July 23, 2002



Sorry, but I cannot condone the levelling of a city block to assassinate one man, however dangerous. It's not enough to say that way evil lies... that way IS evil. In Gaza this week, the IDF went too far. My personal interest in their achieving a victory in this war has receded, proportionately, as a result. Not left altogether; just receded.

Gaza generally has that effect on me, actually. Six thousand Israeli settlers have reserved all the productive land for themselves, while over a million Muslims stand over the settlement wall from them, in abject poverty, without the franchise, without hope, without a future. Stone-throwing Palestinians are regularly shot there, by settlers and soldiers. The majority of recent Israeli "regrettable incidents" (the bomb on the path that killed the schoolchildren, the tank firing into the house that killed other children) seem to occur there, for some reason. Unlike the West Bank, Gaza's residents would have an economic future without Israel, with its port and land access to Egypt... unlike the West Bank, too, its evacuation would make no real difference to Israeli security. if Palestinian self-realization is ever going to begin to occur, it's here. I can understand the dilemma on the West Bank. There is nothing close to that dilemma in Gaza. If what is going on there could be separated from the insoluble remainder of the Palestinian problem, the immorality of Israeli actions in that locality would be as undeniable as apartheid or the occupation of Timor.

Posted by BruceR at 10:27 PM



I wouldn't want to say that it's just dawning on Steven den Beste and others that there are large parts of American society that are operating now above the law, Congressional or judicial oversight, or the Constitution: in particular Hollywood. He's too smart for that. But when I covered the gaming industry as a writer, I was amazed at the chutzpah of studio executives, who even defied or sneered at Congressional subpoenas when it suited them (as opposed to the computer game industry reps, who always show up for the latest Congressional anti-violence witchhunt in nice suits and on time, to get pilloried for their efforts as Columbine instigators). So the fact that Hollywood is now reserving itself the right to hack home computers to shut down Kazaa and other file sharing networks, code digital TV programs so they're unrecordable, etc., etc., doesn't surprise me one bit. What's remarkable is den Beste, who has defended the Bill of Rights as the foundation of a sound domestic and foreign policy so many times, is expecting Hollywood to win this fight, too. And so America's slippage from a Julian Rome to an Augustinian one continues apace...

What's really remarkable about the story den Beste links to is this quote:

[Representatives] Coble and Berman have jointly written a second draft bill that could sharply limit Americans' rights relating to copying music, taping TV shows, or transferring files through the Internet. But they have said they do not necessarily endorse the plan's details.

So here you have two U.S. Congressmen admitting they have basically put their names to bills Hollywood and the recording industry wrote for them. You couldn't possibly be more in the pocket of an interest group than that. They have been bought and paid for... but not only do they not deny it, they happily admit to it by disagreeing with their own bill. Will their job prospects in future U.S. governments be negatively impacted by this? Of course not. As Lisa Simpson said, "The city of Washington was built on a stagnant swamp some 200 years ago... and very little has changed."

NB: I'd say something about the recent proposed changes to the Posse Comitatus Act and the new civilian informant corps, but they're too obvious. That uncomfortable feeling in the world that America has finally completely lost its way as a beacon of democracy and freedom is growing too large to ignore...

Posted by BruceR at 10:10 PM



It's a good week for truth. In addition to the NYT's burying Herold, the Prospect hammers a last spike into the "war for oil" theory, too.

Posted by BruceR at 04:54 PM



Well, this rarely happens, but I agree with Warblogger Watch. They've still to post a coherent argument in refutation of, well, anything, really, but they've got John Podhoretz dead to rights. For those like John still unclear on the concept: an army is not a toy. It is not to be used to gain short-term political benefits for the ruling party, or to make the President look tough. Anyone who thinks it is should be horsewhipped. Wag the dog, indeed.

Posted by BruceR at 04:46 PM



Buried in the recent silly story in the New York Times on a new estimate of civilian fatalities (852, in this new estimate) due to U.S. bombing is a remarkable refutation of the numbers previously touted by New Hampshire women's studies prof Marc Herold (whose numbers, last we saw, were somewhere over 4,000 and climbing, at least three times that of any serious estimate). The 852 figure, as Politburo rightly points out, seems the product of one 24 year-old researcher with no love for the U.S. government and a travel budget. She does, however, appear more methodologically scrupulous than Herold. My point? No matter how you feel about the Afghan war, the numbers are mutually exclusive (and may even be a little high... the Times quoted the Afghan government's estimate of less than 500 fatalities, as well). If you believe this Marla Ruzicka, whose credentials on the left seem impeccable, and who obviously is putting in some legwork in search of the answer, you must conclude Herold was a charlatan and a fraud, and that all those who quoted him during the war (Pilger, Fisk, et al) were duped by a charlatan, and a fraud. I personally don't have any doubt that the number of unwanted fatalities was somewhat higher in real and comparative terms than the air war in Serbia (c. 500), for reasons Carl Conetta outlined some months ago. But by any historical or reasonable standard, the air war was undeniably one of the most humane such actions ever.

Posted by BruceR at 04:28 PM



It doesn't surprise me that an ex- Canadian paratrooper was so aimless he turned to armed robbery. It doesn't really bother me either that no one can explain the photos of severed heads found in his barracks box, and the paratrooper's not talking. What is annoying is that two years after admitting to firing 88 shots at some Brink's guards (should have spent more time on the rifle range, I guess), this embarassment to the Forces is out on parole. Judicial system? What judicial system? (Props to Charles Tupper for seeing this one first.)

Posted by BruceR at 03:02 PM



I've got a lot of time for occasional Flit reader and National Post columnist Mark Steyn, but he takes liberties with the facts in his piece today on the Kandahar bombing.

First off, his cutesy beginning just doesn't wash, apologizing to Americans with the nickname "Psycho" for being pilloried by the Canadian commentariat. I suppose that means me, since to my knowledge no other Canadian writer but me has drawn any conclusions from the American pilot's nickname. I'm happy to be shown the occasional exception to that rule, if one exists. But there certainly wasn't the "wild stampede" rush to judgment he suggests: American readers will have to trust me on that.

Steyn also accepts the American pilot's lawyer's word that they were not briefed on the presence of a weapons range at Kandahar ("the Yanks neglected to tell their pilots"). That point has never been satisfactorily settled... all that is firm is that the pilot does not recall being briefed, which is something different.

Steyn also apparently believes that a request to fire 20mm cannon on the pilot's part was part of Maj. Schmidt trying "to ascertain whether it was friendly." Interesting way to do that, if true.

That said, once you strip off all the overblown rhetoric, there's nothing fundamentally wrong with Steyn's conclusion:

It doesn't have to be just "pilot error" or, alternatively, "command-and-control failure." It could be both.

Me, I could live with that. My trouble is that "systemic failure" seems always to mean "failure where no one's to blame" these days. Convincing people that the system's really to blame in this case, as Steyn is doing, is much more likely to end up exonerating everybody than adding to the bill of indictments, and I find that morally problematic, given what we already know about what happened.

You have to understand Steyn's agenda, as always. He's trying, along with the rest of Canada's oppositionists, to keep this as a sore issue for the Chretien government (at the same time he's taking a peg out of rival conservatives he doesn't like, like Elsie Wayne.) As I've tried to explain below, this is a great issue for making the Canadian government look ineffectual: they've resisted releasing the vast majority of the evidence around this incident for months, because they don't want to do anything to stifle the application of American military law against the pilots, which they see (knowing all the facts) as justified. But the Americans are stonewalling, neither prosecuting nor saying they won't prosecute, and not allowing the Canadians to release the whole story. So every day Steyn and others can keep this kind of pressure on, the government looks like a fish out of water, mouth gaping, but not saying anything. The prime minister is stuck like a butterfly to a board on this one, and Steyn et al have no interest in pulling the pin out any time soon.

NB: Steyn also mentions the one specific allegation thus far of possible Canadian wrongdoing... the impact the Patricias' battlegroup's lack of an integral forward air control unit might have had. Truthfully, it would have had no influence if we confine the question to the night-of... things just happened too fast, and too recklessly. The most a FAC might conceivably have done would have been to notice those eight prior reports about muzzle flashes at the weapons range being deemed suspicious by the air force (by monitoring their communications) and possibly put measures in place to clarify any air force confusion. But there's no guarantees.

Also, it's rare that a battalion-sized unit would have its own FAC assets, as opposed to the brigade or division they're working for downloading them to that unit. If it had been a Canadian brigade with an American battalion attached to it (ha!) then the Canadians would have been responsible for providing the American unit with their air coord staff. Going by the Canadian book at least, it should have been the same when the situation was reversed. Doctrinally, I see no error in what was done. But why the 101st Airborne's FAC team in Kandahar would have had sub-optimal communications with the USAF in-theatre is a question that I haven't seen satisfactorily answered yet.

I'm also extremely skeptical of Steyn's suggestion of the possibility of a mechanical fail-safe within the F-16s, which are supposedly incapable of firing on GPS coordinates deemed to be friendly. Not knowing as much about F-16 computers as I probably should, I can't rule it out authoritatively, but in practice in an actual war theatre it would be extremely unlikely you'd have a non-overrideable system preventing your pilots from engaging ground targets in supposedly friendly areas if they had to. (What if Kandahar was being overrun, for instance?) I really think he's misread what someone's saying there.

Posted by BruceR at 02:53 PM