The Four Corners

Friday, April 11, 2003
 

Stats:

Four Corner members, curious folk check out our page hits, their local and general counter traffic on our personal tracker http://v1.nedstatbasic.net/s?id=2271536. Bookmark it. --Ed


 

Hit me [Saddam] Baby one more time, I'm not that Innocent: The Post has a hilarious article cataloguing Iraqi former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz's four story home's contents.

The looters found among other things, "photos of the pop singer Britney Spears, apparently torn from magazines" as well as "Vogue, Cosmopolitan and GQ, along with a few dog-eared novels by Danielle Steel." Most of these items came from the bathroom or his children's rooms.

Still, he had 50 DVD's from "the great Satan" movie industry, including, ""The Godfather" series, lighter fare, such as "Sleepless in Seattle," and action films, such as "Dragon," the story of martial arts expert Bruce Lee."

Some one in the family was still hoping to that the Princeton Review could bail them out, after taking notes in the margin of "Crackin' the GMAT."

Good luck in business school. That's the only place Bush won't hunt you down.


 

Proud to be an American?

Everyone's favorite Gore Part Deux, Senator John Kerry, has come under fire for his "unpatriotic" questioning of the Bush administration during a time of war--not surprising from the right wing, fear mongers currently in power. Perhaps more surprising--and uncharacteristic of a Gore-ish candidate--is that Kerry seems to be firing back.

I have to say, though, that Kerry's turnabout, while it may be fair play, doesn't convince me that he's any more capable of leading an American regime than W. So far, all he's said is that his service in Vietnam gives him the right to speak out against American leadership, particularly during a time of war. It seems to me, though, that every citizen's most patriotic duty--whether he or she has ever served in uniform--should be to question his government. How did we get from burning King George III in effigy to: "Demanding regime change in America isn't unpatriotic--it's vile" (courtesy of our beloved Majority Leader in Congress)?! And how did Kerry get from grassroots Vietnam protests to: "I fought for and bled for...the right to speak out"?

Sorry, but I was born with the right--in fact with the responsibility--to speak out.

"I'm a citizen. And in this country, it is not only our right to question our leaders; it's our responsibility." --The American President, Aaron Sorkin


Thursday, April 10, 2003
 

Keep Rosanne away for another inning: It looks like it isn't quite over yet, despite VP Cheney's gloating in the no-gloat zone.

Today, things took a turn for the worse, showing it a lot easier to topple a regime in three weeks than it is to completely wipe it out (just ask Afghanis).

Another suicide bomber killed 4 US Marines at Baghdad checkpoint. In tough day of fighting, Marines lose altogether 5 dead and 35 wounded. Meanwhile, the mosque raid (not a very good idea) uncovered lots of body parts, yum.

Anti-Saddam Iraqi Shiite leader Majid al-Khoei was assassinated in Shiite holy town of Najaf's Imam Ali Mosque Thursday. Returning to Iraq from exile under coalition protection, he was stabbed to death. According to DEBKAfile, "Serious unrest sweeps Iraq's Shiite cities."

Does anyone know if this is the same guy who was bribed to issue a US-friendly fatqua? I hope not; we need all the friends we can get, even if it is the inept, corrupt Iraqi National Congress. Which, amazingly enough is even worse than the US Congress.

Meanwhile, some good news: PUK and KUD militias poured into Kirkuk and with US special forces to secure the city and its all important oil wells. Despite US promises Ankara that Kurdish forces have will not permanently occupy Mosul or Kirkuk, Turkey is prepping a military "observing" force to go into Northern Iraq...

Oh wait, that's more bad news.

At least the US avoided a wider war by capturing the so-called Scud-Box in the west to prevent strikes on Israel which would have made Sharon declare war on not just Palestinians, but Iraq.

Still on the whole it looks like Saddam is either dead or no longer a threat, as his armies are rapidly melting away.

One wishes that Carol Mosley Braun, Al Sharpton, Dennis Kucinich, Bob Graham, and Joe Lieberman would as well. For those of you that spent two hours of your time watching the 8 men and 1 woman who think they will be president, I don't need to explain what went on at the Children's Defense Fund "[Democratic] Presidential Candidate Forum."

Each candidate spouted out the same consultant-dripped stump speech they have given before, for the most part. Everyone who has a chance of winning (AKA those who voted for the war resolution plus Dean and minus Lieberman) tried to show their liberal colors without offending future swing voters.

But it sure was hard to tell with all the "under my plan..."-esque comments that made me worry that nobody on that stage could beat George W. Bush.

I guess I will have to Draft Clark. Ten's my lucky number.


 

Sorry Steve:

The Hotline's list of what's hot and what's not in DC:

HOT not
Dr. Gupta Dr. Bob
Congressional Cmtes Red Sox's Bullpen by Cmte
Neo-conservatives Paleo-conservatives
Where's Saddam? Where's Osama?
Bubba Sabato Larry Sabato
Bonnie Bernstein Carl Bernstein
"Phone Booth" Voting booth
"No gloat zone" "No spin zone"


Wednesday, April 09, 2003
 

BREAKING NEWS: Saddam's statue in the center of Baghdad has been toppled with an American tank and throngs of cheering Iraqis dancing on Hussein's "grave" while Al-Jazeera claims he is chillin' in the Russian embassy.

Amid all the excitement and jubilation that the war is virtually over, we should not loose site of the fact that many conservatives and Bushies are trying to tag Democrats with the sign, "unfit to lead" because they dared to criticize any part of the war's build-up and management.

Don't get me wrong, I shutter with the thought of hearing the words "Speaker Pelosi," but I feel the many critics of the Bush administration's handling of diplomacy and war strategy were not only permissible and patriotic, but valid.

As many in our own foursome here have stated, most Americans don't want to be dragged into one war after another to fulfill some AEI dream of "World War IV."

Most Americans don't like the fact that they are hated virtually everywhere in the world (except when they have our checkbook open). Wearing Canadian flags on backpacks and ending every question with "eh?" gets a little old after awhile and is the only thing that resembles the Vietnam war.

Perhaps Senator Kerry was being too cute for turning the rhetorical phrase to ask for "regime change" in Washington, but he does have a point. The only way to really mend relationships with former allies is to ensure that Bush is not re-elected. With a fresh start, the 44th president can try to patch over the differences that could otherwise lead to the rest of the world ganging up on the world's only super power.

As successful as the "my way or the highway" approach has been with the U.S. Congress for Bush, I would like to find some one other than Ari Fleischer who could describe diplomatic efforts over the last three years that way.

Tomorrow, the "Coalition of the Unwilling" are meeting together to plot for ways to not only screw Bush, but seize control of as many oil wells in Iraq as they can in the name of multilateral reconstruction. This is in the name of getting the U.N. involved.

The U.S. still would like help with the bar tab, even if it doesn't want the U.N. to do anything but hand out boxes of food. And to do that, the U.S. needs to make nice with all the people it has pissed off since day 1 of the Bush administration.

Iraq's future is a big open question mark. I really don't think the U.S. should have a ex-military man and neo-cons ruling the country, and the head of the Iraqi National Congress is certainly no saint (he is wanted in Jordan for financial fraud-- I knew there must be something about him that appealed to Bush). Still, leaving the Iraqis to elect someone without any democratic experience could lead to chaos and a very illiberal regime that also has to be toppled.


Tuesday, April 08, 2003
 

WHAT NEXT? Although no reports have yet confirmed Hussein's death, with Baghdad's days numbered I agree that this is an excellent time for us to be discussing the post-war plans for Iraq. Although everyone seems to have a differing opinion on what the political landscape will ultimately look like six months, one year, ten years down the road for Iraq, there appears to at least be a consensus that, in a world where national sovereignty is valued over most precepts of international law, the government of Iraq belongs in the hands of the Iraqi people as soon as possible. Given the ethnic and religious diversity of Iraq, which has known internecine strife since the days of the early Islamic caliphates and autocratic dictatorship since the rise of the Ba'athist party over forty years ago, virtually no one believes that political legitimacy should, or even could, be handed directly over to the Iraqis with the final curtain call of the war. An interim Iraqi authority, composed of prominent Iraqi dissidents and non-Ba'athist civilians who have had long-standing ties to and experience with legitimate Iraqi agencies in charge of infrastructure, energy, finance, etc., is an excellent way of putting the Iraqi people on the bicycle but holding on to the back of the seat until they learn how to ride themselves.

The question currently being hotly debated, though, is who should decide who serves in the interim government, and just how much oversight is necessary to ensure a proper transition to a democratically elected representative government? The result of yesterday's summit made clear that Bush has no intentions of allowing the U.N. to play any more than a humanitarian assistance role in post-war reconstruction, and that the coalition members reserve the right to set up the new government. I argued a few days ago that this was a treacherous move on Bush's part, only because Kofi Annan has been adamant about giving the U.N. a say in the matter. Choosing the Iraqi leadership with the ultimate consent of the U.N. Security Council could go a long way toward mending relations with EU members who have grown increasingly alienated by U.S. geopolitical audacity, while still giving Wolfowitz and the rest of the neo-cons in the administration the satisfaction of knowing that they were able to set a goal for Iraq's future and carry it through. At the moment, however, Bush and Blair are tip-toeing around the issue of the U.N.'s reconstruction role to keep the council off of their backs, a situation that will undoubtedly come to a head in the near future.


 

Osama Bin Forgotten: Remember this guy? The last time we went to war with Iraq a dozen years ago, he was just a crazy richman's son.

Twelve years down the road, he is in charge of this little group call Al-Qaeda remember them? No, it's not Al-Jazeera or Saddam Hussein. While the U.S military is off bombing anything that moves in and below Baghdad, the Taliban is regrouping in Afghanistan and the guy George W. Bush wanted "Dead or Alive" for over a year seems to be still alive-- he issued another tape to Al-Jazeera.

In the audio tape, he urges the faithful to attack governments in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia using that ol' standby suicide bombing "All of them have been imposed upon you and jihad against them is your duty," he is purported to have said.

"The United States has attacked Iraq and soon he will also attack Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Sudan. The attacks in Saudi Arabia and Egypt will be against Islamic movements there," said the tape.

I guess he saw James Woolsey's speech too.

"Do not be afraid of their tanks and armored personnel carriers. These are artificial things," he said. "If you started suicide attacks you will see the fear of Americans all over the world. Those people who cannot join forces in jihad should give financial help to those mujahedeen who are fighting against U.S. aggression."

Apparently, the neo-cons are hoping for uprisings in the "Arab Street" albeit against their own government. But, as the old Chinese saying goes, "be careful what you wish for, you just might get it."


 

And I thought political assassinations only happened in the 1960s: Looks like Chicago is back to the bad old days with the bombing of a Chicago Alderman and two state legislators.

According to the Chicago Times, "The attack occurred about 3 a.m. to the office...shared by Ald. Danny Solis (25th), state Rep. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago) and state Sen. Antonio Munoz (D-Chicago)." The FBI said that a two-inch-thick pipe bomb blew out a front window and punched a two-foot hole in the floor, spraying a wide area inside with razor-sharp shrapnel.

Meanwhile in Iraq, "Coalition" Forces bombed an hotel and a residential neighborhood with several JDAMs to take out Saddam & Sons Inc. Although they apparently had a "hot tip" from multiple sources, so far there is no say if they killed or insured the Hussein family, but it has been reported that several reporters died.

The journalists who died in the hotel blast were British news agency Reuters' cameraman Taras Protsyuk, 35, a Ukrainian national based in Warsaw, Poland; and Spanish TV network Telecinco cameraman Jose Couso, according to their employers. Couso died during surgery. Al-Jazeera reporter Tariq Ayoub was killed in the separate incident.

Now I am no Media Relations expert, but I would think killing news reporters, especially from a country whose support is luke warm at best (Al-Jazeera in Qutar) is not especially bright move.

One could say it was even dumber (if that were possible) than hitting the Chinese Embassy during the war in Kosovo.

It seems like Saddam's best defense now is to wait for us to kill more of "Coalition" troops in friendly fire or another PR debacle, since the Iraqi army is basically non-existent.

For that matter, the Iraqi government is non-existent, as Baghdad and LA circa 1992 are looking remarkably similar: Looters and beatings galore.

When ever civil society is back in Iraq, discussion must begin on what kind of government should Iraq have. Beyond a representative democracy (which Cheney & co. don't seem too thrilled by), I would like our Four Corners to debate what the role and nature of such a future government should be. Imagine it as a chance to play out your political science fantasy...so much for anti-imperialism.


 

SECOND ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE DAY: Given the fact that we now are four (4) bloggers on a site called The Third Avenue, we have decided to change the name to The Four Corners, available at http://the4corners.blogspot.com. This might take some time to adjust itself so be forewarned. --Ed.


 

Welcome to the Boyz Club: I would like to announce the hiring of the fourth member of our triumvirate-- Abby. The newest Third Avenue correspondent joins us from Geneva to get the European/International view of both the war and America itself.

Since we were kicked out of Baghdad with Al-Jazeera, The Third Avenue has had to depend on its own local sources for information on the latest development between the Tigris and Euphrates.

Stay tuned for more developments from our bleeding edge news team.

--Ed


 

AN EXCERPT FROM Paul Wolfowitz's interview with Tony Snow on Fox Sunday News:

"Q: So, let's switch to one other battlefield thing, and then I want to get to post-war reconstruction. Weapons of mass destruction, there's been a lot of talk about it. To the best of your knowledge, has anybody found any actual weapons of mass destruction so far on the battlefield?

Wolfowitz: Let's be clear -- these incredible young men and women of ours are fighting a very tough fight. On -- yesterday, I was with some wounded Marines out at Bethesda Naval Hospital -- their spirit is fantastic, by the way. I mean, these -- it just makes you proud to be an American. They're wonderful. And -- but they -- they're in very tough fights out there. They have got to focus on winning this war. If they come across evidence of weapons of mass destruction, obviously we're interested, but right now our goal is to get control of the country, to get rid of this evil regime, and then --

Q: So, that's a secondary job, you'll look for those afterwards?

Wolfowitz: And in fact, bear in mind we've said all along the key to finding these things is to get the people who know about it in circumstances where they're no longer fearful, intimidated, and let them tell us. And we aren't yet at that point. In fact, most of those people are probably collected in places where they're intimidated and terrorized."

In other words, no, we haven't found anything yet, and even though that was our primary justification for invasion in the first place, now that we've gone ahead with the campaign, we can just send those memos down the chutes at the Ministry of Truth, because democracy is our real justification. Clearly.

Monday, April 07, 2003
 

Not so fast... ABC News reports that the American forces have not yet unearthed a "smoking gun", as the substance thought to be sarin has, upon further testing, turned out to be a pesticide. ABC's article ends with this dry bit of editorializing:

"The fact that the coalition forces have come up with no clear evidence of WMD after capturing much of Iraq in 19 days of fighting has raised questions over the war's justification." I would add - questions that should have been resolved before America was plunged into an invasion that (former CIA director ) James Woosley assures us will lead to "World War IV".

 

Liar, liar, capital on fire. Among the many lies that Saddam's regime has been espousing over the 20-odd years it has been in power is the whopper that they never...I mean now they don't...have weapons of mass destruction.

Well along with the "Troops? What troops?" presser that the Information Ministry (and its spokesman Mohammed Said al-Sahaf) has said in recent days even has US troops stormed the government office, NPR has reported that the "US marines haveuncovered 20 medium-range BM-21 rockets equipped with sarin and mustard gas found near Baghdad." The Israeli Online Military Gossip Column DEBKAfile says that a "Top official with 1st Marine Division [is] quoted as saying rockets were ready to fire."

Gulp!

Looks like Mohammed Said al-Sahaf has finally put Ari Fleicher to shame.

Thank God that Saddam's soldiers never resorted to such horrible acts that were not only against international law, but also human decency.

I guess the "coalition of the unwilling" --France, Russia, and Germany-- will have some explaining to do. Especially the Russians for giving the Iraqi army GPS jammers and night vision goggles. Ironically, US GPS-guided bombs were able to take out most of those jammers anyway.


 

ARMED WITH A GAS MASK AND A LAPTOP: Prior to the 19th Century, war was a slow, drawn-out process. The lack of night vision apparatuses and proper lighting devices prevented most (planned) battles from occurring at night, when troops of opposing sides retired to their camps and, in some cases, even commiserated together and played cards and drank until sunrise, when battle would resume. News of warfare developments, consequently, took days, weeks, even months to reach mass audiences, particularly if oceans had to be crossed in order to transmit information. The coverage of the current campaign in Iraq, of course, has come a long way since King George III had to wait weeks before finding out George Washington had crossed the Delaware in the middle of the night to raid his British-Hessian troops. War now happens in real-time, thanks to developments in media technology and journalistic methodologies that makes comparing the 1991 Gulf War coverage to the 2003 coverage, as one major network executive has put it, "the equivalent of comparing Atari to Playstation." But is this really for the better?

It's only natural that in an age where Vin Diesel is the most popular stuntman in the box office, the American public would expect nothing less than the most sensational, eye-dazzling, front-seat view of a war that the majority of Americans feel carries the moral imperative of a "battle between good and evil" Hollywood plot. In an effort to take advantage of improved communications technology, from satellite video to instant-publishing Internet blogging, the Pentagon has experimented in this war with its controversial embedding program, which gives journalists an opportunity to follow along with infantry divisions and cover the day-to-day events of the war with startling detail. The result has been, for better or for worse, a view of the war that no one outside of the combat has ever seen before, and may not want to see.

Although the Pentagon has expressed pleasure over this new form of war coverage, the recent sudden deaths of prominent journalists such as Michael Kelly and now David Bloom, not to mention other lesser known reporters must raise at least a few eyebrows from those concerned about the safety of journalists on the fields of combat. Perhaps now that the war has progressed from strategic bombing raids and limited combat near the Iraqi borders to full-scale clashes in the heart of Baghdad, the determination of journalists to get at the heart of every story has placed them in greater danger than during the initial weeks, and the success of the embedding program has given journalists a sense of invincibility that, no more than any brave soldier straining his eyes through a desert sandstorm, they certain do not possess.

It is a wonderful duty that these journalists feel themselves called to in order to provide the public with the nothing but the facts, ma'am. But we're losing some of the most talented, thoughtful minds in the world, and a gripping editorial or headline with "in-the-trenches" experience to back one's story may not be worth it.

 

THE BBC REPORTS TODAY the proposed post-war Iraq reconstruction program envisioned by the U.S. and Britain, which Blair and Bush are likely discussing today at a summit in northern Ireland. The post-war plan, consisting of three stages of operations, from military occupation to representative government, confirms the fears of many concerned with upholding the principles of international law: the apparent lack of any U.N. involvement. While the Bush administration has stated publicly that the "U.N. role has yet to be determined," it seems unlikely that Bush has any intention of allowing the U.N. to have a say in the reconstruction of Iraqi society and government, save token humanitarian assistance. Naturally the U.S. and U.K. have fears of the United Nations ruining their well-laid plans of war and regime change with bureaucratic inertia and political ineptitude not uncharacteristic of the international congress, but given the willingness of Russia, France, and Germany to cooperate in bringing a peaceful end to the situation in Iraq, it woud be unwise for the coalition states to pass up an opportunity to at least begin mending relations with Old Europe, which may be possible with even a nominal U.N. involvement in the post-war plans.

 

As much as I disagree with what Michael Moore said at the Oscars three weeks ago, I have to hand it to him for examining America's love affair with firearms in Bowling for Columbine. Although I am not sure that I agree with his conclusion-- that the media and government are conspiring together to instill a constant state of fear, especially of minorities, so that Americans forget that they have high crime, corporate criminals running free, 41 million without health insurance, 5.8% unemployment, etc.-- but I do think that America is truly unique in its obsession with weapons.

Now I have no beef with hunters or people former victims of abusive relations having appropriate weapons, but do people really need to be able to bring weapons into churches, courthouses, and schools? No. Do average citizens really need AK-47s and other semi- or fully automatic assault rifles? Not really either. Who does? Well drug dealers and other members of "organized crime," of course (and our armed forces). Do people who have a history of criminal conduct, mental instability, or mental defect need weapons, especially concealed weapons? No not either.

The NRA and others who agree with them might make the argument that people need weapons in the US as a fundamental guarantee that they can rise up against an unjust government. This Jeffersonian view that "the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots," does not sit well with reality.

Western Europe has some of the most restrictive gun control in the world but their country is far from a police state, in fact it is a social democracy/republic. Same goes with Canada, which has some of the loosest gun laws around, yet nowhere near the amount of death via guns that the U.S. has.

According to Slate's Timothy Noah, Iraq also has a reportedly open gun policy. Yet, even though they live in one of the most Stalin-like police state, nobody in Iraq rose up against the Ba'th Party regime.

Why not? It wasn't for lack of weapons, and don't give me the "they need better weapons," argument either. The reason why the Ba'th party is still in control is not because they have better weapons or training but because they are utterly ruthless.

Half of all Iraqi army deserters are caught and publicly executed in front of other potential deserters. And Iraqi officers are afraid to leave because they know that if they do, their families will be brutally tortured and murdered until there is no one left who remembers that officer.

The point of this whole ramble is that the NRA makes a lot of false arguments in the name of the second amendment, which under a very narrow reading, could be construed as out of date and invalid currently. After all, militias were only necessary when there was no standing army or navy or air force (since there were no airplanes in the 1790s) to defend Americans against foreign invaders and the Native Americans who were being murdered, lied to, and poisoned with chemical weapons (via smallpox infested blankets).

These days, I think defending the U.S. from Islamic fundamentalists is better left up to the Pentagon and national security team, as bad of a job as they did before 9/11. The only other major threat to U.S. security is nut jobs that want to take on/down the U.S. government themselves, ala the Unabomber, Waco, or Oklahoma City.

So unless you live out in an extremely rural area, there is no need to gave a gun in the house to protect yourself from criminals, as slow as 911 is to respond these days.

Speaking of which, do you know why average 911 response time in a city like Washington DC has gone up by about 10-15 minutes-- because our police and firefighters are working extra long shifts without pay. In San Diego, police officers have bring in their own toilet paper because the city is trying to cut back on costs to pay for the needed extra security. State governments are strapped for cash, but the federal government (aka Bush administration) won't lift a finger to help secure "the homeland" even though that is the one thing (that even libertarians would agree that) government should do. More details in the coming weeks.