Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Committee to Save Kofi

To nobody’s great surprise, Reuters reports today that the “independent inquiry” into the UN’s (United Dictators’) oil-for-food scandal has found “no evidence” that United Dictators Secretary-General Kofi Annan interfered or exercised improper influence in the awarding of a contract to a company that employed Mr. Annan’s son Kojo.

Kojo, the “independent inquiry” found “intentionally deceived the secretary-general,” that is, Daddy, about his continuing financial relationship with this employer. “Significant questions,” the inquiry says, remain about Kojo, the “integrity of his business” his “financial dealings with respect to the oil-for-food program.”

Seriously, in El Jefe’s perhaps jaundiced opinion, there was no way any of this was going to be found to touch Kofi Annan. I’m not saying there’s anything to find here, but even if there was, the worldwide chattering classes both abroad and here at home have too much invested in keeping Kofi in place as one of the vital front men in the transnational project. Nothing must be permitted to damage the Secretary-General’s viability as a chief standard-bearer for the World Movement to Keep Gulliver (that is, the US) Tied Down. If a few pawns like Kojo have to be sacrificed to keep the UN pristine, so be it.

Whatever the real truth of the Oil-for-Food scandal may be, the “reputation” of the UN will be protected at virtually any cost. After all, don’t want the redneck Americans to get riled up and do something sane, like tell the UN adios forever.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Oblivious, not Observant

By order of SWMBO, I had my hair cut on Saturday.

I don’t know why I put things like that off. Possibly because I fail to notice any change from “before” to “after” ? There hasn’t been a barber, stylist, or whatever you want to call them my entire life whom I haven’t told, following the experience, that my hair looked “wonderful.” Honestly, I can’t usually tell the difference.

Rather like losing weight. The scales and the clothes reveal a change, but the guy in the mirror is still the same – no Joe Stud. I’m just “observance challenged.” It’s quite possible for me to wear unmatched socks, get pairs of shoes confused or miss a belt-loop, probably because I’m generally thinking of completely unrelated matters: the rise of China, how many battalions NapolĂ©on had at Austerlitz, chaos in the middle-east, the blonde who walked by at lunch, or the world distribution of Jello. Glad SWIMBO is around to be observant.

Yeah, I know, I know, I’m still El Jefe, ruler of the universe, and all the adjacent territories, to whom all the other capos must do obeisance – all under the general rule of MILO and FLINKY. Still, being observant is just not my strong point.

All Hail the Judges !

The Terri Schiavo business seems to be winding to its awful, inevitable conclusion. Last rites have been administered. Although Ms. Schiavo was not allowed regular nourishment, she was evidently able to take Holy Communion.

I am not altogether certain what I make of this whole business. No matter how non compos mentis or otherwise out of it I might be, I certainly would not want my family to starve me to death. Then again, I do not think that the horror of Ms. Schiavo’s situation, and the fact the State of Florida seems to have a bad law for dealing with persons who do not have Directives to Physicians or Living Wills in place– justifies Federal intervention.

But this post isn’t really about Ms. Schiavo. An attorney named Andrew Cohen, who is some sort of legal analyst for CBS News, published an interesting little editorial called “The Courts Push Back” last Thursday. Mr. Cohen, and I agree on the impropriety of Federal legislation in the case of Ms. Schiavo, but that’s about all we agree on. Mr. Cohen’s little piece neatly illustrates most of my discomfort with the legal profession and the courts in our constitutional system, as it has evolved. In particular I am talking about the Federal judiciary, although the State courts are developing many of the same issues.

Mr. Cohen is upset because, he says, Congress and the White House, in approaching the Schiavo matter “…illegitimately pushed the judiciary far beyond the point of reason and the judges rightly and justly pushed back. From Pinellas County, Florida, to Tampa to Atlanta to Washington, good for all of them.”

To Mr. Cohen, the courts, and by extension the bar, are a clerisy to which we are all obliged to bow and give utter and unquestioning reverence and obedience. Mr. Cohen seems to think that the political branches, by attempting to pass legislation to circumvent the Courts and save Ms. Schiavo – are scurvy rebels, to be put down at all costs:

Another aspect of this case that was different, and disturbing, was the lack of public rhetoric about the true and noble nature of the courts and the place of judges as final arbiters of our disputes, large and small. . . I kept waiting for federal and state leaders to say the sorts of things that we typically hear from government officials during and after controversial cases – that everyone must respect the courts…

That sends a terrible message to young and old alike…of disrespect towards judges and the rule of law…
Hail Caesar ! Or, in this case, Cicero. Again according to Mr. Cohen, “Congress passes laws that judges interpret. And if those interpretations are not to Congress’ liking, the lawmakers sometimes can change them again.” (emphasis supplied).

If this attitude of exaggerated deference to unelected lawyers in robes as the be-all and end-all “final arbiters” doesn’t disturb you, it should. Of course they’re not the final arbiters. However much the lawyers dislike it, people through their elected officials are sovereign, and if the elected officials don’t like the interpretations of the law, they can change them again, one way or another – and that’s not sometimes.

Constitutionally, we have gotten to the point where the tail is wagging the dog. Respect for the law and the courts is necessary, but it should not be slavish obedience. If the Constitution was about anything, it was about preventing the authorities from exercising unaccountable power over American citizens. What’s more unaccountable than a Federal Judge ? Appointed for life, virtually impossible to remove. Nothing quite so much like God on Earth as a Federal judge.

This didn’t used to matter so much. When the Constitution was written, there were few matters that could actually cause one to be haled into Federal Court. But since the 1920’s and 30’s, by way of a series of Supreme Court decisions that have greatly expanded the reach of the Courts, this is no longer true, and it is unbalancing the entire system.

I suppose my real beef here is how, in general, the constitutional system, since at least the 1930’s, and at an accelerating pace since the 1960’s, has tended to move power away from the legislative branch (Congress), and towards the judiciary. As a firm believer in legislative superiority (probably my British ancestry acting up again)– this worries me. I think that our system of government would really benefit from having both the bar and the courts taken down a notch. Perhaps more detail on this another time.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Rebels Without a Clue

There have been several interesting stories out of Iraq over the past several days, two from the New York Times and three from the Associated Press. All four of these stories indicate that the Sunni rebellion against the new Iraqi government is, at the least, in some difficulty. Good discussions of the Times pieces are available at the Belmont Club blog, and the Belgravia Dispatch blog here, and here.

On 19 March, the New York Times ran a story recounting an interview with Lieut.-General John Sattler, commander of First Marine Expeditionary Force, the top Marine in Iraq. General Sattler says that the average number of rebel attacks has fallen from 25 a day before the Second Battle of Fallujah in November, down to about 10 a day at present. In the same story, General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, gives a higher number of insurgent attacks, but for him also, the general trend is downwards.

General Sattler credits the reduction in terrorist activity in his area to the fall of Fallujah, increased Marine patrolling and random checkpoints that catch bombers before they can deploy their devices. The city of Ramadi, in the heart of the Sunni triangle, which continues to display an unfavorable attitude, is on “lock down,” locals having to move through a series of checkpoints to do business.

But the most interesting plus-factor for the US and the new Iraqi government raised by General Sattler, which is also the theme of an interesting 21 March piece in the New York Times, is the appearance of increasing numbers of Iraqi troops alongside US and allied forces. Eight battalions of Iraqi army and police have relieved half the US troops formerly at Fallujah, freeing US mobile forces to operate elsewhere.

The 21 March piece, by John Burns, is worth subscribing to the Times to read. The subject is Haifa Street in Baghdad, which, Burns tells us, was “Purple Heart Boulevard” for the 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry (based at Fort Hood, Texas). 1/9th Cav. soldiers garnered 160 Purple Hearts working this area, in their year-long deployment, before returning to Texas.

Haifa Street, which parallels the Tigris River in central Baghdad, just north of the “Green Zone,” was the heart of a Saddam redevelopment scheme of the 1980’s: Saddam bulldozed the old portion of Baghdad located here and built new high-rise apartments which he stuffed with thousands of Baath Party loyalists “…middle- class professionals from his favored Sunni minority, migrants from his hometown, Tikrit, and fugitives from other Arab countries, including Egypt, Syria and Sudan.” Saddam is believed to have hidden in Haifa Street following the fall of Baghdad to US forces in April of 2003, at the start of his underground odyssey. Naturally, Haifa Street has been a stalwart supporter of the anti-US rebellion since the fall of Baghdad.

But the rebels are not prospering. In the first 18 months of fighting, the “insurgents mostly outnumbered the Americans along Haifa Street, showing they could carry the war to the capital’s core with something approaching impunity.”

No longer. Insurgents are attacking in smaller numbers, with less intensity, and the Americans and Iraqi government forces are locating the weapons caches, and killing or arresting lots of insurgents.

The most interesting parts of Mr. Burns article are treated as almost side lights – they receive mention, but are deep in the article. Two such points are the most important and interesting facts mentioned, and they both point to the failure of the current rebellion.

First, as Mr. Burns points out, “[i]n the Shiite neighborhoods of Haifa Street, the good will for Americans is pervasive…residents clustered around the Americans, offering slivers of information about insurgents.” By contrast, the Sunni neighborhoods are hostile. But the friendliness of the Shiites tells us the rebels are losing, and that the insurgency is a sectarian revolt, and not a national one. Were the opposite the case, the Shiites, in the name of self-preservation, would be hostile, or at best neutral. The Shiite friendliness tells us that the Shiite population knows that the rebels, long run, are beaten.

The confidence of the local Shiites is probably based on the second important fact mentioned – the arrival of a two-battalion brigade of the new Iraqi Army. Mr. Burns profiles a man he identified as the commander of the “Iraqi 303rd Battalion” – a General Muhammad al-Samraa. Generals don’t usually command battalions, which makes El Jefe wonder if Mr. Burns has confused the brigade commander with a battalion commander. No matter, General al-Samraa is interesting, and sounds like a real piece of good luck for our side.

General al-Samraa is a former Major in Saddam’s air defense forces, and a Shiite, former bodyguard and driver for a Shiite tribal leader. Excellent ! At last the advisory element is getting smart and not trying to officer command echelons of the new Iraqi Army with Saddam’s dug-out generals and cast-offs. Such persons have no reason to be loyal to the new government, and know too many people on the other side. Consequently, the danger of these persons working a double game is high.

By contrast, General al-Samraa is everything you could want: from the ethnic group that was on bottom under Saddam; a field-grade officer under Saddam, so some experience, but not too-high ranking to be involved with the old regime; and spent some time humbly employed after the war, as a bodyguard. He has been given high rank, and has every reason to be loyal to the new government: so as to keep his position, and prevent his former superiors and his Sunni ethnic enemies from regaining theirs.

The situation seems to be tilting against the rebels elsewhere, as well. According to two stories by the AP today, (here and here), on Sunday, 40 or 50 rebels attacked MP and artillery units of the Kentucky National Guard along a road 20 miles southeast of Baghdad, and were handled a pasting: 26 rebels killed, 7 wounded, for 6 US troops wounded. Apparently the rebels "emerged from a grove of trees and a roadside canal" and attacked the convoy.

This is a curious engagement for several reasons. The US troops reported quite a haul of equipment in this action – 6 rocket propelled grenade launchers, 16 rockets, 13 machine guns, 22 “assault weapons” – presumably assault rifles, 2,900 rounds of ammunition, and 40 grenades. This seems like more weapons than one would expect of 40 rebels, (if the reporter means “machine guns” in the sense of a light machine gun, and not a personal weapon, each would have a gunner and loader) so perhaps the attacking rebel group was larger.
How were the weapons captured ? Did the rebels drop them trying to get away, or did the rebels “ambush” fail and draw a reaction that pursued them to their weapons cache, or did the National Guardsmen drive too near the weapons cache thus drawing an attack ? Stupid rebels. Attacking a US road convoy under current conditions (as distinguished from during the invasion, before command and control was worked out and road protection organized), because of roving helicopters, air support, artillery and airmobile infantry on call, is really a death-wish. How fortunate that the Kentucky National Guard could give this many rebels what they so evidently desired !

In any case, I cannot imagine any rebel commander, save under the cruelest necessity, would willingly risk this much precious weaponry falling into enemy hands. Particularly since another AP story, also dated today, says the rebels are so desperate for weapons that they are digging up “rusty munitions” abandoned since the Iran-Iraq war over a decade and a half ago. The rebels are clearly feeling a supply pinch. Perhaps all the pressure on Syria is working ?

Meanwhile, back on Haifa Street, General al-Samraa seems confident: “’My aim is 100 percent clear: all the terrorists living here, they go now,’ … [General al-Samraa]… said, in halting English.” No reason to doubt him – The Times piece mentions, almost as an aside, that the general’s unit is composed “mostly of Shiites.” That’s the big nail in the Sunnis’ coffin, you see. Nothing but doom ahead for them now, if they fight on. Bottom rail on top now.

The Sunnis should have tried to make a deal, but they took a chance and gambled for it all, trying to force out President Bush and get the Americans to cut and run. Then they could beat down the Shiites and Kurds at leisure, with help from the rest of the Sunni Arab world, and re-impose Sunni dominance. Rather than dealing for part of a loaf, they gambled for it all, and have lost. The Shiites have the weapons now, and they have found commanders, and their big power backer isn’t leaving. Fighting on is a recipe for Sunni suicide. The Shiites will gleefully kill and despoil their former Sunni overlords, repaying them for Saddam's years of tyranny, and the Americans will hold the Shiites coats while they do so. The Sunni cause is hopeless, and surely the Sunni leaders, know, or are beginning to suspect this, now.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Politicos and Terri Schiavo

War in Iraq; possible war in Syria North Korea and Iraq; terrorist incidents in Qatar; China arming to the teeth; our alliances with Europe increasingly a dead-letter; Osama on the loose; American TSA agents beaten by Mexican police; both the public debt and oil prices at record highs…but fear not citizens ! Congress is on the job. The Washington Post tells us that, in special session this evening, the Senate passed a bill giving the federal courts jurisdiction over Terri Schiavo, so that a US district judge can order her feeding tube reinserted. The House of Representatives is expected to act this evening also, and President Bush is in town to sign the bill.

Good to see that Congress can churn that legislation out when it’s really important.

I don’t know what you think about the Terri Schiavo business. I don’t even know what I think about it, except that it’s unspeakably tragic. (If you aren’t up to speed on who Terri Schiavo is, I’ll let you have the pleasure of Googling that one yourself). Quite aside from the fact that the Federal courts need enhancements to their jurisdiction like I need a visit to Krispy Kreme, what’s up with Congress sticking its nose into this ?
I should think that other priorities would, or should have the Congress’s attention fully engaged. Yes the Schiavo situation is awful, but the Constitution simply does not charge Congress with creating universal happiness. Moreover, this is just bad precident. Problems similar to Ms. Schiavos crop up for families everywhere almost daily. If Ms. Schiavo is entitled to action by Congress, what about everyone else when their turn comes up ? Do we want a government, or a national Make-a-Wish foundation ?
Evidently, the Congress prefers grandstanding to addressing real threats to the general prosperity and happiness. The solons need to quit playacting for headlines and get busy.

Dinner with T and Company

Last night, El Jefe and SWMBO were the guests of T and her husband. T prepared a really splendid dinner in honor of El Jefe’s birthday. T is a really excellent cook and lots of fun, so I had been looking forward to this for awhile.

We started out drinking some of T’s Green Lizard vodka martinis. Super Good ! El Jefe opened his cool presents while we chatted – friend P and her husband joining us for drinks. We then moved on to dinner on T’s screened-in porch. She had displaced her usual coffee-table and chairs arrangement in favor of a large round table that was all set and waiting for us (complete with plenty of water which some of us , such as your author, definitely needed after martinis and the wine served with dinner). We dined outside and looked at T’s cool pool, and later, joined by T's cats, chatted till very late, when El Jefe, perhaps feeling the effect of one too many Green Lizards, began to want to snooze.

Dinner itself was snapper with a sort of salsa garnish (very, very good), cheese grits – I love cheese grits and these were very yummy, and a really good salad. I am hoping SWMBO will inquire as to the recipes for this stuff. There were several desert offerings, of which El Jefe preferred the Chocolate Lava-Cake (one of T’s specialities).

In any case, we had a wonderful evening. This was such a cool birthday present ! Thanks so much to T for planning and cooking, and to T and E both for having us in their home.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

But Yes, I'm back !

El Jefe has been away for a few days, visiting the provinces, in this case Seaside, Florida. The Heir, SWMBO, and El Jefe had a great time, (maybe more details on that later). Naturally, this has cut into blogging, but never fear, the Great One is back in his capital.
After El Jefe greets his millions of humble well-wishers, and hob-nobs with his capos coming to pay their respects; inspects his regiments of elite Goombas; returns his phone calls (from W, Queen Elizabeth, Putin and Britney Spears); reproves his bureaucrats, drinks a few Cosmos; visits with his (numerous) mistresses; and, (okay, back to reality), receives guidance from High Patronesses MILO and FLINKY, not to mention works for a living, new nuggets of wisdom will no doubt appear. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Marching to Pretoria... er Twish who ?

On 7 March, the Metropolitan Council of Pretoria, South Africa’s capital city, voted to began the process of changing Pretoria’s name to the unpronounceable name of Tshwane.

El Jefe, as he has indicated at another place, does not approve of this renaming of cities, and he shall probably continue to refer to the place as Pretoria, the name given to it by its founders in 1855. “Pretoria” was for Andries Pretorius, one of the leaders of the “Great Trek” of Afrikaners into the interior to escape British rule.
To be sure, I don’t approve at all of the regime set up by Pretorius and his descendants, but trying to escape history by renaming it is a futile and pointless exercise, not to mention a monumental waste of money. Politically stupid too -- South Africa needs its white population, which comprises, for obvious reasons, a disproportinate share of the educated population. Rubbing their noses in it would seem to be economically counterproductive, as the example of Zimbabwe should indicate. Oh well, at least the stationers and map-makers shall be happy.


Twenty years ago, on 11 March 1985, the downfall of the Soviet Union got under way, when Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union – that is, effective dictator of the USSR.

Gorbachev, for El Jefe, is truly one of the strangest phenomena of the 20th Century. Mr. Gorbachev has a generally benevolent reputation in Europe and America, particularly among fuzzy-headed people who do not think of politics in terms of power. Still, this is on the whole understandable, as Europeans and Americans are the principal beneficiaries of Mr. Gorbachev’s virtual single-handed wrecking of the Main Enemy of the USA and the NATO countries.

El Jefe thinks that Russians, naturally concerned with the prosperity, greatness and power of their own country, could be forgiven for viewing Mr. Gorbachev as an utter incompetent. Mr. Gorbachev’s clearing-out of all the Soviet-era deadwood was no doubt a blessing, but, like the revolutionaries of 1917, Mr. Gorbachev managed to bring down the whole edifice of the Russian empire in the process.

Mr. Gorbachev is going to be a fascinating study for biographers, particularly if they can get access to his state papers, and the internal Communist Party documents. The fact that this man was able to work his way up through the system to the supreme leadership of Murder, Inc. (i.e. the Soviet Communist Party) is ample confirmation of the complete political bankruptcy of the Soviet regime. A “healthy” Communist Party, looking to its own self-preservation and aggrandizement, would have sniffed-out Mr. Gorbachev’s mush-headed liberalism and destroyed him. Instead Mr. Gorbachev’s career was created, advanced, and nurtured by the very apparatus he inadvertently brought down. My own suspicion is that history's verdict on Mr. Gorbachev will be that he was eerily similar to Louis XVI, Nicholas II and other leaders of authoritarian states in revolutionary times: personally likable, but not up to his job.

Mr. Gorbachev failed to comprehend the fundamental nature of the regime he inherited. He mistakenly thought his perestroika and glasnost policies could modernize Bolshevism and return it to some mythical type of non-terrorist Leninism. Gorbachev sought to save Communism by doing away with terror and compulsion, which were in fact the principal props of the Soviet state, and the main tenets of Leninism. Leninism without murder was like bread without yeast. There was nothing in this world quite as surreal and ludicrous as listening to the heir of Joseph Stalin quote Thomas Jefferson to representatives of the American media. The USSR’s, and Mr. Gorbachev’s downfall lay in the fact that Mr. Gorbachev had no comprehension of the fact that the western media and everybody else bothered with him at all only because he was Stalin’s heir.

Mr. Gorbachev’s unwillingness to countenance bloodletting to squash dissent (to his credit as a human, but a grave fault in a dictator) first lost the Soviets their World War II gains in eastern Europe, then resulted in the collapse of the USSR. At the same time, his dithering between “reform” Communism (a figment of his imagination), and some form of capitalism hastened the inevitable collapse of the Soviet economy, provided cover for the Russian Mafia takeover of its remains, and ensured that the collapse was much more complete than was necessary.

Say What ?

Former President William Jefferson “Slick” Clinton is headed back into the hospital, evidently for more heart surgery. Now El Jefe is no admirer of Slick, but I certainly don’t wish the man ill personally, so I hope he recovers speedily.

Meanwhile, I wonder if his heart problems have affected his brain, because Slick has made some truly astounding statements lately, even allowing they’re coming from the man who quibbled over the meaning of “is.” Once you’re sitting down, have a look at this article in the Arab News, which bills itself as the Middle East’s "leading English language daily." Among other things, the Arab News story says, Mr. Clinton had the following to say at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos:

Iran today is, in a sense, the only country where progressive ideas enjoy a vast constituency. It is there that the ideas that I subscribe to are defended by a majority.
Ooookay, but it gets better, that is to say, worse. The same piece quotes Mr. Clinton as saying, in an interview with the broadcast journalist Charlie Rose

…Iran is… the only country in the world that has now had six elections since the first election of President Khatami (in 1997). [It is] the only one with elections, including the United States, including Israel, including you name it, where the liberals, or the progressives, have won two-thirds to 70 percent of the vote in six elections: Two for president; two for the Parliament, the Majlis; two for the mayoralties.

In every single election, the guys I identify with got two-thirds to 70 percent of the vote. There is no other country in the world I can say that about, certainly not my own.

Or, how bout this little gem from earlier in the same interview:

Iran is a whole different kettle of fish, but it’s a sad story that really began in the 1950s when the United States deposed Mr. [Mohammed] Mossadegh, [Prime Minister of Iran, appointed by the Shah he tried to overthrow] who was an elected parliamentary democrat and brought the Shah back in [Rose says CIA in the background]… and then he [the Shah] was overturned by the Ayatollah Khomeni, driving us into the arms of one Saddam Hussein.

Most of the terrible things Saddam Hussein did in the 1980s he did with the full knowing support of the United States government, because he [Saddam or Khomeini ?] was in Iran, and Iran was what it was, because we got rid of the parliamentary democracy back in the fifties. At least that’s my belief. I know it’s not popular for an American to ever say anything like this but I think it’s true. (The audience applauds at that moment.)

And I apologized when President Khatami was elected, I publicly acknowledged that the United States had actively overthrown Mossadegh and I apologized for it. And I hope that we could have some rapproachment with Iran.”

Honest, I'm not making this stuff up. I put in some paragraphing to make it more readable, and inserted some of the material in brackets, but the words are Clinton's. Don't believe me ? Hunt up the transcript, a link to which can be found here. Also, check out Little Green Footballs' commentary on this subject. Incidentally, LGF is a great blog.

Sounds like Slick needs to stop visiting Davos, and jetting to Tsunami sites, and get back across the ocean and back on to American chow. Iran is “progressive ?” Say what ? So progressive that President Khatami, as the Arab News pointed out, called on the whole world to convert to Islam. Yeah, the progressive Mullah government, for which Khatami is the front man, who have morality police who rough up women for wearing western clothing, who send money to Hezbollah so they can blow up Israeli embassies; which places a price on the head of “apostate” authors (Salman Rushdie).

Get that bit about Saddam Hussein: "[m]ost of the terrible things...[he] did with the full knowing support of the United States government." That's either utterly outrageous or beyond stupid. Either Mr. Clinton is naive, and confusing military support for Iraq's efforts against Khomeini's Iran -- given on the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" principle -- with blanket support for Saddam's atrocities; or he's deliberately for political purposes promoting a false view of US Iraqi policy in the 1980's.

Almost as sick is Slick’s presumption in “apologizing” for American policy towards Iran in the 1950’s. Like a good leftie talking about Iran, Slick makes the obligatory salaam towards Mohammed Mossadegh. In leftist hagiography, the sainted Mossadegh was establishing a regime of truth, peace and enlightenment in Iran until he was unfortunately overthrown by the occult and sinister forces of the CIA and the US oil lobby – all of which led to the present dictatorship of the wacko mullah regime.

Reality, of course, bears only coincidental resemblance to this picture – yes, the CIA helped overthrow Mossadegh, but (much like the overthrow of Allende in Chile) the coup was widely popular in Iran. The restoration of the Shah was only possible because the would-be Nasser was widely unpopular after rigging elections, dissolving Parliament, wrecking the economy and chasing out the Shah. The advent of the ayatollahs has more to do with economic problems suffered by Iran in the 70’s than the demise of Mossadegh. But like Allende, Mossadegh, by being overthrown by forces friendly to the US, became a left-wing saint who Slick, being a good leftie, invokes when speaking of Iran.

The quality of President Clinton’s education, thought and reflections on Iran and the world generally is quite apparent in the Charlie Rose interview. I have never, ever liked, supported or had any use for President Clinton, but it is revolting to see an American politician, who was formerly the head of state, parade his ignorance in front of the whole world.

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

A Little Present for the UN's Punchbowl

The lefties are all a-twitter about President Bush’s latest appointment – that of John Bolton to be Ambassador to the United Nations. Former presidential candidate and senator John Kerry (D. France) reminds us why we sent him back to the minor leagues last November by telling us the appointment’s “…just about the most inexplicable appointment the President could make to represent the United States to the world community.” Gee, Monseigneur le Senateur, guess he doesn’t pass the “global test” eh ?

The appointment is “inexplicable” to lefties like Kerry because, unlike that gentleman, Mr. Bolton has been on the right – that is, American – side of all the major foreign policy issues of the day since Vietnam. According to Fred Kaplan over at Slate, the President’s message to the UN is to “drop dead.” Mr. Kaplan characterizes Mr. Bolton, (presently the Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security), as Vice-President Cheney’s “agent” at the State Department “…monitoring, opposing, and, to the extent possible, thwarting from within the moderating influence of Secretary Colin Powell and his crew of pin-striped diplomats.” Well, thank God: the State Department’s institutional first impulse is always to surrender everything, like the pigs negotiating with the cook on the size of the cauldron.

Mr. Kaplan’s analysis is worth reading, and, in general, spot on, if you buy the whole concept behind the UN. The difference between Mr. Kaplan's view and my own is that I think the UN, as an institution, is positively dangerous to American interests. The UN is a forum that gives disproportionate power to small states, that allows them to use the media and other institutions of great powers as fulcrums against the interests of those same countries: in effect, using the weight of the US against itself. The US is far better served by the traditional system of bilateral relations among states.
Mr. Kaplan, a believer in the UN, and international law as it has developed since 1918, thinks Mr. Bolton’s appointment is a disaster, because, inter alia, Mr. Bolton “virulently opposes the institution to which he’ll be posted” and because Mr. Bolton opposed the ABM treaty, the nuclear test ban and “any accord that limited anything the United States might someday want to do.” Maybe this last is why El Jefe sees the same set of facts as Mr. Kaplan and thinks not disaster, but “jim crackin dandy.”

As I’ve said before, It is quite enough, thank you, that we pay for the United Nations -- it’s absurd that we should actually have to pay attention to it. Mr. Bolton’s appointment, in the Wall Street Journal’s phrase is a little “tough love” for the UN. Not before time.

Monday, March 7, 2005

Death at a Checkpoint

A big diplomatic and political dust-up with Italy is in progress, after US troops at a Baghdad checkpoint shot and killed an Italian intelligence officer, and wounded a journalist last Friday night.

The New York Times tells us this morning that “[n]ext to the scandal of prison abuse at Abu Ghraib, no other aspect of the American military presence in Iraq has caused such widespread dismay and anger among Iraqis” then these shootings at checkpoints by Americans, who are authorized to open fire “whenever they have reason to believe that they or others in their unit may be at risk of suicide bombings or other insurgent attacks.”

The New York Times cannot seem to write anything about Iraq without mentioning the so-called “scandal” at Abu Ghraib. If the guerrillas gave up tomorrow, and all US troops came home, the Times would make its obligatory salaam to Abu Ghraib.

The shooting involving the Italians is regrettable, and surely everyone is sorry that the Italian intelligence officer was killed, and the journalist wounded. But how can anybody legitimately fault the US troops ? I wonder how the Times article would read, or any of the other commentary or reporting so far produced on this incident – including this piece – had the authors been forced to spend any time wearing a US uniform, manning a roadside checkpoint in Iraq ?

Writing an article for the New York Times or a piece in a blog on the anger of Iraqis at US checkpoints is a whole lot different from being a walking target, subject to having your own precious body filled with bullets or bomb fragments and winding up on the transport plane to Dover, for a funeral in a flag-draped coffin. If I were on that checkpoint, and these things were possibilities, woe betide the person who approached my position in any way other then very carefully.

Too bad for the Italian officer and his family. That officer probably knew the risks better than the journalist. As for the angry Iraqis, lots of innocent deaths are an unfortunate byproduct of guerrilla conflicts, which the originators of tactics such as suicide bombing would do well to remember.

Thursday, March 3, 2005

Somebody I know

There's a lady here in a shop in town I've known for years, casually. I met her shortly after SWMBO and I were married. As it turns out, she and her husband, both slightly older then I, were married about the time of my own wedding.
This lady became pregnant about the time SWMBO did, and she and SWMBO used to exchange pregnancy war stories. There is absolutely nothing more likely to make a male head for the hills then pregnancy stories, and this I duly did, heading for other portions of the store when the inevitable baby discussion came up.
The appointed time came, and SWMBO and I were soon enriched by the arrival of the Heir. Not long thereafter, I went back into the store, and our friend was gone. Some time passed, and knowing of her condition, we asked what had become of her. It turned out that she had miscarried, if that is the appropriate word for losing a baby far into the pregnancy. In any case, she had lost her baby, and had taken a leave of absence.
In time, she returned to the shop, and every so often we still see her, but since the time she went away, she has always treated us with a degree of reserve. I do not know what happened, but she has no children.
Today, I was off work early, and went there to collect something for my wife. The Heir was along, and she was there. She smiled, greeted me by name, but kept busy with what she was doing, and someone else assisted us. And then I understood. How hard for her, remembering what was once, and what was to be, and how it was snatched away. Why them and not me ?

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Busy, Writer's Block

El Jefe apologises for the lack of recent comments, but he has been busy, both with work, and other things, and has been plagued by an unusually virulent case of writer's block. But keep looking, do expect to have a couple of things this week.