:: Saturday, June 28, 2003 ::
Who, us? We didn't start it!
:: Thursday, June 26, 2003 ::
For an interesting non-polemic view of the US/Europe split on Iraq, in particular the US/France split, there's this testimony before Congress earlier this month by Justin Vaisse of the Brookings Institution. He mentions a Colin Powell quote from just after the war started that I didn't remember hearing at the time--this is from the March 27 Washington Post story that Vaisse is referencing:
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, in interviews on three Middle Eastern television stations and in testimony before Congress yesterday, sought to combat the overseas portrait of the United States as a superpower determined to thwart the will of the international community to achieve its aims in Iraq. "This is a conflict that we did not ask for, we did not seek, we did not want, we did everything to avoid," Powell told lawmakers on the House appropriations subcommittee...I suppose that Powell was just trying to emphasize that Saddam was the one to blame for the whole Iraq problem in the first place, but Vaisse is totally right when he says "Please do not ask me, even as a European who believes strongly in the transatlantic alliance, to defend this against anti-American commentators in France. I just cannot, because I don't believe it myself." Powell still has plenty of credibility overseas, but not when he says stuff like that.
C is for Cookie, that's good enough for me...
:: Tuesday, June 24, 2003 ::
Funny stuff from Slate editor Dahila Lithwick about some of the recent decisions handed down by the Supreme Court:
Then we have Wiggins v. Smith, where, by a 7-2 vote, the same court that would ordinarily uphold any death penalty conviction—even if defense counsel had been hopped up on crack and dressed up as Cookie Monster—actually accepts an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. This court, which has blindly sided with the prosecution in the last few ineffective assistance of counsel cases, seems to have figured out (finally!) how shockingly bad/young/inexperienced/overburdened some court-appointed defense counsel can really be.
Blaming the wrong party
:: Monday, June 23, 2003 ::
Some big disagreements with this column by Yoel Marcus in Ha'aretz:
The symposium on the failure of Camp David held last week at Tel Aviv University never got down to brass tacks - determining who really screwed up. In the years since Camp David, blame has been tossed around like a hot potato. For Barak and Clinton, it was convenient to blame Arafat. After all, they offered him most of the territories and he turned them down in 60 seconds flat.
I think there's some revisionism there about what happened with the Egypt/Israel Camp David negotiations in 1978. There was plenty of improvisation at that summit, as this day-by-day summary demonstrates, in particular the probably unprecedented method of negotiation on the eighth day of the summit, when the US President started negotiating directly with mid-ranking members of the two delegations, Israeli Attorney General Aharon Barak and Egyptian Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs Osama El-Baz. Of course, no matter what Carter and the US delegation had done, no deal would have happened without the ultimate willingness of Sadat and Begin to achieve one.
But the real culprit is Clinton. Muddle-brained from listening to Barak sound off, he didn't understand that you can't resolve a century-old conflict with some half-baked scheme and a couple of slaps on the back. President Carter's greatness lay in the fact that when he invited Sadat and Begin to Camp David, he already had hundreds of drafts and alternative proposals lined up on the table in case of a snag. Clinton helped Barak "unmask" Arafat, and instead of an agreement we got an intifada in which more than 800 Israelis have already died.
There's plenty of room to criticize Ehud Barak for the way he conducted the negotiations with the Palestinians, but to blame him or Clinton for their ultimate collapse is just silly. It's true that you can't resolve a century-old conflict in a matter of a few weeks' worth of negotiations, but how can anyone think that the Palestinians only had that amount of time to think about things? From the time they signed Oslo to the convening of the Camp David conference, they had a mere SEVEN YEARS to get their act together on what sort of final deal they could live with and to prepare their public for the inevitability of compromising on the core issues. Having spent almost that entire time pursuing the peace process with about as much energy and understanding as could be expected of any US President, Clinton was naturally eager to leverage all of his experience and dedication into getting a final deal within the 6 months he had left in office. It's awfully shallow to blame him for trying too hard to make peace. Sandy Berger surely got it right when he later said that he preferred being accused of doing too much to achieve peace to being accused of not doing enough.
A dog's breakfast?
Flipping past the always entertaining Prime Minister's Questions in Parliament on cable last night, I saw a Conservative MP take a dig at Tony Blair about some issue with a funny phrase that I had never heard before. He said something like, "Considering the absolute dog's breakfast that the Prime Minister has made of this issue..." So there you have it, more funny British slang. If you want more, I guess you can find out when Prime Minister's Questions is on TV, tune in, and Bob's your uncle!
Some years back, humor columnist Dave Barry recounted his experience asking for directions in Britain:
DAVE: Excuse me. Could you tell us how to get to Buckingham Palace?
BRITISH PERSON: Right. You go down this street here, then you nip up the weckershams.
DAVE: We should nip up the weckershams?
BP: Right. Then you take your first left, then you just pop 'round the gorn-and-scumbles, and, Jack's a doughnut, there you are!
DAVE: Jack's a doughnut?