Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Butcher of Baghdad is Dead

At around 10 pm last night, the murderous life of Saddam Hussein ended, as he faced ultimate justice for his crimes. This is a great thing, as the Iraqi people now have a measure of justice, for the thirty years of rape, murder, and genocide he put his people through. My view on the death penalty is that it should always be an option for the worst criminals, and the most remorseless monsters of the Earth-- in other words, men like Saddam. His death may not change things on the ground, but at least he has faced justice, according to the rule of law, the same rule of law that he denied his own people.

Many have wondered if the trial was really fair, or worth it. The fact is, things were messy, with all the delays, grandstanding, and violence, but he had his counsel. He had his appeals. The evidence was weighed carefully, and a just verdict was laid down by the Iraqi people. The only reason why the outcome seemed inevitable, is because it was-- the evidence against was unassailable.

Some may wonder why even have a trial at all, when we could have just taken him behind an alley and put a bullet in his brain. He still would've been treated better than he treated his own people, but it wouldn't have been the right way. A back alley execution is the sort of thing one would expect under Saddam. Civil governments don't do that sort of thing. It was crucial that he be forced to submit to the rule of law, under Iraqi justice. He was, and now his bloody reign is truly over. Most Iraqis are celebrating. They have every reason to, now that one of the most brutal villains in history has been fast-tracked to Hell.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Post-Christmas Thoughts, Mourning Legends, and Iraq

Before I get into this post, I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, and hope they have a Happy New Year. We lost a true icon of soul in James Brown, who passed away on Christmas morning. He was the Godfather of soul, and he will be sorely missed. In yet another tragic note, former President Gerald Ford has died at the age of 93. I was born in 1979, so I obviously don't remember his Presidency, but from what I've read and seen, he was a humble man who assumed the mantle he never sought, and did his best to heal the wounds of Watergate. Ford received a lot of heat for his pardon of Nixon, but I suspect he was doing what he thought was right, in trying to heal the country by sparing it an ugly trial. May the verdict of history be just.

Speaking of the verdict of history, Marc Cooper has a piece on soldiers who dissent from the Iraq war, with a particular story of one Lt. Ehren Watada, who has resisted deployment to Iraq. I've written before about soldiers in an all-volunteer military refusing to obey orders. Myabe I'm being harsh here, but I don't find much heroism, or nobility in Watada's actions. He has based his actions on his belief that the Iraq war is illegal, and in his view, a war crime. Simply put, he has no legal or moral footing here. He's just plain wrong. We have 17 U.N resolutions, the Iraq War Resolution, and international law as a legal and moral support. It's one thing to consider the war unwise, or mismanaged. I respect the first position, and basically agree with the second. Things aren't going well. But to say this war is illegal, and thus tar all our soldiers as war criminals is wrong.

To be fair, Watada is not hiding from the charges, and he has agreed to serve in Afghanistan, which he believes in just. The thing is, you don't get to pick where they send you, and he ought to face the judgment for his actions. Some have called this an act of civil disobedience, comparing him to Thoreau and others. Ignoring the legal issues for a second, the moral situation in this case is totally different. Thoreau was resisting slavery. Watada refused to obey a lawful order, and thus violated the oath he swore and volunteered to uphold. Many have criticized the policy in Iraq, yet still did their duty. Heck, I support the policy, so I'm biased, and maybe I just can't see his moral position as legitimate. I just think he's totally wrong on this.

I'll leave it at that, as I now steel myself for the onslaught of false accusations of being an intellectual bag man for the Bush Administration, or in the words of one commenter at Cooper's blog, a peddler of "Malkinesque, war-blogger sarcasm."

Oh, and John Edwards has officially announced he's running again.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Truth About the Iraq Study Group

In an all-too-serious, yet funny spoof version. Zucker's other spoofs were partisan and silly, but this one is on point, not to mention bone-chilling.

H/T: My crew at Stubborn Facts

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Jimmy Carter's Latest Dilemma

Former President Jimmy Carter's getting some serious heat for his new book covering the Israli-Palestinian conflict. He prayed with rabbis to try and smooth things over, but it doesn't seem to be working:

The Board of Rabbis of Greater Phoenix said they wouldn't call for a boycott of Carter's book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," but they also won't suggest that anyone read it.

"I don't know if he gets the evil that we are facing," said Rabbi Bonnie Koppell of Scottsdale.

Carter, 82, was met by a crowd of protesters as he appeared at a book store in suburban Tempe to autograph copies of the book.

He said he chose the title to shine light on the festering conflict and give Americans a different point of view than what they're used to.

"I wanted to provoke debate," Carter said. "I wanted to provoke discussion."

Discussion is always good, but the ideas in his book will suffer rebuke for very legitimate reasons. It appears to suggest that the Israeli approach to the peace process is comparable to apartheid.

The story continues, with this:

Carter's book follows the peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians during his presidency in 1977-1980. He's critical of all players in not reaching a better accord, but he's especially critical of the Israelis. He previously told The Associated Press that Americans are rarely exposed to anything other than pro-Israeli views in the news media.

Really? Are you sure? Was he paying attention during the Lebanon war? To be fair, coverage is infinitely better than in Europe and the Arab world, but is Carter really suggesting the media coverage is overly pro-Israel? I mean, I'd say it's pretty balanced, all things considered. The Palestinians have their say.

Reflections on Pinochet's Death, (and Reflections on the Reflections)

In case you didn't know, General Augusto Pinochet has died, at the age of 91. The old dictator passed away a couple of days ago, and for most, this ought to be good news. It seems that there's an uncomfortable heap of controversy over his legacy. I must confess to not being anything approaching an expert, but it seems to me, after reading the history, that Pinochet's legacy as a brutal dictator, who seized power from the democratically-elected (albeit Marxist) Sal Allende, and then murdered over 3,000 over his people, tortured and brutalized thousands more, committed acts of state terrorism, including acts on U.S soil, and subjected his people to a nearly two-decade reign of terror is valid and undisputed. Even many of his apologists (and they're out and about), admit he was a dictator.

There are numerous sources to check out on Pinochet's legacy. Christopher Hitchens has written a good piece on Pinochet's bloody legacy. Marc Cooper, who was actually Allende's translator back in the day, has a perspective on this you'll not get anywhere else.

As I said before, not everybody's happy that the Captain General is gone. Many of his supporters have taken to the streets, and pledged their support for him at his funeral. Apparently, much like their beloved master, they really do have a soft spot for fascism.

The rightist apologists for Pinochet, at home and abroad, are all over the place. The general pro-Pinochet argument basically goes like this: His free-market economic policies brought prosperity to Chile, and he left Chile better off. His dictatorial regime is excused as a necessary reaction to communism. "Sure he was a dictator, but those damned commies had to be stopped." His despotism, murder, and terrorism are somehow mitigated by his Milton Friedman style economic policies. Maybe I missed something, but I didn't think that markets were usually implemented through bloody dictatorships. Shows what I know. This view is far more prevalent than many realize. Maggie Thatcher saw him as "restoring democracy to Chile." In fact, he was having tea with the Iron Lady right before his 1998 arrest.

Examples of right-wing apology are here, here, here, and a mind boggling one here. These sorts of things get ugly real quick, it seems.

Heck, even the Washington Post gets in on the action.

Look, recognizing the very real and ugly tyrannical legacy of Fidel and other communist regimes is one thing, but to excuse one of the most brutal and criminal dictatorships in Latin America, all under the banner of economic renewal, and a policy of anything goes against communism is wholly misguided.

Glenn Greenwald and others point to the linkage between this and the controversial policy of the late Jeane Kirkpatrick, who passed away just a few days ago also. Her policy, expressed in her landmark 1979 piece "Dictatorships and Double Standards, " essentially argues that right-wing regimes were less repressive than left-wing ones, and that it was good U.S. policy to back any regimes that were anticommunist. This approach was flawed for obvious reasons. I won't go too much into Kirkpatrick's role on this, although Greenwald does capture the prevailed right-wing sentiment on Pinochet clearly: It was all justified to save the country from communism. Many point out how he laid down his power after the plebiscite, which to me is like saying "he raped us for twenty years, and then he stopped. What a guy!" Well, it was the least he could do, after all.

Now, as I said, I'm not an expert, but this whole Pinochet apology and revisionism borders on revolting. I'll just leave it at that.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Hitchens Reviews Coulter's "Godless" Book

Or should I say, eviscerates. I must admit to extracting an almost unhealthy amount of joy out this review. An excerpt:

But then, I have the distinct feeling that people do not buy Ann Coulter’s creed-screeds and speed-reads in order to enhance their knowledge of history or their command of syllogism. She has emerged as a persona because she has mastered the politics of resentment, and because she can combine the ideology of Human Events (the obscure ‘Joe McCarthy was right’ magazine) with the demand of the chat-show bookers for a tall blonde with a very rapid delivery on a wide range of subjects. The cover of this book – which follows the success of its forerunners Treason and Slander: titles that require little elucidation – shows her in a low-cut black dress with a prominent crucifix dangling over a modest cleavage. The needs of showbiz notwithstanding, I cannot fathom the reason for this slight come-hitherishness. Miss Coulter is not married and ought therefore, by her own loudly-proclaimed standards, to be a virgin and to remain so until further notice.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

It's Here

After nine-months, the much discussed Baker-Hamilton report has been released. I'm not making judgments until I get all the facts. Some people already hear the sound of the sharpening of knives, and others see hope. I'm willing to put aside doubts and look to hope. As I've said, anything that doesn't involve precipitous withdrawal, partitions, selling out to Iran or Syria, or the status quo ought to be on the table.

Talking's good, know what I mean.

UPDATE: I posted the link to the actual report (HT: Centerfield).

UPDATE #2: At the end of the day, it really looks like the knives are being sharpened, folks. The vaunted ISG report appears to be one big staming pile of realpolitik, rhetorical photo-opping, and surrender.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

No Laughing Matter?

You know, a lot of us laugh at Scientology. We think of it as a cultish phony religion created by a hack 60's sci-fi writer. We laugh. The thing is, if this is all true, then we've no business laughing. Apparently, Scientology may be more dangerous than we thought.

Get out while you still can, Katie! While you still can!!


You must check out this great cartoon, narrated by the late, great Orson Welles. It's timely, topical, and for those who will dismiss it as partisan, heavy-handed liberal tripe, or conservative tripe, they especially need to watch. It sounds the call for all of us. And it's cool!

H/T: Andrew Sullivan

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Back From Cancun. Back to Blogging

I've had a great vacation, and I've gotten a chance to relax a bit. A lot's happened in the past few weeks though, and I've got a lot to cover, from the much ballyhooed Baker-Hamilton Commision's exposure as possibly being a miserable embarrasment ( a lot of people think so), the tragic death of Sean Bell in New York, the much ballyhooed argument that conservatives are more compassionate than liberals, thoughts on the elections, and the idea some have that Article VI of the Constitution doesn't mean much anymore.

More to come later, most likely tomorrow.