Haggai's Place

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Your humble narrator is...
...a research analyst at a think tank in the Washington DC area. Born in Israel, raised in Kentucky, movie fanatic and sports nut.
My first-hand account of the Palestinian divestment conference at the U. of Michigan
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:: Friday, August 15, 2003 ::

My dinner last night: maybe Fair, definitely not Balanced
Here in Ann Arbor, the power's been back on for about half an hour, so this report on the blackout is somewhat out of date at the moment. Sorry to say that this post isn't quite as thrilling as this ribald blackout tale from the originator of "Fair and Balanced Day."

After losing power just after 4 in the afternoon yesterday, I read outside for a couple of hours, and then walked around town at night with one of my roommates and another friend. I got dinner from a gas station that was still open thanks to the owners breaking out their flashlights. Three sticks of warm beef jerky, yum! It was pretty remarkable to see some of the main roads completely dark, no light sources anywhere. My walking companions observed that it was the ideal night for people with physical deformities to go out on the town, since they could greet people without anyone recoiling in horror (I think that had something to do with the 40 ounces of beer that each of my friends had already drunk after buying them from a hardhat-lamp-lit party store next to campus). It's still really hot here, so having the fans and air co back is a major relief. Not as bad as Paris and Baghdad, to be sure.

Oh, and some students were staging annoying protests, the State Department is too busy apologizing for Middle Eastern dictators and ignoring the threat of terrorism to do anything about it, and the NY Times still hates America. That's all for this Fair And Balanced (TM) summary of what I did during the blackout.
11:39 AM
:: Thursday, August 14, 2003 ::
Will life soon imitate satire?
From a NY Times article today:
The Bush administration has abandoned the idea of giving the United Nations more of a role in the occupation of Iraq as sought by France, India and other countries as a condition for their participation in peacekeeping there, administration officials said today.

Instead, the officials said, the United States would widen its effort to enlist other countries to assist the occupation forces in Iraq, which are dominated by the 139,000 United States troops there...

"The administration is not willing to confront going to the Security Council and saying, 'We really need to make Iraq an international operation,' " said an administration official. "You can make a case that it would be better to do that, but right now the situation in Iraq is not that dire."
Right, see, the countries that actually have troops we might be able to use are saying no without more UN involvement. So now we're just going to go find all these other countries who will contribute troops without arguing--and this time, it'll work, because we'll be "widening our effort." Makes perfect sense. That last quote is a real ringing endorsement of administration policy, isn't it? "Yes, internationalizing it is the right thing to do, but come on, the situation isn't a complete disaster yet."

The logical next step is to do what The Onion "reported" back in March in an article with the headline "US Forms Own UN":
Frustrated with the United Nations' "consistent, blatant regard for the will of its 188 member nations," the U.S. announced Monday the formation of its own international governing body, the U.S.U.N...

"The U.S.U.N. resembles the original in almost every way, right down to all the flags outside our headquarters," said Condoleezza Rice, a U.S. delegate to the U.S.U.N. "This organization will carry out peacekeeping missions all over the world, but, unlike the U.N., these missions will not be compromised by the threat of opposition by lesser nations."

In its first act, the U.S.U.N. Security Council unanimously backed a resolution to liberate Iraq's people and natural resources from the rule of Saddam Hussein.

"We gave the old U.N. a go for I don't know how many years, but it just wasn't working," said Dick Cheney, a U.S. delegate to the U.S.U.N. "Really, I have no idea what we were doing sacrificing all that power and autonomy in exchange for a couple of lousy troops from New Zealand."

Added Cheney: "I can't tell you how much easier it is to achieve consensus when you don't have to worry about dissent."

1:49 AM
:: Tuesday, August 12, 2003 ::
The central problem
Eric Rouleau, a fairly prominent public voice in Europe on Middle East issues, repeats an all-too-common refrain about the Palestinians in this article:
Violent resistance to occupation is considered world wide as legitimate while its repression, even in "self defense," is not.
Independent of the distinction between resisting Israel's military presence in the territories with guerrilla attacks on soldiers and resisting Israel's existence via suicide bombings of non-combatants, as happened again today, this belief represents the true failure of the international community when it comes to the Palestinians. Not just morally, but politically and legally as well. When the Palestinians signed the Oslo accords, and every subsequent agreement with Israel, they agreed to forgo the use of violence in favor of negotiations. In exchange for recognition from Israel as the legitimate representatives of the Palestinians in a negotiated process, the PLO had to renounce what they considered to be their legitimate right to violent resistance against occupation (not to mention violent resistance against Israel's existence). Arafat got international legitimacy as the head of a state-in-the-making, the guy you have to deal with if you want anything done regarding the Palestinians. When Rouleau and the people who sympathize with his statement, i.e. most of the world, say that violent resistance to occupation is legitimate, they grant the Palestinians blanket immunity from being held accountable for violating the agreements--how can anyone blame them for not stopping something that's legitimate? You can even cover yourself a bit by saying "of course Arafat is a lousy leader" or whatever, but it doesn't matter if you aren't enforcing their non-compliance with anything more than empty condemnations.
12:52 PM
:: Monday, August 11, 2003 ::
Another review of some WMD claims
I saw a link yesterday on an Yglesias comment thread to this AP article that reviews the major claims made in Powell's Feb. presentation about Iraq at the Security Council. A bit long (Powell talked about lots of stuff), but worth a read.

The article seems to imply in a few places that Powell wasn't straight with the facts, namely that some of his claims were based on old intelligence reports or at least partly outdated by UN inspections. Whether that's true or not, I don't know, but what clearly is true is that even if his presentation was entirely based on a good faith reading of the available intelligence, none of the claims he made about the Iraqi WMD program have been validated by the evidence yet, and it's been four months since the regime fell. Maybe some more evidence will turn up in the future, although the leap of faith required to believe that any significant discoveries will soon turn up keeps getting bigger.

Even though I thought the stuff about an Iraqi nuclear program and "bullet-proof" al-Qaeda links was mostly hype before the war, I really thought they would find some bio and chem weapons stuff in the aftermath. Almost every expert I read or heard about in the press seemed to believe that too, even the ones who had major reservations about the war. Saddam's story that he gave to the UN--I got rid of all the weapons, but I'm not going to tell you what happened to them--certainly didn't make it seem any likelier that nothing was there. But, as things have gone so far, everyone who said that there was illicit stuff being hidden by Saddam, out of the inspectors' reach, has turned out to be completely, totally, utterly wrong. Whether those judgements were made in good faith or bad faith, or with or without a pro-war agenda, it is nothing short of amazing that none of it has turned out to be true.

Say what you will about Scott Ritter and his anti-war activism, or even his penchant for arranging sexual rendezvous with teenage girls, but the substance of his claims has turned out to be much closer to the truth than anything the administration, plus many of the Democrats in Congress, were saying. Hell, if you just zero in on what he was saying about whether Iraq had WMD or not, he was right and everyone else was wrong.
12:02 PM
:: Sunday, August 10, 2003 ::
The knights who say NIE
Ok, I just wanted to get that reference in. I thought of it while reading this huge Washington Post article about the Iraq WMD evidence, which includes some stuff about the development of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of October 2002 that dealt with Iraq. The reference, of course, is to this group of characters who appeared in this movie.

I do want to say some things about this Wash. Post editorial that severely criticizes Al Gore's speech from last week. For one thing, some of Gore's statements about the flimsiness of the WMD claims are solidly in line with the Post article linked to above, which the editorial writers seem not to have read. Then there's this part where they quote Gore's speech:
The president's economic and environmental policies represent an "ideologically narrow agenda" serving only "powerful and wealthy groups and individuals who manage to work their way into the inner circle."

But then why do so many other people support those policies? Mr. Gore has an umbrella explanation, albeit one that many Americans might find a tad insulting: "The administration has developed a highly effective propaganda machine to embed in the public mind mythologies. . . . "
I could be wrong about this (and I'm too lazy to search for evidence to back me up), but I'm almost certain that I've read strikingly similar criticisms of Bush's economic and environmental policies in the Post's own unsigned editorials. Did they not read those, either?

But by far the worst thing in the editorial is this part:
Mr. Gore believes...that the Patriot Act represents "a broad and extreme invasion of our privacy rights in the name of terrorism." But then how to explain that 98 senators -- including all four Democratic senators now running for president -- voted for it?
Leaving aside one extremely dubious notion that this seems to be implying--that the Patriot Act doesn't have any serious flaws--the very nature of the argument is an inexcusable abdication of journalistic responsibility. We're supposed to accept something as it is, without even thinking about its merits, just because the Senate voted for it with near unanimity? By that logic, the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which essentially gave the President a blank check to expand the US role in the Vietnam War (it was rescinded by Congress in the early '70s), was totally beyond reproach. After all, it passed the Senate with only two dissenting votes. Shame on the Post for making such an argument.
12:20 PM

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