crucial period, the new ex-colonial states of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, [and] maybe India, took advantage of this incidental American protection to develop their economies from poor agricultural and trading post economies into modern industrial and information societies. By the time the war was over and North Vietnamese tanks were surging into Saigon, these countries were prosperous NICs (i.e. newly industrializing countries), more or less immune to the Communist virus and capable of resisting external attack.

In the late 1980s, when the Soviet politburo was debating perestroika, Mikhail Gorbachev cited [the success of] tiny Singapore, [which] exported more in value than the vast Soviet Union — as demonstrating the need to dismantle the socialist command economy.

Today Iraq is a local skirmish in a wider war that pits the U.S. and its allies against a loose alliance of anti-Western terrorists. We need to make Iraq a "demonstration effect" that stable, liberal, constitutional democracy is possible in the Middle East. The U.S. cannot hope to win the wider war against terrorism or demonstrate the superiority of freedom if it gives up the local battle against al Qaeda and the Baathists. And if Iraq topples over into chaos, it is very unlikely to right itself like Vietnam.

Sean: Tuesday, September 09, 2003 [+] |
Friday, September 05, 2003
Why They Hate Us

In a perhaps obvious rebutal to the Lefties who scoff at any notion that Muslim terrorists actually hate our FREEDOM, as the simple-minded Dubya intones, an op-ed in the NY Post by Amir Taheri:

September 4, 2003 -- 'IT is not the American war machine that should be of the utmost concern to Muslims. What threatens the future of Islam, in fact its very survival, is American democracy." This is the message of a new book, just published by al Qaeda in several Arab countries.

The author of "The Future of Iraq and The Arabian Peninsula After The Fall of Baghdad" is Yussuf al-Ayyeri, one of Osama bin Laden's closest associates since the early '90s. A Saudi citizen also known by the nom de guerre Abu Muhammad, he was killed in a gun battle with security forces in Riyadh last June.

The book is published by The Centre for Islamic Research and Studies, a company set up by bin Laden in 1995 with branches in New York and London (now closed). Over the past eight years, it has published more than 40 books by al Qaeda "thinkers and researchers" including militants such as Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's No. 2.

What Al-Ayyeri sees now is a "clean battlefield" in which Islam faces a new form of unbelief. This, he labels "secularist democracy." This threat is "far more dangerous to Islam" than all its predecessors combined. The reasons, he explains in a whole chapter, must be sought in democracy's "seductive capacities."

This form of "unbelief" persuades the people that they are in charge of their destiny and that, using their collective reasoning, they can shape policies and pass laws as they see fit. That leads them into ignoring the "unalterable laws" promulgated by God for the whole of mankind, and codified in the Islamic shariah (jurisprudence) until the end of time. . . .

Al-Ayyeri says Iraq would become the graveyard of secular democracy, just as Afghanistan became the graveyard of communism. The idea is that the Americans, faced with mounting casualties in Iraq, will "just run away," as did the Soviets in Afghanistan. This is because the Americans love this world and are concerned about nothing but their own comfort, while Muslims dream of the pleasures that martyrdom offers in paradise.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

This is, finnaly, Huntington's Clash Of Civilizations. This is may well even be the Christian fundamentalists End Time too. Glad they could finaly meet up, eh? You might also note that Amir also agrees that the worst thing we could do now is to run away, and he notes this for the same reasons, it would be giving up our turkey (again).

Sean: Friday, September 05, 2003 [+] |
Thursday, September 04, 2003
On Flag Waving

The American flag is the most loaded image short of a crucifix in our culture. It is the same for the flags of all nations, but seems more so for the Stars and Stripes. Our national emblem can be seen in images from the moon and from every climate zone on Earth. And everyone has an opinion about what our flag stands for.

For the remnants of our eldest generation the flag still represents the sacrifices of WWII. They might think of tenacious marines in the Pacific raising the flag above a tropical island won through blood sacrifice or the triumphant liberation of a grateful Paris. For them the flag represents the very best of America’s self image, the defenders of democracy.

But many Boomers can’t get past the Vietnam War. The flag reminds them of young men being sent off to war against their will, to a place where they were not welcome, to fight in a doomed and pointless war. To them the flag is merely a tool of the government, used to direct the attention of the citizens away from the misdeeds of The Establishment.

Abroad our soldiers ride in tanks and helicopters flying our flag; it is raised above army bases in Germany, Japan, and Korea; and can be seen at corporate offices, hotels, and government buildings worldwide. The flag in this context represents our nation’s global reach and cultural, economic, and military superiority. It is the emblem of the Borg and begs resistance by its very invincibility.


Sociologists Strauss and Howe have a theory about generational archetypes. It is easy to argue with people who try to create unifying theories because there are always exceptions, but their basic theory sounds solid. They explain that generations both form and are formed by the events of their times and react to the generations around them.

To the WWII generation, the GI’s (born 1901-1924) was given the task of saving the world and rebuilding it. They fought pure evil, defended the innocent, and liberated the oppressed. They came to respect order and unity and built up domestic and international organizations like the UN to keep it. This generation was active and constructive, but saw itself as embattled by its children.

The Silent Generation (born 1925-1942) slipped out of the womb just before WWII. They grew up to face the Korean War, not quite the moral slam-dunk as WWII but not the moral soapbox of Vietnam either. Their generation saw the world as unsure and indistinct. Their songs are those of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, cynical and nihilistic, but yearning for something more. Mostly, though, they were really, really quiet.

The Boomers (born 1943-1960) grew up and began to deconstruct the world of their parents. They questioned authority and visualized world peace. They stood the image of America from WWII on its head and spotlighted all the past evils of American history, from Slavery to the Indians. And they were extremely active.

Then along came the 13th Generation, or “Gen X” (born 1961-1981). This generation was tiny and it lived in the shadows of the other generations. No one could figure out if it was constructive or deconstructive, it was simply inactive and powerless against the mass of navel gazing, self important Boomers and the proud and aloof GI’s. Only now is it finding a voice or showing its mettle, and it appears to confuse the heck out of its parents.


Gen X was raised by Boomer “sellouts”. We watched TV and movies where our parents (or their fellow flower children) burned the flag and lived naked in the dust of an “endless summer”. They broke the law, smoked pot, and harassed police officers as a moral obligation and scorned their own parents as “squares”.

Then we watched them get into their Volvos and beemers and drive to the office park Monday through Friday. After school, on weekends, and during summers we were offloaded to latchkey, grandparents, and summer camps while our parents focused on “learning to put themselves first”. Our generation largely raised itself… on cynicism… and we mocked anything that we didn’t see as ours, which was everything.

When I was in school the flag was simply a joke. Back when we said the Pledge of Allegiance it was with out mention of God… but because it sounded so reverent we always intoned “amen” at its end and then giggled. And when the National Anthem was played at assemblies and sports games we didn’t even stand, let alone sing along.

But 9-11 attack changed all that. If you remember, it was supposed to be the death of irony. The targets were the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and either the White House or the Capitol Building. Like the flag, these buildings represent America itself, our economic success, our military prowess, and our democracy.

Ugly as they were and regardless of their symbolism, the Twin Towers were completed before I was born. The stability and power that they stood for was something that I took for granted. When those towers were struck I felt attacked, just as I was meant to, and it wasn’t funny.

So, when I saw a neighbor bring out a big powder blue UN flag and fly it the on the Fourth of July I snapped. I went out and bought an American flag, not too big, no fringe, and a simple pole capped by a brass colored ball, no eagle or anything. I wanted to take my country back from the Boomers.


As I drive through America today I see flags flying from many homes, shops, and even cars. And I am reminded that they were not there before 9-11. Meanwhile one of my strongest memories from travel abroad is the abundance of nationalist images: the French tri-color; the Irish one, and the Italian one; the Swiss cross; and the Union Jack.

Why is it that everyone else is allowed to be proud of his or her nationality, just not Americans?

Maybe it is because nationalism itself is a sin to which Americans should be immune. Nationalism, after all, is about race, land, religion, and “low culture”. It leads to war and brutal competition and it has no redeeming qualities. Americans especially should know that national pride is a joke (you have no choice in where you are born).

Ok, many of us have blood ties to other nations? So do Irish living in France or the entire blond, Visigoth portion of Spain. What does it matter your father or grandfather’s birthplace? Isn’t America the very refutation of the importance of this issue? Fellowship and citizenship are supposed to be based on shared values and principles, not blood ties.

If it is simply the recent history of Vietnam, Chile, or the first Oil War Gulf War then what about Nazi Germany, Imperialist Japan, Maoist China, or De Gaulle's France? Or what about America's feeding Somalis or Haitians; what about the liberation of Kuwait; or the protection of Kosovar Albanians? Why should Americans alone be forced to give up national pride to atone for past “sins”? And what can we ever do to expunge our crimes if not serve as the word’s bouncer and almsman?

In many nations the flag is only to be flown on special national flag days and at official government buildings. These flags really are a tool of the government; used to stir up nationalist fervor and direct the people’s attention away from their government. But in the US anyone can fly a flag, any business or private residence, and you can fly one whenever you like (except in Berkeley, where firemen may not fly a stars and stripes on their service vehicles).

To me, flying the flag is not about race, politics, or economics. It is about solidarity with my neighbors, with my fellow citizens. When I fly the flag it is my promise that the next time I fly, if terrorists of any nationality or cause try to take over the plane, I will not allow it to be used as a missile against my homeland. Flying the flag is about standing up for one's country as much as standing behind it.

If the flag relates to the current war at all it should remind us that some young Americans saw past the 1960's image of their country and found everyone, Boomers alike, fit to protect. The flag outside my door isn’t meant to make the woman with the powder blue flag feel intimidated, but it should make her feel a measure of guilt. After that, let her get over it and roll out Old Glory next Fourth of July.

Australian Pride

Flying The Quebec colors

UPDATE: Some Liberals get it... from the San Jose Mercury News.

Sean: Thursday, September 04, 2003 [+] |
Wednesday, September 03, 2003
Rooting For Failure

Victor Davis Hansen wonders who is rooting for American success in Iraq, other than the vast majority of Americans and Iraqis.

Victor notes that every Arab government has something to lose by the restoration of a secular democracy in Iraq. The Saudis lose an excuse for US military support for its own regime. The Iranians lose a traditional enemy and a stalking horse to distract its own happy masses. And Egypt loses its role of largest recipient of US financial aide.

Europe is similarly wed to the image of Iraq in chaos. Successful restoration of order and a winning reform of Iraqi government would prove all their "fears" of a disastrous American adventure to be hot air. And a happy Iraq wont likely have much love for France or Germany. Not to mention that Europe fears losing America's attention, losing US bases to the Mid East, and weakening their own moral authority over the US.

Meanwhile the Left in America has just about the same fears and dark hearted hopes.

Here at home, Democratic contenders for the presidency are an increasingly shrill lot. After listening to Messrs. Kerry, Dean, or Graham, we would never glean that the war had gone well, that the Iraqis were liberated, and that things are looking up.

Some allege that too many Americans and too much money is committed to Baghdad. Other rivals swear that we need more soldiers and investment — the common theme being only that whatever the official position of the administration is, it must be wrong.

Aside from the acute embarrassment that will arise should evidence of weapons of mass destruction appear (and they will) the Democratic elite increasingly run the risk of having it appear to the American people that they thrive on bad news and sputter on good.

What else can we conclude when Howard Dean crisscrosses the country with shrill cries of "Who of our sons and daughters will be the next to die in Iraq?" and promises to enlist as his vice-presidential candidate General Clark, who was last prominent as a CNN commentator promulgating doom and gloom even as American tanks raced through Baghdad in the screen behind him?

Had the horror of September 11 occurred in 2003 rather than 2001, just imagine what the reaction to it might have been by the current crop of presidential hopefuls.

In this venture America truly stands alone. Let us hope that we can persevere. The only thing worse then getting into this mess would be running away.

Sure, I share the feeling that we don’t have enough troops. And I am saddened with every death, both American and Iraqi. And I realize that every time gas goes up a buck, the electricity fails, or an Iraqi "collaborator" is killed the US led reform of Iraq takes ten steps backwards.

But I also keep in mind that we are trying to do in weeks what took years in Germany and Japan. No matter what Lefty revisionists might say today, those two nations were just as foreign and inimical to the US as Iraq today. But we stuck it out and succeeded. The results there were unchallenged political and military dominance in Europe and the Pacific for 60 years.

The model of failure that we have is Vietnam. That war was hamstrung by murky politics and triple canopy jungles. Despite the early history of the conflict, when over 2 million Vietnamese fled the north in 1951, today most Americans believe that the Vietnamese people never wanted democracy, freedom, or close ties with the West (despite the fact that Ho Chi Min lived in Paris and campaigned in the early days to become a US ally).

After losing Vietnam the US also lost its can-do winning attitude. No longer did the US debate isolationist philosophy before entering a war, from now on the US would actually ask if it could win!? For 30 years the US wouldn’t commit to anything larger than a helicopter borne invasion (Grenada, Panama, Haiti). And in Somalia actually turned tails and ran when a (successful) Airborne mission ended in a dozen or so American deaths.

If the US turns tail and runs from Iraq the number of Iraqis murdered in the civil war, chaos, and Sadamite restoration would be mind-numbing. If the US turns tail we can expect to lose ALL international clout in ANY conflict, from tribal warfare in Africa to the Korean brinkmanship, to say nothing of China's ambitions. If the US turns tail the heart and sole of pragmatic, confident America will wither and die.

Who is rooting for failure in Iraq? The enemies of America.

Who is rooting for success? Hopefully the next President.

Sean: Wednesday, September 03, 2003 [+] |
Tuesday, September 02, 2003
Salvaging Our Forests

The White House and certain members of the Senate have caught on to the salvage logging issue like a wildfire… pardon the pun. They tell us that The West is burning and we need to remove the trees to stop the fires. Is this the way to “manage nature”?

According to World Forestry, Oregon is the leading forest products state in the union. Over 7 billion board feet compared to California and Nevada at 4 billion, WA at 3.5 billion, and Georgia at 2 billion. As Oregon goes, so goes the nation.

Oregon’s forests cover about 11.1 million hectares, about 46% of the state’s total land mass. About 57% of all forest land in Oregon is owned by the federal government; 22% is held by private industry; 16% by non-industrial private owners; 3% belongs to the State; and 2% is in other public ownership. Obviously what the Federal government allows on its land is the key to this matter.

Perhaps purposely, Federal timber harvests and national wildfire statistics are not tracked by the same methodology or lingo. Timber sales are tracked by “board feet”, that is the number of usable feet of lumber per tree multiplied by all the trees cut in the entire area. But wildfires are tracked by the square acre burned, regardless of how much usable timber, board feet, is lost per acre.

After looking up timber sales and wildfires I was able to guess at the comparable figures. Soft wood forests yield roughly five thousand board feet per acre. Oregon timber harvests have averaged about 4 billion board feet a year, or 800,000 acres. While Oregon wildfires have consumed only about 300,000 acres, or only 1.5 billion board feet, each year since 1960.

Remarkably, Government figures show that the size and numbers of fires has not corresponded to seasonal droughts or unusually high temperatures. It appears that fires occur randomly due to human interaction (cigarettes and camp fires) and natural causes (lightening strikes) and the extent of the burn and the degree of damage vary by the daily conditions of dryness and wind. Interestingly, about twice as many fires are started by humans each year as by natural causes.

But the 20 billion acre question is: Does the buildup of underbrush cause more catastrophic fires? And can we “help” matters by allowing “thinning,” as Dubya suggests?

The answer is yes and no. Yes, fires today burn hotter than the fires of yore. The reason is that the “understory” of the forests (the space bellow the lowest branches of the biggest trees) are clogged with small shrubs and trees that “didn’t make it” (dying from lack of sunlight as their larger brethren blocked out the sunlight) and have not been cleared out by seasonal fires. Today, when a fire hits a forest, this underbrush causes the fires to burn far hotter than the big trees can stand (which is quite a lot).

However, “thinning” is not the answer. Thinning is a euphemism for “sneak logging”. Obviously clearing shrubs and dead trees doesn’t bring a dime of profit to the logging companies, as you can’t build a house out of twigs. The government will then have to either pay the timber companies a hefty fee or allow them to remove large healthy trees “here and there” to supplement the costs of the “salvage” job. A major condition of Dubya’s new plan is to ease restrictions, lighten up on Forest Service oversight, and side step the courts. Thus “salvage logging” and “thinning” really mean “uncontrolled logging” under the guise of a “healthy forest plan”.

The real solution, oddly enough, is to stop putting out forest fires. You heard me correctly; let them burn. Nonsense you say? Listen, conifer seed cones (pine cones) do not germinate just because you bury them. Most soft wood trees require the warming effect of a good fire to open their seed cones and begin to germinate. Meanwhile the largest trees have bark that offers the equivalent of an asbestos coat and their sensitive branches are high above the understory. When you let a wild fire burn it naturally scours out the underbrush and also causes the cones to go to seed. Forests need unfettered wildfires to remain healthy, not more logging.

What about people's (summer) homes? We put out these fires to "save lives". Baloney. When people choose to "live in nature" they should expect to assume the risks of mountain lions, wolves, bears, and wildfires. If they want their homes to survive these fires they can build them out of local stone and slate and keep their property clear of underbrush. They might also want to have a decent well and pump house so they can do their own firefighting.

The point is not to be callous to those in harms way, but for too long we have moved heaven and earth to enable people to settle the West, and it is time to take a more realistic look at the inherent dangers of living in the wilderness. Today the government, or rather the tax payers, subsidize people who want to farm deserts, keep second homes deep in the woods, climb mountains alone, or surf and fish dangerous waters. And I say not one more dime and not one more life to help people "manage nature". We can best "salvage the forests" by leaving them alone.

Forest Fire Facts

Prior to 1910, forest fires burned as much as 50 million acres annually in the US. Some regions of the interior West and Southeast burned as often as every 3-5 years. In 2002, 6.17 million acres burned.

Over the last century the intensity of fires in many low-elevation areas of the West dramatically increased to intense fires that can kill even the largest trees.

While today many low elevation forests in the West are thick with small trees, historic photographs and personal accounts tell of forests characterized by large trees spaced far enough apart one could drive a wagon through the forest.

Between 1985-2000 wildfires burned 10,000 homes, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. In 2000, at least 860 structures, mostly family homes, were destroyed in fires.

Five Reasons Why Western Forests are Today More Prone to Catastrophic Fires

1. Fire suppression

In the days of Smokey the Bear, the U.S. Forest Service sought to put out "every fire by 10 a.m." Most wildfires are still attacked with military precision. While reassuring to many homeowners, aggressive fire suppression has altered the composition of tree species, for example, to fire-prone, shade-tolerant trees, and higher densities of small tress.

"Many dry forests have now missed 7 to 10 fire-return intervals, compared to their historical fire regimes. With heavy ground fuels and high tree densities, these dry forests are now much more likely to have severe fires - and they are also the most common forest type near people's homes."
--"Fire Risk in East-Side Forests," Science Update, Sept. 2002, a publication of the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station.

2. Logging of Large, Old Trees

"The removal of large, merchantable trees from forests does not reduce fire risk and may, in fact, increase such risk. Fire ecologists note that large trees are 'insurance for the future' - they are critical to ecosystem resilience."
--A Report to the President In Response to the Wildfires of 2000, U.S. Forest Service, Sept. 8, 2000

"Timber harvest, through its effects on forest structure, local microclimate and fuel accumulation, has increased fire severity more than any other recent human activity."
--Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Report, a 1996 Congressionally mandated report.

"Large ponderosa pines have a thick, corky bark that insulates better than asbestos of equal thickness. A mature ponderosa pine can survive an hour of moderate-intensity fire at its base - the type of surface fire that was most common in ponderosa pine forests for hundreds and, perhaps, thousands of years."
--"Fire Risk in East-Side Forests," Science Update, Sept. 2002, a publication of the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station.

3. Conversion of Fire Resistant Old Forests To Tree Plantations

"Just within the Interior West, we estimate that resource values on some 24 million acres are at high risk of loss from large-scale wildfires, and values on an additional 32 million acres are at moderate risk. On many of these high-risk acres, high stand densities, principally caused by past timber management and decades of fire suppression, are a major contributor to heightened risk."
--Statement of Ann Bartuska, Director of Forest Management, U.S. Forest Service before the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, Committee on Resources, U.S. House of
Representatives, July 25, 2000

4. Road Building

380,000 miles of roads crisscross America's 155 national forests - eight times as many miles as on the interstate highway system. Roads are an ignition source that contribute to fire risks by providing increased access to forests where people can set fires, accidentally or intentionally, and for fire-prone alien species to invade forests.

"Fires in unroaded areas are not as severe as in roaded areas." "Fires in the roaded areas are more intense, due to drier conditions, wind zones on the foothill/valley interface, high surface-fuel loading and dense stands."
--"An Assessment of Ecosystem Components in the Interior Columbia Basin and portions of the Klamath and Great Basins" General Technical Report, U.S. Forest Service's Pacific
Northwest Research Station.

5. Livestock grazing

Livestock grazing removes the grassy fuels that carry frequent, surface fires and often ushers in fire-prone exotic plants and shrubs.

"Fire severity has generally increased and fire frequency has generally decreased over the last 200 years. The primary causative factors behind fire regime changes are effective fire prevention and suppression strategies, selection and regeneration cutting, domestic livestock grazing, and the introduction of exotic plants."
--Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Report, a 1996 Congressionally mandated report.

Oregon Dept of Forestry: 30,000 acres burn annually in Oregon. The highs were in 1987 with 91k and 99k in 2002. By mid August 2003 we are at only 4k. Twice as many fires are caused by humans (camp fires and cigarettes) - 500 than by natural causes (lightening) - 250.

Forest Advocates remind us: Most acres burned in fires are lightly singed, 82%, compared to severely charred, 17%. Most of these acres will recover quickly.

Local news tells us that Bush’s "forest plan" calls for the logging, er ‘thinning’, of over 20 million acres.

The Forest Service expects yields about 10k bf per acre… so the 400k acres of wildfires equals 4 billion bf, or roughly the same amount as commercial logging… However burned acres are only 17% damaged and take care of reseeding themselves, while commercially logged lands are usually permanently ruined through soil erosion and soil compaction.

The Country Reporter warns us: little effort is being made to restore previously burned acres, including the 2002 Biscuit Fire that has Bush all hot and bothered. With current climatic warming any trees replanted today are at a disadvantage to sun loving shrubs and hard woods. We are fast losing any chance to salvage what were once real forests while we haggle over allowing even more logging on what is left.

UPDATE: As the city of Cascade Locks prepares to burn to the ground let me make myself crystal clear... I do NOT argue that we should NEVER fight fires or that everyone's homes, threatened by flame, should be left to burn. That is ridiculous and I would never mean to suggest that. Firefighters have their place, surely, EXACTLY in front of the homes and businesses of Cascade Locks. Protecting existing cities and communities is just what fire fighters are supposed to be doing. I would even argue that foresters and firemen should visit the homes of those who live off the beaten path, to advise them on fire prevention and firefighting techniques, and in some cases to even help fight threatening fires. However, when it comes to the aggressive, military style, total fire suppression efforts in the deep woods, I think we should give this up. The woods need to burn, not people's homes in established cities. Ok, then... back to the news...

Update: It is October 29th and NPR reports that Oregon's fire fighters have been sent home with this year ending as bellow the 10 year average for fires, even with our big one early in the year. Mmmm...

Sean: Tuesday, September 02, 2003 [+] |

Copyright (c) 2003-2008 Sean LaFreniere


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