May it always be thus:
Elsewhere in Baghdad, individuals inside a white Opel fired small arms at ICDC personnel at the Al-Amil gas station. The Civil Defense Corps soldiers returned fire, and Iraqi customers waiting for fuel also fired at the Opel. The assailants broke contact, and a search of the area met with negative results.Emphasis added. Hat tip Samizdata, our brothers in England.
It is time to speak seriously about war.
I am brought to the topic by Kos, who approves of a line being taken by Howard Dean on the topic of the war in Iraq. Kos seems to think that this will prove to be a winning argument:
We've not paid attention to al-Qaida. We've spent $160 billion, lost over 400 servicemen, and wounded and permanently maimed over 2,000 people because we picked the wrong target.First of all, it may be said that the claim that we've paid no attention to al Qaeda is wrong on its face. The same period has seen a USMC mission against Qaeda targets on the Horn of Africa; the capture of Khalid Shiek Mohammed; allied arrests and prosecutions; continued SOF operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere; and indeed, more "focus" on al Qaeda than can easily be rehearsed. But that is not what bothers me.
What bothers me is this gleeful counting of American war dead. Kos replies to Dean: "Checkmate. And that's beside the fact that we've lost 34 soldiers since Saddam was captured, not ten. (Someone update this guy's notes!)"
Here is my reply:
In this argument, you have drunk yourselves full from the cup of despair. If 400 dead soldiers--heroes and volunteers!--represents failure to you, then there can be no success. America fielded 150,000 troops in this war. In nine months it has lost less than five hundred--less, that is, than one in a hundred of those it deployed onto the field of war. If 99% survival is not acceptable to you, then war is not acceptable to you.
This is no small sacrifice to make. If you will not fight war, you give over to those who will. In a poem to one of the war dead, Lance Corporal Ian Malone--I am told it will be published soon in a volume called Eternal Voices or something like that--I wrote this:
What, one Irish fighting manIt is still true. Of old, men memorized epics: even the Iliad. Should our foes succeed in killing three times as many of our soldiers as they have done, so that 2,000 Coalition men lie dead in Iraq, yet one man who wished could remember their names. He could, if he devoted himself, remember their names, their ranks, and something of the history of their units. It lies within the power of the human mind.
to free millions from cold chains?
Not noble words, not gracious plan
could make real such gains.
Or--Is our time so coy,
so wild and free a thing?
Not Harvey nor Kelly, boy
of Killarn, not the Brian King
Freedom bought at such a cost,
where glory's priced so steep:
Where the name of each good man lost
Can memory's Herald keep.
And for this sacrifice, we have achieved something that passes human power to estimate. Three hundred thousand dead! And their widows and their children, and the fear in the night. It is gone, on the winds of morning. It is gone, forever.
Run against that? You fools, you cowards, you children of cold hearts. If this is a winning argument, we deserve destruction. We are no longer fit to bear the sword, for we have not the courage to lift it.
But it is not so. We do remember the strength of old steel.
I have posted on occasion about the upcoming political race, although it is only now heating up enough to be worth a lot of attention. The big question looks to be Iowa. If Dean wins there, the nomination process can be all but closed, and we can proceed to the general election. If he loses, it's still an open game.
FundRace--which I've tended to follow instead of polling data--suggests that the race is very tight between Dean and Gephardt. Gephardt is interesting because he's run to the left of Dean on everything except the war. Dean's claims to being a member of the "Democratic wing" notwithstanding, the Gephardt attack site makes only liberal criticisms of Dean's policies, excepting Dean's desire to cut national defense funding. It speaks volumes that Dean and the fellow to his left are leading the pack in Iowa.
All of that makes Dean's latest ploy curious to me. A lot has been said about Dean's "grassroots army," although it is in fact substantially smaller than GWB's. Nevertheless, it's larger than the ones fielded by other Democratic candidates. Dean has enlisted them, I see, to write letters to the citizens of rural Iowa. These letters are supposed to "to make sure everyone in the state has heard about Howard Dean's positive vision for America." (One wonders if the letters mention that job #1 in the "positive vision" is raising taxes.)
Now, here's the part I'm curious about. Most of these letters--you can see by following the link above--are coming from California, New York, or Massachusetts. Coming from rural America myself, I can tell you exactly how such a letter would be received in my home. "Hello! I'm from New York, and I'd like to tell you how I think you should vote." Sorry, pal. Don't let the door hit you on the way out. I would have expected Iowa to feel the same way, but given the fundraising, maybe they don't.
Or maybe they do. Check the fundraising by county, and you can see that both candidates have gotten nearly all their money from less than a third of the counties in the state. Meanwhile, checking the fundraising by-state, for all candidates, we see that Iowa trends slightly Republican. If the two candidates of the left-left are leading the Democratic fundraising, but the majority of the money is going to Bush, one suspects a lot of those letters are being written in vain.
I am making some cosmetic changes to the site, mostly in terms of color scheme. More will follow, most likely.
UPDATE: Still to come: proper heraldry--for now I have only my shield's partition, but it is otherwise unblazon'd. I shall also try to make a place for reader comments--another occasionally requested feature--and a biography, since some of you want that. If you have other requests, email.
This week I'm voting for The War Journal for political entry. The link appears to be messed up, so if you go, you'll have to dig around to find the good parts. The nonpolitical entries, er, don't really merit a vote.
BBC Radio 4 has given us one of the great lines of political history:
It was trailed as a "unique chance to rewrite the law of the land". Listeners to BBC Radio 4's Today programme were asked to suggest a piece of legislation to improve life in Britain, with the promise that an MP would then attempt to get it onto the statute books."The people have spoken... the bastards." I love it. Of course, our Mandarin friend was not done explaining his disdain for the electorate:
But yesterday, 26,000 votes later, the winning proposal was denounced as a "ludicrous, brutal, unworkable blood-stained piece of legislation" - by Stephen Pound, the very MP whose job it is to try to push it through Parliament.
Mr Pound's reaction was provoked by the news that the winner of Today's "Listeners' Law" poll was a plan to allow homeowners "to use any means to defend their home from intruders" - a prospect that could see householders free to kill burglars, without question.
"The people have spoken," the Labour MP replied to the programme, "... the bastards."
Having recovered his composure, Mr Pound told The Independent: "We are going to have to re-evaluate the listenership of Radio 4. I would have expected this result if there had been a poll in The Sun. Do we really want a law that says you can slaughter anyone who climbs in your window?""We are going to have to re-evaluate the listenership of Radio 4." This, after he had recovered his composure. Can you imagine a Congressman saying, "We are going to have to re-evaluate the listenership of NPR"?
As for the last part of the question, yes, that is what they really want. And rightly so. No one accidentally climbs into your house, and there are very limited circumstances under which someone doing so means anything but harm to you and your family.
The whole thing brings to mind another piece of British journalism which I mentioned here in August, Aidian Hartley's "How to Kill a Burglar" from the London Spectator. In any event, kudos to Mr. Pound for his keen wit, and shame on him for his "principles," which are both antidemocratic--respectable in a Lord, but absurd in a member of the House of Commons--and directly opposed to one of the fundamental rights of Men. The defense of those rights is the business of liberal government. Indeed, it is the whole business. Explaining morality to the people is neither part of the duty of government, nor a welcome addition.
I may be the only American citizen who led a toast to the Queen of England last night. It was the third, and last, of our New Years' toasts (conducted at Grim's Hall with sparkling, but nonalcoholic, apple cider. This is a kindness offered to Mrs. Grim, who doesn't care for alcohol's flavor).
On September 13, 2001, 187 years after it was written, the reigning Queen of England ordered that "The Star Spangled Banner" be played at Buckingham Palace for the mid-day changing of the guard, as a memorial to the people killed in the terrorist attacks early that week in the U.S. On September 14, 187 years to the day after Francis Scott Key wrote the first draft of the song, the Queen asked that it be sung at the memorial service at St. Paul's Cathedral.Not only did she ask that it be sung, she sang it. She had learned the words by heart.
Long live the Queen, and have a happy New Year.
I have placed a friendly wager with a young liberal of my association on the outcome of the upcoming Presidential election. I am offering her 2-1 on this proposition, which is probably still theft on my part, but is better than she asked.
Proposition: Howard Dean will be elected President of the United States in 2004.
Forfeit if the proposition is true: I will provide the girl in question a week's worth of Slurpees and nachos, and donate $60 US Dollars to the charity of her choice, i.e., AllBreed Pet Rescue. (An aside--these are good people who do good work, and I should be only too happy to donate to them in any case.)
Forfeit if the proposition is false: She will provide me with a week's worth of beer, and furthermore, she will donate $30 to the charity of my choice, i.e., The National Rifle Association.
We shall see how it plays out. As soon as the results are in, I'll post a note on the blog to let you know who's paying up.
HOLIDAY GREETING 2003Message received. Happy New Year.
For generations, US Service men and women and government civilians have spent the holiday season far from loved ones, so that all Americans can celebrate the peace, prosperity and liberty that our Armed Forces have fought to protect.
Today, you continue to keep steadfast watch across the globe, from bases on land, planes overhead, and aboard ships at sea; from distant, remote locations, and within our own borders.
During this holiday season, the United States is asking much of you -- and you are responding with a strong sense of duty, a willingness to give up personal comfort for the greater good, and the professionalism that has earned our military services honor and respect throughout the world. It is never easy to be away from home, but especially during the holiday season, the courage, patriotism and unconditional support of families and loved ones mean so very much.
Your service and the sacrifices of your families come at a crucial moment in our Nation's history. Your dedicated work is making the world a better, safer, and more peaceful place. I am inspired by your character and courage, and am extremely proud to serve with you. The Joint Chiefs of Staff join me in sending to you and your families our very warmest wishes for a wonderful holiday season.
RICHARD B. MYERS
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Without doubt, the greatest American artist to die this year was Johnny Cash. Here find a moving elegy to him, "Johnny of the Cross". It may be the best thing I've ever read about the man.
On his final album, he was teaching us how to die. And in a culture that by and large loves death but does not know what to do with it--a culture simultaneously repulsed and attracted by i--Johnny's confrontation with his own imminent demise was largely misunderstood. The critics who complained that his voice was not what it used to be missed the point entirely. It is precisely because his voice was not what it used to be that the songs have such power. The beauty of the record lies in that very frailty, the tremolo in his voice that became more pronounced with each album. Even in his younger days, the inimitable strength and fortitude in his voice was mixed with the occasional moment of weakness, the odd quaver and show of vulnerability. In the last few years those moments became more frequent, and his voice became more diaphonous, disclosing more of the effects of illness.Hat tip: Arts & Letters Daily.
Yet for that very reason, Cash's voice was all the more beautiful--it had a weakness stronger than others' strengths.
The FBI has released an unclassified, but redacted, version of its audit on intelligence sharing with other counterterrorist agencies (PDF warning):
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has established as its highest priority the prevention of terrorist attacks on the United States. The accomplishment of this critical national security mission requires the FBI to collect, analyze, and appropriately disseminate intelligence and other information needed to disrupt or defeat terrorist activities. However, in the past, Congressional inquiries concerning the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, reports of commissions examining terrorism before and since September 11, and Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reports have suggested various weaknesses in the FBI's ability to effectively carry out the vital intelligence component of its counterterrorism program.One of the big problems found? When they share information with local police, it ends up in the paper the next day. The local cops are so excited at getting a piece of highly important FBI information, they can't keep their lips together. Exhibit A seems to be those almanacs. What was perhaps a useful piece of intelligence is now being reported even in Pakistani newspapers.
As a result, the OIG initiated this audit to review the FBI's progress in addressing deficiencies in the FBI's intelligence-sharing capabilities that the FBI, Congress, the OIG, and others identified subsequent to the September 11 terrorist attacks.