September 30, 2003
NOM DE PLAME: NICE PIECE OF WORK
I don't know diddly about the Plame affair you haven't read elsewhere but that press conference Marshall excerpts today is notable for one reason... it's as nice a little piece of journalistic cross-examination in a scrum situation as you're likely to ever read. As an ex-practitioner of the journalism-PR adversarial contest, it's always nice seeing the game played at the highest level, and this was certainly it.
Note how the press questioners circle around the Bush PR secretary McClellan, patiently boxing him in. The central question in the second half of the interview is what the President knows now about the nom de Plame. McClellan's line is that he knows nothing. The technique is to work collectively to box McClellan into either going off message, or saying patently stupid. McClellan's job is to wriggle out of the box. This day, he loses. You can see the end coming several questions off... I confess I got the same joy out of reading it as I do following a Spassky-Fischer match in a chess book. The key passage:
QUESTION: Scott, the President came into office promising public integrity would be restored to this office and accountability. Isn't that true, he expects that from all members of his staff?
McCLELLAN: Yes, the President expects everyone in his administration to adhere to the highest standards of conduct.
Step one... get your subject to agree to a fundamental premise on which the next line of questioning will be hung: in this case, that ethics are important to the president. McClellan has previously conceded, as he pretty much had to, that outing CIA agents was unethical. He also has little choice but to answer in the affirmative here.
QUESTION: All right. If that's the case, then why does he even need an independent investigation? Why doesn't he simply call those who are responsible to come forward --
(Question follows from the last... McClellan, knowing this is an area with pitfalls, at first tries to switch topics back to the Justice inquiry.)
McCLELLAN: Do you have something to bring to our attention? I mean, let me make clear, if anyone has information about this leak of classified information, they need to report it to the Department of Justice -- anyone...
(Things meander for a while in this vein, without either side getting an opening Then...)
QUESTION: Has the President either asked Karl Rove to assure him that he had nothing to do with this; or did Karl Rove go to the President to assure him that he --
(Nice opener to a new tangent... Uncertain whether the attack is still on Bush or has switched back to Rove, McClellan stumbles, and can't recover for half a minute)
McCLELLAN: I don't think he needs that. I think I've -- and I've spoken clearly to this publicly that -- but it's -- yes, I've just said it's -- there's no truth to it.
QUESTION: But I mean --
McCLELLAN: So I think it doesn't --
QUESTION: But is the President getting his information from you? Or did the President and Karl Rove talk, and were there assurances given that Rove was not involved?
(Inspired follow-up. McClellan had previously said that he and Rove have discussed the matter. So he now either has to say he's received information the president's not privy to, or admit the president has already gotten involved. From this point on, he's trapped into saying something that will either be damaging, or stupid.)
McCLELLAN: I've already provided those assurances to you publicly.
QUESTION: Yes, but I'm just wondering if there was a conversation between Karl Rove and the President, or if he just talked to you, and you're here at this --
McCLELLAN: He wasn't involved. The President knows he wasn't involved.
QUESTION: How does he know that?
QUESTION: How does he know that?
McCLELLAN: The President knows.
(A palpable hit: "The president knows [Rove] wasn't involved," will appear in numerous stories the next day, because it tangibly ties Bush to the growing scandal. The press corps counts coup with a wry aside, then moves on, up one point in the box score.)
QUESTION: What, is he clairvoyant? How does he know?
UPDATE: If you can't see the minor victory of the press secretary saying "The President knows [Rove] wasn't involved," put it in another context. What if early in Iran-Contra, McClellan's counterpart had said, "Mr. Reagan knows Mr. North wasn't involved?" It basically would have made it impossible to claim later, once it turned out North was involved, to have claimed he had no knowledge of his underling's actions. The only possible way out would then have been that Mr. North lied to Mr. Reagan. And you can't publicly lie to the President and still work for his office. In other words, if the President says publicly he knows you didn't do something, and then it later turns out you did, your job is automatically forfeit. In effect, then, McClellan's statement formally put Mr. Rove's continued employment in the White House on the line, pending his exoneration in this affair.
September 29, 2003
IF YOU HAVE A CHEAP PURSE, YOU'RE OBJECTIVELY PRO-OSAMA
This truly horrible piece from Isabel Vincent, once considered one of the most promising Canadian reporters, now clearly nowhere close:" Fake, and dangerous: women who buy knock-offs and counterfeits of designer handbags don't realize these harmless luxury goods may be funding terrorism."
For those of you who really can't be bothered to read (or visit this site after the link to the horrible NationalPost.com site has gone dead), the causal connection is, boiled down:
1. Terrorists are criminals
2. Producers and sellers of counterfeit merchandise are criminals
Therefore 3. Counterfeit merchandise is being used to fund Al-Qaeda.
No actual facts anywhere, mind you. This is probably the closest thing to one: "The FBI has also recovered al-Qaeda training manuals urging members to sell fake goods to raise funds for terrorist operations."
So, then, isn't the story factually correct? Yes, but in the way most horrible news stories are... technically correct but deeply misleading. Yes, it's certainly true that some illegal immigrants sell counterfeit goods to live while in the U.S. And it's also probable that international terrorists working in the West would see doing the same thing as a fairly safe way to meet their living expenses while in location abroad, too. But Vincent's thesis, based on this, only makes sense if you assume international terrorists and terrorist sympathizers make up a significant fraction of all those illegal immigrants in our cities. There's no evidence of that at all.
We all laugh when people like Ted Rall accuse Israeli illegals, because they're Israeli and selling phony art on the street, of being Mossad agents. But this is the exact same thing with a different target group. The whole piece, for that matter, is a press release clip job by merchandisers to associate paying higher prices for handbags with fighting terrorism. It's the very definition of "cynical marketing ploy."
September 28, 2003
IRAQ: THE BIGGEST MISTAKE SO FAR?
Doing some research for a Flitters post (isn't that a funny thing!) I paused to reflect on differences between the German occupation of 1945 and the Iraqi occupation of 2003 (Apparently Donald Rumsfeld likes to compare the two.) And the really big one... perhaps the "biggest change" the Americans made, between then and now, was their treatment of the standing army.
In Iraq, up to 400,000 soldiers were essentially released to their homes, on a $50 a month stipend, officially on May 23. No matter who you believe in Iraq, there can be no question the labor market remains deeply dislocated by this. It is probably contributing, among other things, to the renascent Islamist drive to put Iraqi women back in the homes... at 60 per cent unemployment in Baghdad, in large part due to the early troop release, it could almost have been expected. It also gives local militias like the Badr brigades a fertile recruiting ground, and, combined with the near universal prewar gun ownership in that city, is certainly contributing to the crime wave in Baghdad. (It's notable that Bremer's predecessor as head of the CPA, Jay Garner, had wanted to keep the army in being as a labor force.)
In Germany by contrast, the return of the 5 million German soldiers in Allied custody was a tedious process lasting months, and hundreds of thousands were used as laborers in prisoner-of-war units for quite some time (and because PoW's got more rations than regular civilians, were generally happy to do so). Although the number was steadily reduced, ex-Wehrmacht labor companies were kept in service in France and Germany until all PoW status was terminated in July of 1947. In the first summer of occupation, roughly 2 million were used as laborers (fed for their work, not paid) full-time.
There's no question this had to have an effect on keeping Germany peaceful. Indeed, looking back through the first six months of the Iraqi experience only shows us what a masterful job of keeping things under control the occupation of Germany really was.
It's frustrating that Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleeza Rice seem, by their facile comparisons, to be belittling that achievement. For instance, you can look at Rumsfeld's piece, cited approvingly by my co-blogger:
Within two months, all major Iraqi cities and most towns had municipal councils -- something that took eight months in postwar Germany.
I had to go back into the official history, linked above, to evaluate this one... to find that, as so often with Rumsfeld, he makes a semantically correct comparison that falls down upon the slightest source-checking.
You see, the big thing Rumsfeld leaves out is that, while the Iraqi councils were all appointed by nature, the German councils in January 1946 were all democratically ELECTED by Germans... in a fair vote with a remarkable 83 per cent voter turnout. That free and honest election at the municipal and provincial level had a lot to do with the early emergence of a democratic West Germany, and the rapid end to military rule. And while some individual German politicians would continue to be subject to "de-Nazification," I can't find a record of the occupation authority summarily disbanding entire councils or governing bodies, as has happened frequently in Iraq with the ones Rumsfeld touts.
If Eisenhower, had, as Rumsfeld did in Iraq, merely settled for the appointment of local officials in July, 1945, retaining the same kind of prerogative to disband them, with no plans for when a real election would take place to supersede them, would the six months advance in the creation of some kind of local government he got by doing so really have been to the Germans' and Americans' long-term advantage? One rather doubts it.
You see the same thing in comparisons between Iraqi insurgents and the Werwolf resistance in Germany, made by both Rumsfeld and Rice. I say more about this in Flitters, and Slate had a good piece, but the simple facts that the senior administration figures regularly gloss over in making this comparison is that, as one of its final acts in power, the German leadership sent an order for all Werwolf units to disband, and for the most part they seem to have done so. There are no U.S. deaths in post-war Germany that are authoritatively considered to have been caused by Werwolf, and their only recorded action in October, five months after the occupation (equivalent to September in Iraq) was a "strongly worded threat" to an occupation officer. (Werwolf involvement in an attack in Americans in Bremen in June, 1945, the only claimed case where they may have caused fatalities in the West German zones, does not seem to have made the history books I could find.)
(Would it have been different if Hitler had made it out of Berlin and into the countryside, the way Saddam Hussein did? Quite possibly. The point of these comparisons, above, is not to show that things are going really surprisingly badly in Iraq, but to show that history's a complex thing, and those who pick and choose little factoids to back their case without mentioning the context are duplicitous. When I re-created this website as a blog two years ago, my first post was picking on Ted Rall twisting Afghan history to support his arguments. It's just as wrong when Rumsfeld and Rice do it, too.)
PS: I'm not saying the local representation model the American civil affairs people is necessarily wrong for the environment (Here's a good piece on how it works. Here's a less impressive review.); just that saying "two months" versus "eight months" is facile.
PPS: For people who say that the local councils are "democratic," two figures. People in that neighbourhood council cited in that last link above who voted: 80. Neighbourhood councils in Baghdad: 88. Likely enfranchised electorate, based on those numbers: c. 7,000, or about 0.3 per cent of the adult population of the city. That may be a lot of things, but an election it ain't. It's actually worse than that: apparently in many cases Civil Affairs officers just picked the local council membership.
RAID ON SALAM PAX'S HOUSE LIBERATES WHISKEY
Missed this one when he first wrote it. Sorry if you've seen it already.
"They all think that the soldier is filling his flask with cold water from the cooler. Later it turns out that he emptied my father’s bottle of Johnny Walker’s into his flask..."
Meanwhile, Riverbend wasn't impressed with the raid next door to her place:
"I couldn't see her face because her head was bent and her hair fell down around it. It was the first time I had seen her hair… under normal circumstances, she wore a hijab. That moment I wanted to cry… to scream… to throw something at the chaos down the street. I could feel Reem's humiliation as she stood there, head hanging with shame- exposed to the world, in the middle of the night."
You have to wonder when both well-known Iraqi bloggers have traumatic U.S. raid stories in the same month. It's clear from Salam's posts that he regards being taken by American soldiers in the middle of the night as more or less as frightful for people as being taken by soldiers of the previous regime was.
UPDATE: I think it's great that alternative media including blogs are challenging the U.S. media's view of the Iraq situation as a "quagmire." I also think it's great that the Iraqi blogs are challenging the jingopundits right back.
YES, YES, I'M NITPICKING THE CLUELESS AGAIN
Steven Den Beste's latest piece on Africa has, as is his wont, another not fully sourced tangent that bears commenting on. This time it's his thoughts on "blood diamonds."
"A lot of the fighting in the Congo has been over areas which support very lucrative smuggling in what are now known as 'bloody diamonds'."
SdB's mixing up his wars here. The fighting in Sierra Leone was largely over control of the diamond fields. In Congo, the diamond fields (in the south of the country) have been consistently in government hands... the fighting in the last decade has largely been in the east of the country, and is actually centered more on tantalum concessions, not diamonds. We've talked about this before.
The Congo diamond fields have been about as peaceful as... well, Alaska during the gold rush, but there hasn't been military activity there recently. No, the accusation in Congo was always that the Kabila governments were able to draw on military resources from other African countries, particularly Zimbabwe, to prop their shaky regime up and perpetuate the civil war by giving them a piece of their diamond profits... and conversely, that was the only reason the rest of Africa cared about the Kabilas.
An export industry that props up an existing regime may be evil, depending on how you feel about the Kabilas, but it doesn't make the gems themselves "blood diamonds," at least not the same way as diamonds in Sierra Leone (or tantalum in the Congo), where the rebels seized the resource from civil authority and held it for their own criminal profiteering.
UPDATE: I should add that I have absolutely no quarrel with SdB's actual thesis here, as usual.
September 26, 2003
WELL, GLAD THAT'S OVER, ANYWAY
The Canadian authorities have started quietly exonerating the South Asian illegal immigrants caught as part of the crackdown on an immigration fraud ring in August. They've been letting them out in ones and twos... yesterday's was the first mass release. The rest should follow shortly. A large number will no doubt be deported, but they're just being treated as regular illegal immigrants now, as they should have been from the start.
It'd be easy to blame government overreaction for this, but with the conspicuous exception of Premier Eves, not many politicians backed this pony. As I said a month ago, CSIS always stayed right out of it, and the Mounties and immigration authorities backed away pretty fast when they realized how they were getting misconstrued. As I said, they had pretty clearly said at the start that the degree to which these immigrants had succeeded in entering Canadian society was only *evidence* that this scam could *someday* be used by terrorists seeking entry... and most of the media coverage completely missed that subtlety.
No, what this was was a duelling war of the front pages of Canada's two national newspapers, the Globe and the Post, with a week or two of ever more ludicrous banner headlines about the Canadian "sleepers." They'll try and blame it on the government, of course, but it was a low point in Canadian journalism to be sure... for me the absurdity reached its height with the front page lead revelation in the Post that one of the immigrants apparently had gotten a student loan. Given that I probably couldn't walk across the university today without running into someone who was less than fully truthful on their student loan documents (hell, I never was) that simply didn't strike me as the most important news in the whole country that day.
Oh, well. It's over now. I look forward to the follow-up piece in Little Green Footballs and other corners saying that, yes, sometimes journalistic anti-Muslim hysteria does lead to the imprisonment of non-terrorists. I imagine I'll be waiting a while.
September 24, 2003
LET'S NOT GET CARRIED AWAY NOW
I respect many of the more sober voices opposed to the American conduct of the Iraqi occupation. I think they have many valid points, but they are as a group beginning to get just a little hysterical.
It's important that we don't get carried away here. There is no evidence of a "looming disaster" in Iraq. The American casualty count continues to drop. Cole's own site, the best for news on American battle casualties, has reported very few in September by comparison to previous months. The initial postwar craziness phase seems then to be drawing to a close. And there is no evidence whatsoever that the Americans, from a military perspective, aren't capable of holding on and continuing their current level of operations with the troops they have.
The worst case in Iraq was never "disaster." The worst case was always that the Americans would just create another Egypt and leave: a stable American-friendly dictatorship, that would come to produce disaffected jihadists just as reliably as all the other stable dictatorships there do now. That's the worst case: one that seems more and more predetermined given the American conduct of the war and occupation thus far. It'd be a tremendous screwing-over of the Iraqi people... but it's not a looming disaster. (If there's any looming disaster, it's a fiscal one for the Americans back home as the war bills come in, but that's not a problem I'd personally lose a lot of sleep over.)
Cole, meanwhile, is confusing the need for commitments, and the need for troops on the ground right now. The Americans could really use a commitment now for an extra division, because they don't have easy backfill for the 101st Airborne when it starts pulling out of Kurdistan in February. That is the immediate problem. Bush's UN speech was part of that, as there still seems hope that between Turkey, Pakistan and India something can be cobbled together there. And obviously, as the rotations for other troops start to draw down through 2004, if the situation remains unstable, more forces will be needed through the course of that year. Commitments totalling another 40,000 from somewhere, to arrive 6-18 months down the road, would also be helpful. But there's still a lot of flexibility in that, as the rotation schedule and operational picture will certainly between now and then. Cole makes it sound like the Americans want an Indian division on a plane to Baghdad yesterday. They clearly don't... it's doubtful, before the 101st starts to leave, that they'd know where to put them right now.
And if they don't get that division by February? What then? The most likely result is the Americans continue to front-end load their occupation by moving up the deployment times for other units to compensate, as much as they feel they need to. This will inevitably cut into their operational stamina and shorten the amount of time before, for pure resource reasons, the Americans will need to "declare victory and go home" (or at least, ratchet down from an occupation force to one that only bases in Iraq as a backup to indigenous police power and for use elsewhere in the region). That means a potentially earlier-than-ideal handover of power to whoever in Iraq they figure can actually rule in their stead. That means a bigger chance of another Egypt, either because the proto-democratic system they leave behind devolves into dictatorial rule, or because the instability that ensues results in the rise of a strongman. And then we're basically back where we started, we've just lost a decade. That's the risk. It's all too real. But it's not "looming" by any stretch of the definition.
September 22, 2003
MILITARY TRIVIA: ROBERT ROGERS
Maj. Robert Rogers is in the news again. Turns out he was the one what done in young Nathan Hale, too.
Rogers is, of course, the man behind the military "ranger" tradition that would have profound impacts on the British, American and Canadian armies. His "Plan of Discipline" would be a keystone document for the next two centuries, borrowed and adapted by John Moore for his light infantry reforms back home (although he also borrowed from the French voltigeur and European jager traditions, as well) and by the founders of America's special forces. In Canada, the Rogers tradition is perpetuated directly by the Queen's York Rangers (a reserve reconnaissance regiment) and indirectly through the numerous other Canadian units that still follow the "rifles" traditions (green dress uniforms, etc.)
While Americans are ambivalent about Rogers (great soldier who picked the wrong side in the revolution, etc.) he is a hero in Canada, almost a founding father. Rogers' successor and protege as CO of the Queen's Rangers, John Simcoe, would emigrate after Yorktown with his entire unit to Canada, where he founded the city of Toronto (York) and became the first governor of what would become the province of Ontario.
September 19, 2003
ERNIE EVES, GHOULISH LITTLE LIAR
Amazingly, this doesn't bother me so much. What really bothers me is the campaign ads the Tories are running now which cite Ernie Eves' "great leadership" during last month's "terrorist" crisis in Ontario. You know, the one where 19 innocent Pakistani immigration defrauders were proclaimed as an Al Qaeda sleeper cell.
What leadership? As far as I could tell, Eves rolled along with the nativist paranoia just like everybody else. To cast himself as somehow a terror-fighter on the basis of that pathetic series of events is incredibly insulting to any Canadian Muslim... or for that matter the 25 Canadian Sept. 11 victims he's decided to nail in as planks on his pathetic fear-mongering election platform.
JONAH GOLDBERG: TWIT OF ALL TRADES
Jonah Goldberg continues to find new areas to blather over he knows nothing about.
Look, I'm no expert either, but even I can see that Goldberg's "Fascism is socialism in one state" is infinitely more facile and unappreciative of the actual history than any of the definitions the scholars came up with in the thought-provoking NYT article he cites. It's bumper-sticker shorthand for the simple right-wing mind. Actually, that could be the motto for most of NRO...
Yes, Volkish policies are collectivist and statist. They pretty much have to be. But pronouncing on fascism without considering its reactionary roots doesn't rise to the level of anything you could call analysis. One key to fascism's rise was that because it was non-revolutionary by definition, and did not promise to overturn the social order the way socialist revolutions did, the established and upper classes could support it whole-heartedly, and could, as in the case of the Krupps to pick just one, be easily co-opted by it in turn. Fascism was the establishment's answer to communism in the same way the counter-Reformation was the popes' answer to Luther. It was the foul beast of Goldberg's conservatism. Of course fascists had to adopt some socialist policies to win back the support of the people. But the interests they served in doing so were those of established power.
The NYTimes piece's best bit is where it discusses whether democracy must always precede textbook-definition fascism (and so "Islamofascism" is a non-sequitur). This is a really interesting point of historical debate. The historical rule seems to be that fascism rises whenever a democratic state seems close to sliding into full-out socialism, as the established class tries to appeal to people's more primal loyalties to race, volk, nation, etc. in an attempt to fight back. But that may not be a universal.
PS: Sparkey's no better, I'm afraid.
September 18, 2003
Glenn Reynolds: opposes American troops in Liberia. Favours them in French Africa, fighting the French. This is supposed to help, somehow, apparently.
(NB: Glenn writes in to say he doesn't oppose intervention in Liberia. I thought I'd read that between the lines of his posts on the subject, but I evidently read wrong. He does oppose a "token pseudo-intervention" but so too would I. He also says he doesn't favour American troops fighting the French. I think history shows that's a pretty common upshot of backing insurgency movements, sooner or later, but I shouldn't have oversimplified to that extent, either. Apologies.)
James Lileks: says if Baltimore were destroyed by a nuclear weapon three years after Baghdad fell, Bush would still be blamed. Darn right he would.
Think about it. No one can build a nuclear weapon from scratch in three years. So if a bomb were to be shipped to the States, it would come from North Korea, or Iran, or possibly Pakistan. None of those threats have been diminished by the Iraqi adventure. Indeed, the Iraqi adventure precludes taking action to diminish them, by the massive military commitment it involves.
You can make a reasonable argument on logistical grounds that, with the conventional military forces it possessed, the United States can invade and subjugate one medium-sized country every three years at the moment. Action against Iraq in 2003 inhibits action anywhere else until at least 2006. Bush, in other words, could reasonably hope to pick one country off his "Evil" list in his first term. A logical criterion for such a decision would be the country that posed the greatest threat. It's becoming increasingly likely that, to paraphrase Indiana Jones, Bush "chose poorly." Iraq was clearly little threat at all, in retrospect.
Now you can say well, that was an intelligence failure. If everyone thought Iraq was arming up, can Bush be blamed? Maybe not, but someone sure can. If that is indeed what happened, that is the second massive intelligence failure in two years, the first being Sept. 11. But no one lost their job over that one, and it doesn't appear anyone's losing their job over this one, either.
If I were Glenn Reynolds, that would bother me a lot more than French West Africa.
UPDATE: Just to clarify: I'm not saying now one should oppose the Iraq war. Not at the moment, not in the past. I believed it worthy of support pre-war, on the sole basis that it would improve the lives of Iraqis. I have not wavered from that support, on those grounds, even though a lot of other people have been climbing into the boat with me. Prewar, I believed that Iraq as a country was at most a threat to Israel, and no real threat at all to the U.S. itself. I think the events have borne that belief out.
Nor do I scoff at the Wolfowitzian thesis, that an invasion of Iraq now could, if followed through, be the first step in a multi-decade program of Middle East stabilization that will make Americans' lives safer in the long run. That's still a theoretically tenable plan, too... what I said prewar was that it would be the conduct of the occupation, not the war itself, that would decide that the most. I still believe that. It is still entirely possible that Americans will have less to fear from terrorism 20 years from now, in part because of the actions taken this year, assuming the rest of the Wolfowitz Plan (cultural reshaping backed by irresistable force) can be carried through with.
What I'm saying is that any belief that acting against Iraq now would make Americans' lives safer in the short term (three years, Lileks said) is simply not tenable. Never was. To believe that, you had at a minimum had to believe the most extreme intelligence about Iraqi WMD, for starters. Ask yourself this: did any American feel safer on Sept. 11, 2003, than they did one year before?
In short: I don't believe Bush went to war primarily to help the people of Iraq. It's possible he bought into the Wolfowitzian vision. But if his reason instead was to make Americans' lives safer in his term of office, then he was either wilfully or negligently misled by those who should have known as to the nature of the threats he faced. And someone should be held accountable for that, because after two massive intelligence failures having gone entirely uncriticized or unchecked, the chance of a third (one that, say, allows a nuke to slip into Baltimore) is perhaps the greatest threat to Americans' safety today. Far greater than France, anyway.
September 12, 2003
MUST-BUY MAGAZINE OF THE MONTH
The magazine you cannot NOT buy this month, returning to the charts for the first time in a long while, is Vanity Fair. If you don't pick this one up, you'll miss literary scholar-detective Don Foster's fairly conclusive case that it was, in fact, Steven J. Hatfill, possibly inspired or assisted by mentor William Patrick, who was behind the 2001 anthrax attacks.
The thesis is that Hatfill, inspired by the state of alarm over the WTC bombing, launched a series of low-risk attacks on the U.S. in order to convert the public's fear into a demand to restore funding to some key anti-bioterror programs. Some interesting facts I hadn't heard before:
*"During the civil war to topple the apartheid government [in 1978-80], the southern Tribal Trust Lands [in Rhodesia] were ravaged by an [anthrax] epidemic that caused 10,738 recorded human infections in about two years... in 1992, Dr. Meryl Nass, an American physician, and Jeremy Brickhill, a Zimbabwean journalist, published separate reports supporting what was already suspected: that the Rhodesian anthrax epidemic was deliberate... a biowarfare attack on the black townships, probably be carried out by Rhodesia's notorious government-backed Selous Scouts militia... [In his autobiography] Hatfill boasted of having served with the Selous Scouts."
*The anthrax letter to Sen. Tom Daschle was labelled as from the "Greendale School." Greendale was a wealthy white suburb of Harare, Zimbabwe. Hatfill lived in Harare for six years in the 1970s.
*All information that the chemical method used to prepare the anthrax linked it with a foreign manufacturer has proved false.
*Hatfill got his job as one of the U.S.'s top 5 bioweapons experts by forging a Ph.D.
*Hatfill was in Washington the day of a 1997 hoax bioattack on the B'nai Brith offices in that city. He was in London the day a second, hoax anthrax letter was sent to Tom Daschle from London. He was in Louisiana when a later series of hoax anthrax letters were sent from Louisiana.
*Hatfill actually wrote a novel in which a mystery bioattack on the U.S. is traced to Iraq by heroic scientist "Steven J. Roberts."
*Hatfill mentor Bill Patrick's 1999 report "Risk Assessment" is apparently the only document known that identified super-fine anthrax sent through the mail could be a real threat, before it actually happened.
*Patrick was involved in "simulated bioattacks," supposedly using inert bacilli instead of anthrax, in 1950 and 1952, that appear to have accidentally killed Americans.
*In the wake of the attack, the U.S. increased funding to support America's languishing bioweapons establishment, which Patrick once headed, to the tune of $6 billion a year.
Anyone wondering yet whether there's something actually there?
Also in the same issue:
Christopher Hitchens reports from Baghdad: "Even better than visiting liberated territory is visiting liberated friends."
James Wolcott reports on the flailing postwar MSNBC: "MSNBC looked high [for talk show hosts]. It looked low. It mostly looked low. And when that wasn't enough, it looked lower, draining swamps, scouting the bus depots, recruiting from the mole people."
(Wolcott adds two things about MSNBC I didn't know... that when it cancelled Donahue midwar, it was their most popular program; and that current host Joe Scarborough once admitted to killing his intern, Chandra-style, when he was a congressman.)
George Clooney admits Batman and Robin was a really bad movie.
David Kamp reports that British Airways wants to keep the Concorde, but Air France is forcing them to drop it, because Americans aren't flying to Paris anymore.
Sebastian Junger pens a stunning account from the middle of the Liberian civil war.
Quentin Tarantino's friends say his next movie is a disturbing masterpiece.
And finally, Craig Unger apparently settles the question once and for all: 140 members of the Saudi royal family and the Bin Laden family WERE spirited out of the U.S. within a week of the Sept. 11 attacks, with at least one inter-U.S. collector run occurring BEFORE the ban on commercial air travel was lifted, and all of them without the FBI knowing anything more than who was on the planes. Former U.S. terrorism czar Richard Clarke admits the decision was cleared by the White House situation room.
That enough to make you buy it, yet?
IRAQ TROOP WATCH: THAT THIRD DIV AIN'T COMING
India joins Russia in saying they won't send troops, UN resolution or no.
This is a blow. Other than Turkey, these were the only two countries that could contribute a brigade-plus to the Americans, enough to hang other countries smaller contributions on, without much difficulty, and Turkey just frightens everybody. Without one of the three the two British and Polish-led divisions will likely have to do (they're going to start needing replacing in another few months anyway), and the replacement for the U.S. 101st in the Kurdish areas when it leaves in February-April is still a questionmark.
KABUL UPDATE: CANADIANS ATTACKED, BEER SPILT
A recounting of our friend "D."'s reaction to the rocket attack on the Canadian HQ in Kabul yesterday, by another soldier of common acquaintance:
[D.] was in the mess tent, had just set down his Pringles, and was leaning back into his chair when the rocket impacted 40 feet behind him (it hit a "sea can", or sea container, just missing our brand new kitchen tent ... thank goodness, or we would have been REALLY ticked off... ). The concussion threw him forward, but when he regained his balance his feet were already moving in the direction of the closest bunker, so his torso followed. Arriving safely in the shelter with a cheery "Hello, boys - anybody for a game of cards?" he then saw another soldier try to enter the tent through a closed window. Ever the helpful chap, [D.] suggested he try the door, which proved much more successful...
Thus, despite all the ballyhoo about the infantry battalion being the "teeth", we HQ types can lay claim to having the first to have been "shelled" (which, if you think about it, only makes sense that they'd try to hit the more important target first). All's well that ends well, and please don't worry - our training has prepared us for this, and we're Canadian (i.e. we're good at this).
P.S. (the bad guys better look out - they owe [D.] for the beer that he had just opened)
LYING LIES, AND THE LYING LIARS THAT LIE ABOUT THEM
In the spirit of Kevin Drum's devastating indictment of gun advocate John Lott (one in which he doesn't even need to touch the whole "Mary Rosh" nonsense, one of the great investigative victories of the blogosphere this year), here's the story so far for those who can't be bothered to keep up with the Ontario election.
1. In 1999, the rightist Canadian Taxpayers' Federation pushes the Ontario legislature to pass a bill that prohibits tax increases in the absence of an election (ie, increases that are part of a clearly articulated platform), or, if between elections, a referendum. The Provincial Tories, the party of the right in this province, whose finance minister at the time is Ernie Eves, fully support the legislation.
2. In late 2001, Eves announces that the Tory government would have to override their new "no taxation without representation" law, because the economic backlash from Sept. 11 had made it impossible for them to support the coming tax cuts they had previously passed through parliament. (To which most of Ontario responded, "What economic backlash?" but never mind.)
3. In spring 2003, facing an election, now-Premier Ernie Eves closes the legislature to prevent debate, defying all Canadian democratic tradition, and announces the province's next budget at a campaign contributor's auto plant. In the budget, among other things, is a promise to end all tax support for primary and secondary schools by Ontarians over the age of 65, a group that largely votes pro-Tory. Despite being criticized as deeply regressive, divisive to the community, disrespectful of Canada's historic status as one of the first dominions anywhere in the world to build a real public education system, and deeply damaging to an underfunded school system to boot, the necessary legislation is rammed through in June. The first tax cuts are to take effect spring 2004.
3. In 2003, with their antitax law having been chucked in the bin the first time it actually proved an inconvenience to their supposed friends in government, the Canadian Taxpayers Foundation tries again. This time they're forced to resort to a plea to the two serious candidates for premier, Liberal Dalton McGuinty and Eves, to pledge that they would actually follow the law, if elected.
4. Yesterday, McGuinty publicly signed the CTF's pledge, saying he would not raise taxes without an election, a referendum, or a real public emergency, as the law reads. McGuinty gets the endorsement of the CTF as the most fiscally responsible of the candidates.
5. Ernie Eves' attack dogs immediately go at McGuinty, saying he opposed the CTF's bill in 1999. McGuinty responds by faxing reporters the parliamentary record that show he fully supported it.
6. Stymied by something so obvious as the truth, the Eves camp tries again, saying that because McGuinty is campaigning to repeal the seniors education tax cut they promised at the car plant, he's ignoring the law's requirement to have a referendum on any of his tax hikes. McGuinty's team responds again by calmly pointing out what the law the Tories themselves originally put forward actually says... that clearly articulated campaign promises count. They also calmly point out that it was Eves, not McGuinty, who actually circumvented this particular law in the past when it proved inconvenient.
7. Thinking Ontarians begin looking around for rails, tar, and feathers.
UPDATE: Evil reptilian kitten eater?
September 09, 2003
THE CPA: CLOSED SHOP?
Max Boot writes:
Starting from scratch, [the Coalition Provisional Authority] has a hard time recruiting qualified candidates to come to Iraq. And those it hires are likely to leave after a few months.
Makes sense to me. It can be so hard to find good people these days. You know, though, it may sound crazy, but one method that I've found more useful than you'd think in the past to help with hiring shortfalls is to have something more on our organization's website besides just, "The CPA is not currently soliciting positions for employment. We are not accepting resumes at this time."
I know, I know, you're probably saying, as the CPA no doubt is, that it's so much easier if your new employees just emerge spontaneously from the ether already sitting at their desks, and of course there are those companies that still believe in cloning their employees from protoplasm in giant cybernetic vats, and apparently do quite well with that, too.
And I know the whole process of giving all those interested talented people -- those that are not cyborgs, of course -- you know, giving them the vaguest schmick of what your organization is actually looking for, really does seem like you're just spoon-feeding them... for surely the truly qualified potential employees they'd be looking for must have sensed Paul Bremer's brainwaves telepathically by now and duly reported to his office in Baghdad to collect their staplers and pen sets. But for some reason, possibly ionospheric interference of some kind (no doubt something we can blame on the French, or Iran) the mind waves just don't seem to be carrying as powerfully as they used to from his overlarge head. I'm sure once they install that 30-foot titanium antenna-array-slash-Tilly-Hat they're planning for him now, the reception on this side of the ocean in the tooth-fillings of future employees will improve markedly, and we'll see an end to the need for anything as far-fetched and untried as "HR contact information" or "minimum employment requirements."
September 08, 2003
IRAQ TROOP UPDATE: BANGLADESH?
I'd say Jim Henley, if anything, is being too optimistic. A significant Bangladeshi involvement in Iraq was never in the cards.
Forget "2-to-1 tooth-to-tail." When you're talking peacekeeping deployments of six months to a few years (as opposed to permanent garrisons like the US and Canada in Germany), no country has ever managed to sustain much above 4% of their total military manpower abroad. With Bangladesh, with 135,000 total in arms, that c. 5,000 deployable... and they're currently at 4,000 (500 in Kuwait with the Americans, 2,500 in Sierra Leone with the UN, 1,000 in Congo, also with the UN.) Plus there's their still unfulfilled Liberia commitment of another brigade upcoming.
The reason it never rises much above 4% is because the bulk of peacekeepers, no matter how you do it, are drawn from the trained infantry, which forms only a small portion of any country's total military force. Artillery, armour, combat support, air and naval resources have relatively limited applications.
(Rule of thumb: in most militaries, about one third of all military personnel are land combat units. About one third of those are infantry. About one third of those are deployable at any one time, with two thirds either training up or reconstituting. One-twentyseventh=3-4% at maximum effort.)
Bangladesh is able to keep its number close to the maximum over long periods because, like Canada it has no external enemies to speak of (although a high risk of monsoon-related domestic disasters), and has configured its armed forces largely for UN use, with higher numbers of infantry units relative to other countries. It does this largely because UN duty is a net money gainer for Bangladesh, which basically doesn't pay a dime whenever any of its forces are chosen for UN duty, as that's all covered by UN members' dues. They're Kofi Annan's Hessians, in effect.
Upshot: Bangladesh can't contribute even an understrength brigade (2-3 battalions) to Iraq, in addition to the 500 already supporting US operations in the Middle East, without at least getting the UN to scotch their Liberia commitment. For that to happen, in addition to a supportive UN resolution, the offered US per diem will have to be a lot higher than what the UN was paying to make it worth their time. Even then, I never thought they'd be good for more than one battalion, tops. (For the non-military: to have the division the US is currently missing in the spring troop rotation plan, you need ten battalions.)
September 04, 2003
The Toronto Blue Jays launched their second logo change in two years yesterday, ditching the "T-Bird" after one year in favour of something even more god-awful. Colby Cosh had said everything worth saying on the subject already.
I FEEL... WHAT'S THE OPPOSITE OF NON-ENDORSEMENT?
Well the Chief Criminal of Ontario finally realized his polls weren't going to get better and called an election. My earlier surmise that he'd use the blackout to delay the verdict of democracy another six months was wrong.
It should be an interesting election. The Tories generally win by a combination of bribing their dedicated voter groups with their own money (something this premier has now taken to ludicrous extremes), a reputation for responsible fiscal stewardship, and relentless personal attacks on the Leader of the Opposition.
Of course, the sound accounting reputation went south... even though Ernie Eves still lies about it, everyone knows the province is going to run a huge deficit this year, the first in years. A lot of that is due to Eves' bizarre declaration last summer that, rather than make a decision on how Ontario was going to solve its energy problems, he would effectively just give away free electrical power to everybody. And then of course he followed up by closing down the Legislature and conducting his official government business on closed circuit TV from an auto plant to dodge the critics. His recent auto plant pronouncements included independent school systems for Hindus and Muslims, to avoid that whole integration thing, and big tax breaks for home owners (not home buyers, which might have made at least some sense), and the elderly, for no other reason anyone could see other than all those constituencies vote Tory.
The attack ads should kick in next week, going against contender Dalton McGuinty with everything they can throw. They've traditionally had some success with this, because McGuinty last election was Al Gore-wooden, and the Tories had the folksy, straight-shooting, not-too-bright but not unattractive Mike Harris up against him. Now in Eves, though, they have a fricking refugee from either the Addams family or the planet Xzar, I can't decide, who truly appears to have invisible bugs crawling on his skin whenever actual humans enter his personal space, so the pure aesthetic comparison may not be as successful this time out. Plus, like Harris, he divorced his wife to shack up with his mistress, an heiress no less, while in office, while McGuinty's a steadfast middle-class Catholic with a pretty wife and about 300 children, so the whole family values thing's a dead loss from the start, too.
Now I should say that I knew Dalton McGuinty fairly well back before he surprised everyone, including me, by running for and winning the party leadership, and I've been friends in the past with some of his close staff. I know him to be a good man. Not a telegenic one, maybe, but a good one. He truly loves his extended family, and he cultivates an atmosphere that nurtured some of the more talented young people I've known.
Murray Campbell from the Globe seems rather confused at the turn of events, apparently openly disappointed that the Liberals have yet to try to buy voters off with their own money, or attack the personality of the current premier, and seemingly want to run a purely issues-oriented campaign, led now by a leader who seeks the advice of experts, but in the end still takes responsibility for making his own decisions, too. He really seems to be at a loss to explain the complete transparency and absence of cynicism involved. It. Does. Not. Compute. Reminds me somehow of the Simpsons dialogue:
"Way to go... I feel... what's the opposite of shame?"
"No, not that far from shame."
Murray... you're jaded, man. This guy's for real. His opponent, meanwhile, is the worst thing to happen to Ontario politics since Francis Bond Head. Either endorse the honest man, or get out of his way.
September 03, 2003
I've liked Gregg Easterbrook a lot, for years, but his recurring stint at Tuesday Morning Quarterback, and the playing to the masses that involves, is beginning to drag down his sense for nuance and accuracy in his writing.
For instance, his cheap shot last week at Canada's Somalia affair.
Dinging Toronto mayor Mel Lastman's comments that Americans don't take blame well (and face it, Lastman's right, during the blackout New York politicians did no better than Canadians in reserving what little judgment they might have), Easterbrook wrote:
Canada's recent track record at taking the blame? In 1993, a Canadian commando unit in Somalia tortured a civilian to death. The Canadian military and the Ottawa federal government denied responsibility, then engaged in a three-year cover-up. Here is a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation summary of the cover-up and investigation, plus CBC's lament that "The government's decision to cut the inquiry short left many questions unanswered." So people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, eh?
Okay, from the top, it wasn't a Canadian commando unit, which implies some Special Forces type raiders, it was the Canadian Airborne Regiment, no more commandoes than the 101st Airborne is. And just two members, not the whole unit, were involved: Kyle Brown and Clayton Matchee. They killed a young Somali, Shidane Arone, who had been captured after sneaking into the Canadian camp.
It's true that the military and federal government at first avoided drawing conclusions that more than just two warped soldiers were responsible. Many people felt there had to be a command failure involved, particularly by those in direct command that night, or those who had allowed those two -- who had previously exhibited a lack of discipline -- from being sent to Somalia. Others thought the regimental culture of the Airborne, or even of the whole army, was partly to blame. Others wondered at the possible influence of the mefloquine anti-malarial the troops were taking, or even the effects of affirmative action recruitment (both Matchee and Brown were of Native descent).
There was, it was true, no immediate disclosure of the torture death, and only after Matchee's attempted suicide (rendering himself nearly brain-dead), shortly after having been arrested for it, were Canadians made aware of what had happened a few days after the fact.* It's also true there was a cover-up back in Ottawa of sorts... but it was a cover-up focussed solely on shielding the defence minister (then running for Prime Minister) and other high-ranking officials from allegations they had known about the torture-death before it first appeared in the papers, and more broadly, may have known about other problems in the Airborne Regiment in the months leading up to it. (Even if they didn't, a quite valid argument can be made, I fully agree, that they should have known.) It was not a cover-up of the torture death per se. Easterbrook makes it sound like Canada was blaming some other country, or that the torture was an officially sanctioned act.
On the government side, the 1993 death was followed by the creation of an independent investigatory commission. That commission, incompetently run and led for the most part, dragged on through three YEARS of televised hearings, had its mandate extended three times, and was demanding to be allowed to continue through to late 1998 at the earliest when the Liberal government shut it down. In all that time, amazingly, the commission had yet to hear any evidence about the actual death itself, or depose any of the civilian leadership involved (the whole reason it was established in the first place). The government at the time stated they believed it would be 2000 at the earliest before the group would actually produce a report if left alone, and I'd have said at the time that was optimistic. Regardless, by the end, it had become its own self-perpetuating bureaucracy and needed to be shut down. Of course the CBC lamented its departure... it meant they had to fill up their broadcast day with actual programming again.
In the end, the commission's report would blame the military for lowered morale in the Canadian Forces due to this incident, but in my experience it was those years of constant vicious lawyer-badgering of generally honest soldiers, miles upon miles of frequently stupid questions which had nothing to do with the events of the night in question, day after day in primetime on the CBC that hurt retention, recruiting, and military effectiveness far more. By the end, most of us were convinced we were in the midst of a government-funded Salem trial, and I still believe that's not far off the mark. There was even a Joseph Welch-Joe McCarthy moment, when a senior Canadian soldier, Vice. Adm. Larry Murray, under cross-examination finally said what most Canadian soldiers by that point were thinking -- enough was enough:
"[To Crown Prosecutor Richard Noel]: Mr. Noel, you've consistently demonstrated a total lack of understanding of the dimensions and magnitude and the responsibilities of the people running the Department of National Defense... [then, turning to chair Gilles Letourneau]... I have been appalled by the way this commission, and you in particular, have treated junior soldiers. I don't intend to be treated the same way."
While that silliness dragged on, the military justice system rendered a series of (I feel) prompt, rapid, and fair verdicts. Master-Cpl. Matchee, rendered incompetent by his own hand, has been permanently confined in a mental hospital; if by some medical miracle he ever gets well enough to be found competent to stand trial, he'll be facing a life sentence. Brown, his accessory, got five years in military prison. The pair's supervising sergeant got one year. Their company commander got three months. The platoon commander got busted to lieutenant. The commander of the Canadian Forces, Gen. Jean Boyle, resigned.
That's all over one, sole, admittedly horrible death. Not counting Matchee, that's 75 months of hard time more than were ever served by anyone in the United States for the entire My Lai massacre, where dozens indisputably died in American hands, and no one in Washington ever lost their job over that, either. But then again, as Mayor Mel said, Americans have trouble taking responsibility for this sort of stuff. I only wish American military justice, or Canadian civilian justice for that matter, could always be as harshly fair as Canadian soldiers were to their own in the Somalia affair. And if Easterbrook is going to drop his previous thoroughness on such matters because it plays better with the South Park "Blame Canada" crowd, maybe he should just stick to football. Or shut up.
*The military justice system was moving quickly and without any conscious attempt at secrecy, although there was certainly some lag on the military PR side in acknowledging what was going on. If the Canadian media had actually had more than a single local newspaper reporter in Somalia with the troops at the time, even that minimal coverup would have been impossible... a lapse I have never heard any media mea culpa for.
UPDATE: For the record, the author was not involved with the Canadian military from 1990-96, when the events and resulting inquiries took place, and doesn't know any of the principals involved, other than from the TV like everybody else.
UPDATE, May/04: Looking back on this, I recognize it does not address a simultaneous problem in Somalia, involving an allegation a Somali thief, Ahmed Aruush, may have been executed, rather than shot while fleeing, by a night patrol commanded by Capt. Michel Rainville. For the record, Rainville was not otherwise connected with the torture-death event, and worked with a different subunit of the Airborne. He was, as far as I can tell and according to people who knew him, a certifiable psychopath. However, the forensic evidence about the looter's death could not, in the end, support an execution hypothesis: experts ultimately agreed Aruush was hit once while fleeing in the dark, then shot a second time, fatally, but still from 10-50 m away, while trying to rise. Rainville's leadership style and attitude certainly contributed to his soldiers' trigger-happiness that night, but he would have to wait to get his own comeuppance for other acts elsewhere. (The two soldiers, MCpl Countway and Cpl Leclerc, who fired two shots each at Aruush when ordered by Rainville to "get them!" were not charged to my knowledge.) I would even suspect that the civilian Somalia inquiry's bizarre faith in Capt. Rainville as some kind of useful witness in other ways may have even complicated the military's prosecution of other shenanigans by this officer at the time.
IN MEMORIAM: JACK GORRIE
One of the University of Toronto's truly great people, Jack Gorrie, the provostial adviser on information technology, passed away suddenly on Saturday. Jack knew more about IT, the internet, and online communications in general than most people ever will. I was always proud to count him as a colleague, mentor, and friend. His calmness, his good humour, and his plain-old engineering prof's good sense will be missed by many, myself included. I think he was loved by all here lucky enough to know him, whether it was as an information services manager, a teacher, or an advocate for the student solar car team. There'll be a memorial service here next Monday.
KABUL UPDATE 3
A rather surreal email today from D., with ISAF in Kabul. No, I don't know quite what to make of it either, but that Larium sounds like a lot of fun.
I got up on Monday as usual and took my larium (mephaloquine) tablet for malaria. So far, I have not suffered any of the side effects such as the gastro-intestinal discomfort or lack of sleep. Some guys have had the other symptoms - very vivid dreams - completely real to them, and not always pleasant. Some actually hallucinate and then have to switch medications, but fortunately I have not had that problem. Anyway, after I took the meds I started up to the headquarters, but the day was not the dull and boring one I had anticipated.
After I left the tent and was walking up to the HQ, I ran into a bunch of friends of mine from the German Battle Group. Instead of going to the HQ directly, one thing led to another, and we all got an Ilits from rover troop, went out to the beach and did a lot of wave-riding, canoeing and surfing, followed by a huge bonfire in the early evening with lots of Swedish girls from their CIMIC detachment. There was a ton of wine and even a couple of great bands. Some journalists showed up and were very friendly to us, (no wonder) and joined in on a great German sing-song. The journalists were fantastic - a little right wing for my liking though, and totally obsessed with the truth. Some of the contingents here have special celebrations and I guess we lucked in on that one! Then, we all wandered up to the Hotel Continental, just up the beach and had tropical drinks at this huge pool and were served on by very friendly former Taliban and Al Queda terrorists; some we even recognized from our "neighbourhoods". I can't believe this but they actually apoogised to us and gave us their weapons!!!!
Then it happened; I began to daydream and remembered all the things that we were supposed to be doing that day. Here is where it gets weird - I actually dreamed that I was in fact at the HQ all day doing paper work on a couple of patrols I had done. I even went to a morning briefing, had lunch in the mess tent, went back to the HQ, spoke to the General about some "nasties" in our area, and then headed home through a hot dusty sandstorm. Now the really bizarre part - I actually walked instead of flying, which is how Dieter, Fritz, Walter and I got to the beach that morning. (No planes, just a good old arm flap!). Ayway, the weird daydream ended, and there I was back at the poolside.
Yup, I love Mondays like never before. They always seem to be so much fun.
September 02, 2003
LOOKING FOR U OF T BLOGGERS AND BLOG READERS
If I can interrupt the rambling discourse for a bit, I really need some help with a project I'm working on at the University of Toronto. It's still in its early stages, but the focus for me right now is drawing up a list of bloggers and people who read lots of blogs (including, I suppose, this one, obviously) with some U of T connection.
Obviously there's myself and Prof. Farrell... I'm sure there's lots of others. If you'd count yourself in that number, if you could drop me an email or a note in Flitters with your blogworld particulars and your U of T identification, I'd really appreciate it. I'm particularly interested in developing a list of student bloggers and would-be bloggers. (I promise any info provided will be kept in confidence.)
SO CLOSE TO A GREAT ARTICLE
Good piece in part on the Polish-led mini-division in Iraq in the Times, marred only by this unfortunate sentence:
But a look at the multinational force taking over from the Marines shows that this is not a homogenous division...
A multinational force using multiple nations? Those crazy foreigners...
In other multinational troop news, Robert Kagan says the unsayable... there's not a lot of depth even among the multinationals. Marshall says he's pessimistic, but I'd say Kagan's actually being optimistic... I don't see any real prospect of a sizable contribution (ie, brigade or larger) from Pakistan at the moment, and the Turks' price for the 5,000 or so troops they could easily spare seems too high to pay. France is locked up in the Ivory Coast, and Germans are still taking the lion's share of the burden in Kabul, so they're both out.
That just leaves India as the one country that could conceivably provide sufficient troops to make a dent in the Americans' coming February-April replacement delta. It hasn't been said enough that whenever people talk about going to the UN, or broadening the coalition, they really mean winning over the Lok Sabha. Trouble is, given their history of fighting and dying all over the Old World as British proxies in two world wars, they're probably one of the countries most sensitive about the whole loss-of-national-command thing.
UPDATE: And don't miss the devastating must-read in Slate on what postwar Germany was really like. As I've said before, the trouble, you see, is all the lying.
More from D., with ISAF in Kabul:
Here are a few pictures. One is what a sandstorm looks like as it thunders through Kabul. The sun turns into a giant haze and the sand is fine, like talcum powder. It goes down windows in waves, exactly as water does on a window in a carwash...
The little girls are happy because we have just finished building and dedicating their playground. To the left is a German soldier (combat engineer), and no his gun is not pointing at them, that is the spout from his back portable water bottle (Camel Back). The children here are very happy now that singing and dancing is not punishable by flogging or execution.
This was the first time I have dressed for combat and stood at the front of a classroom, although when I was teaching accounting, it may from time to time have been appropriate... This is a school built by the Soviet Army as they invaded. It did not do well in the last civil war and the Taliban reduced it to one floor and took all the windows, doors, plumbing and wiring. The wiring is stripped right out of the wall over the blackboard (actually black paint on concrete). I was out there that day with my partner, a sergeant in the Army Reserve... Like me, he is on a leave from his [civilian employer]. Thanks again [boss]!!!
...The German combat engineers we took with us were busy shoring up a roof that was going to fall on the kids' heads, so I entertained some of the kiddies by teaching them English. I also put on an impromptu Jackass and magic show for them and simply pretended I was back in my fraternity... The kids were howling with laughter. The crowd eventually grew to about 40 and some of the little folk really got into it. Says a lot for them that they can stand in a bombed out school yard while some armed fool teaches them how to count and say cloud, airplane, three hats and other useful things.
The best result of all was that the parents who were watching warmed up to me, so we won a little victory for building a good relationship between the Canadian Army and the locals. It is part of the on-going "battle". We must do our best to not be an invading force, but a firm, fair and friendly security force that makes a peace that can then be enforced and kept by later missions. But first, there is the matter of the Taliban and that is to me nothing more than high level pest control.
"endearingly macho" -- Mark Steyn
"wonderfully detailed analysis" -- John Allemang, Globe and Mail
"unusually candid" -- Tom Ricks, Foreignpolicy.com
Bill & Bob
Ghosts of Alex