January 29, 2004


An absolutely stunning piece by Reuel Marc Gerecht in the Weekly Standard, that really sums the whole Iraq political situation up in two concise pages. His ultimate conclusion: the Americans now have the choice of either handing the electoral keys to Ayatollah Sistani and basically packing up shop in June, or else "lose Iraq to violence." Barring incredible luck, there is no door no. 3, he believes. The killer quote:

"Those on the American right who hope to use Iraq for years to come as a partner in projecting American influence throughout the Middle East, and those on the left who fear that American soldiers will be stuck in Iraq for years, are likely to learn this summer and fall that their hopes and fears are unfounded."

Sistani, to Gerecht's mind, is the only hope left of keeping Iraq from becoming Egypt v2.0, or worse, after this June. Only he can keep the Iranians out, only he can keep the Shiite hotheads down. Undermining the Object of Emulation now, the only advocate of Iraqi self-determination with any real power behind him, will only hand the country lock, stock and barrel to America's enemies.

It's deeply pessimistic, but has the ring of truth. Read the whole thing, as some guy once said.

Of course, there's a downside to everything. As Gerald Robbins points out in the same magazine this week, a Sistani-blessed Iraqi state will likely have no choice but to repress the Kurds, if only to keep the neighbours happy. And so, in a few years from now, we'll likely come full circle. Perhaps the lack of chemical weapons at the Battle of Halabja (2007) will be a small blessing to some.

Posted by BruceR at 11:57 AM


Saddam Hussein gave money to Mujahideen al-Khalq. Richard Perle took money from Mujahideen al-Khalq, and won't say how much, or give it back either. Hmm.

Posted by BruceR at 10:24 AM

January 28, 2004


Slate picks up and runs with the killing of an Iraqi at Samarra brought to the blogworld's attention by Zeyad, and now under investigation by American authorities. The piece does not make the Americans look good... apparently the American soldiers in question now concede they did in fact take the Iraqis to the same spot where they claim to have been thrown in the river, but say they just walked away and left them there on the dam unharmed... and then crushed their vehicle for no reason. Um, that doesn't make a lot of sense, to say the least. A second, more independent investigation is now ongoing.

Also of note from the story: the local commander of the Iraq Civilian Defence Corps evidently believes the American patrol in question pushed the Iraqis in, and that if his men hadn't rushed over to help them they'd have drowned. Inter-Allied cooperation seems to be fraying in Samarra...

Posted by BruceR at 10:57 PM


Maybe it's just the third day of snowfall in Toronto talking, but I've decided more or less randomly a few moments ago that May, 2001 was probably the best month of my life that I can still remember. No specific reason, mind you... just that the weather was nice, all my jobs were going great, there was no nameless fear in the background of all our actions... yeah, I really liked that May.

Of course, I'm sure other people somewhere have crappy memories of that May... losing their loved ones, their pets, starting their lives over, stuff like that. But looking out my window at a two-foot snowdrift, I still find myself wishing I could roll it all back, or bring all that good stuff forward somehow. Of course, we can't, though. We just get older. Some seem to think we get more mature for it, that we learn from all those mistakes we made. I really really hope that's true... if only because there are some mistakes in my life I couldn't bear to think I'd be so stupid as to repeat again. (My current haircut comes to mind...) Throughout my life, I've always wished I knew then (whenever then was) all the stuff I knew now. We all do, I suppose, but I guess I'm particularly susceptible at the moment.

Still, if Toronto's going to get snow like this, I'd rather be in Montreal. You still have the snow, of course, but at least there I could look forward to some of the night life. :-)

UPDATE: Certain people who knew me back in 2001 and read this blog (evidently) have written to say some variation of a) I knew you then and you weren't that happy; b) I know you now and you're just as happy; c) Stop being so damn morose, and: d) What about that time in 2002 we had, with the trampolines and flamingoes, wasn't that insane? etc etc. For the record: yes, I've had some great times since May, 2001; no, I do not feel my life has gone inexorably downhill since then. I really was just remembering a time in my life centred on two back-to-back weekends in Kingston and Quebec City where everything seemed so... right. It's called reminiscing. We all do it; doesn't mean we're all about to throw ourselves off a bridge. Hope that clears that up.

Posted by BruceR at 02:44 PM

January 27, 2004


Appears the worm attack I talked about before (now called either Novarg or MyDoom) has as its ultimate target SCO, the company whose lawsuit against IBM threatens to cripple the Linux world, with infected computers to be used for a Feb. 1 DoS attack against the company.

Can't trust those penguins, it seems...

Posted by BruceR at 04:23 PM


Worst snowfall I've seen in five years here in Toronto going on today. I can remember it's five years exactly, because in 1999 I worked a 72 hour straight shift as an army public affairs officer here in Toronto the last time this happened. By the end (imagine an Apu-like accent) I thought I was a hummingbird of some kind...

Posted by BruceR at 03:21 PM


The Canadian forces in Afghanistan lost a man today, the first to die in a confirmed attack on our units (the mine explosion that killed two Canadian soldiers earlier near Kabul was never conclusively confirmed to have been an intentional act, as opposed to a booby trap left over from another war).

The real problem around Kabul now isn't Taliban or Al Qaeda, which are quiescent, but the Hekmatyarites, led by the certifiably mad Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. We've talked about Hekmatyar, and a certain Canadian journalist's fondness for him, before.

The Star notes Canadian soldiers are not happy about the way things are going at the moment.

UPDATE: I don't know why reporters (for both papers linked above, as well as the National Post) insist on calling the Iltis jeep "lightly armoured." It's not armoured at all. The family Nissan has more "armour." To any soldier, "light armour" means an APC. To reporters, apparently, it means anything more than a kleenex.

Also, I may be wrong about Hekmatyar, although it's hardly certain, yet. A self-proclaimed Taliban spokesperson has since claimed responsibility.

Posted by BruceR at 10:34 AM

January 26, 2004


I find it remarkable that Reynolds and many others continue to give credence to Telegraph reporter Con Coughlin's breathy scoops, when as Henley pointed out some time ago, the guy has been a funnel for British intelligence trial balloons for years, apparently, and his post-Iraq war work seems calculated to bolster Bush and make the case for a new Syrian war.

Sure enough, Coughlin is the only reporter to play up David Kay's alleged statements that Iraqi WMDs are now in Syria... statements Kay goes out of his way to disavow in other interviews with Reuters and the Times. And, of course, that is the only version of the Kay story you will see on numerous pro-war websites today.

Posted by BruceR at 06:21 PM


Ontario universities are getting plastered at the moment by the Novarg.A. I haven't seen an attack this bad since the August attacks around the time of the big blackout. Seeing as some have posited that those attacks were partly responsible for the initial electrical grid failures in the States, and given that we're in the middle of a heavy snowstorm in Toronto, that's not comforting.

UPDATE: Symantec's rated this one up a notch to Category 4 (out of 5).

Posted by BruceR at 05:30 PM


In a remarkable entry, over 100 discussion posts to a Charles Johnson anti-Dean item go by without anyone noticing that Charles (and presumably all the posters) did not understand what Dean actually said.

Posted by BruceR at 04:29 PM


Reynolds also completely misunderstands the recent Juliet O'Neill search here in Canada. O'Neill was a reporter being used by a mole within the RCMP who wanted to JUSTIFY the government's involvement in the persecution of Maher Arar. The RCMP's searching of O'Neill's house, regardless of its appropriateness, was a move that in its own way served to defend Arar's rights, and his claim of innocence, and was clearly not in the interest of anyone in the government who still believes the government's actions here were just.

The proper analogy in American parlance is to the Robert Novak, pro-Administration leaks that led to the outing of Valerie Plame. If the FBI had executed a legal search warrant on Novak's home for material about who in the U.S. security apparatus had "outed" Plame as part of their investigation, that would have been criticized in some quarters as an overreach, sure. But Reynolds, who has previously called on Novak to be subpoenaed, surely wouldn't have been completely opposed to that.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, I don't think the RCMP raided O'Neill's house out of any concern for Arar, per se. More likely they are trying to stop all leaks from inside the security apparatus, both pro-government and anti-government, and this was just the whiffle bat they had at hand. I'm saying it's simplistic to argue that this is somehow the latest step in the government's persecution of Arar, who no doubt would have preferred his hometown paper did not reprint more facts about his dealings that make the government's putting him on a "watchlist" more prudent.

Posted by BruceR at 11:28 AM


(First in what will certainly be a continuing series.)

"The last thing America is, is an empire. My counter example is; we very badly needed and expected to have Turkish support in the war on Iraq. The Turks didn't give it and that put a spanner in some of our planning. Now, imagine if this were the Romans. Imagine if the emperor Trajan were planning an operation in Mesopotamia and the Cappadocians told him he couldn't use their territory. He would have lined the highways with crucified Cappadocians. That's what empires do, they do not say, "Oh, we'll respect what your parliament says and come from another direction"."

Glenn Reynolds feels this is somehow valuable. It's ironic, of course, that Frum compares the U.S. to the Romans, a people who descended into dictatorship from freedom (just call me Cicero), but the whole thing's just a ludicrous statement for a Canadian to make. Yes, I freely concede, George Bush is a better world ruler than the Emperor Trajan would be.

Hey, David, remember your history class? We were in an empire, too. It was called the British Empire. And us rude colonials did all sorts of stuff that pissed the center off, yet they didn't hardly crucify anybody. I could cite, oh, about a hundred examples from Canadian history, but why bother? Surely anyone could.

A combination of omnipotence and wanton cruelty is not a necessary condition for empire. The British would make peaceful accommodation with all kinds of people in their time, whenever it was in the best interest of their Empire to do so... Rajputs, Sikhs, Afghans, Gurkhas, the Maori, the Afrikaners, the Zulus, les Quebecois, the Mohawk, the Zionists, etc. etc. etc. Yes, cruelty was an option as it is any time another controls your fate, but the British Empire used it, compared to, say, the Conquistador Spanish or the Belgians in Africa, in a relatively judicious, sometimes even surgical fashion. And yet they were still, inarguably, an empire.

Those who say "America is an empire" are really saying "America is becoming like Britain/France/Holland once were," a possibility, of course, that its founding fathers and its great 19th century writers (Melville, Cooper, Twain, Thoreau) would have been all equally appalled by. That is a point that is at least arguable, and certainly rational. Frum's comparison with Classical Age, pre-mercantilist imperialism, by contrast, is ignorant nonsense. Hell, why not use the Aztecs or Assyrians while you're at it?

UPDATE: More on empire here.

Posted by BruceR at 10:49 AM


"...according to the WP, a riverboat capsized while on patrol, and one out of the 4 US soldiers on board went missing, in the north near Mosul early on Sunday. The US military then sent a helicopter out to look for the lost soldier, and the helicopter went down with its two crewmen (the cause of the crash is unknown). Then an Iraqi police team secured the region for a search for the helicopter and one of them was killed at a makeshift checkpoint in a drive-by shooting."
--Juan Cole, today.

Posted by BruceR at 09:54 AM

January 23, 2004


From Atrios, the best Mad How dub to date. I'd forgotten how much I liked this song.

Posted by BruceR at 12:55 PM

January 22, 2004


Hey! Tony! Yeah, you, Tony Clement, the guy with all the Canadian big business money behind you who wants to run the country! I know someone who can get you a much better website really cheaply! Yeah, she's only six, but she gets out of school at 3:30, so that's an hour and a half she has to help you out right there, before she needs to set the table!

Should be enough.

Posted by BruceR at 05:24 PM


Okay, I have to come clean here. In addition to my already frequently commented-on oversized head, I apparently also have freakishly long arms.

This is the only conclusion I can draw after once again obtaining some new Canadian Forces uniforms, which only ever fit if I get the tops sized for the 6'4" man, and the bottoms sized for my actual 6'1". What can I say? I'm a gibbon.

The CF actually has done something really smart recently, btw, by moving most of their service dress (ie, full dress as opposed to combat fatigue clothing) business online, with civilian couriers doing the delivering. I don't know if it's saving money, but it's already improving the quality of appearance around armouries, with people finally being able to order replacement clothing that fits them, as opposed to getting the closest thing available on the local shelf at the moment (for the longest time, much of my uniform was from the apparently always available 67-inch soldier sizes, as opposed to my actual 73-with-76 arms, which is in somewhat more demand. It's hard to hide that, even with a good tailor.)

The only thing that worries me is the bizarre company name. You just wouldn't think an organization calling itself logistikunicorp.com would be a force for good in this world, but apparently it is. (What, was M&MEnterprises.com taken?)

Posted by BruceR at 11:19 AM


Same great [Canadian] Forces, half the budget.

(Thanks to JamesMS for the tip.)

Posted by BruceR at 11:03 AM


A rather histrionic column by Naomi Klein has a good point at its kernel. We're overfocussing perhaps on American maneuvering in Iraq as a minority vs. majority rights issue. There is also some considerable corporate vs. personal rights-balancing going on, too. The Americans need foreign investment in Iraq (which Klein sees, not wrongly, as foreign ownership). Foreign investors, fearing Geneva Convention-backed expropriation, have said they will not invest until the Iraqis have their own government. Hence a rapid turnover to an Iraqi government is necessary. That first government, which will rule for at least a year-and-a-half without elections, obviously has to be pro-American (or, to put it less charitably, pro-business). Therefore, it can't be elected.

It's simplistic of Klein to portray this as Sistani and the people vs. the IGC and the foreign corporations. But it's certainly a factor.

The principles behind the 1949 4th Geneva Convention that apply here are principles most of us would support: you cannot invade a country and sell off its assets to your own businessmen willy-nilly without at least some risk of them being taken back when the people who live there manage to get control again. Presumably, the Geneva signers anticipated a world, where, should something like this happen again, a UN trusteeship would allow a suitable re-investment climate without the local people feeling screwed by it. Since the UN didn't get that role in Iraq, the parties are at something of an impasse there. It also explains why the 1945 German example, of allowing local and regional democracy, while delaying national handover, is no longer a viable possibility for a would-be Western occupier... at least, not without the UN firmly on your side.

You're being non-constructive again, BruceR. How do you fix it? Well, you can't, it's a feature, not a bug. In June, the Americans will still hand over to a chosen strongman (or men), come hell or high water, which will allow a continued American military presence, and the expected influx of foreign capital. How that proxy will handle the inevitable unrest from all quarters that will result, how long it will be before an actual national election, and the degree to which actual human freedoms are ever enjoyed by the Iraqi polity, are still open questions.

The inexorable presence of the Golden Arches and the Big Red One will certainly, over time, contribute to a Westernizing of the country's population, which will likely still be a good thing. But the likelihood that in one to two years we see American soldiers helping the new Iraqi army hunt down the newly emerged Shiite and Kurdish independence fighters, a la Hussein, is still so high as to be almost certain.

Posted by BruceR at 10:43 AM


(Latest in a continuing series.)

"I FIGURED IT OUT: Dean reminds me of the Hulk in that interim stage just before Bruce Banner turns green and starts to rip his clothes." --The Corner, Monday night.

"A little over a month ago, in the Wall Street Journal, I wrote that Governor Howard Dean looked ‘like Bruce Banner just before he turns into the Incredible Hulk, as if his head’s about to explode out of his shirt collar’." --Mark Steyn, Spectator, yesterday.

Posted by BruceR at 09:51 AM


"Franklin Pierce's steam-powered orgasmatron" -- The Daily Show's Steven Colbert, listing other State of the Union promises that were never fulfilled, earlier tonight. Funniest phrase I've heard all week.

I quite like the show, btw... it's sort of like Blog TV, in a way... personal, yet eclectic, topical, but not predictably so, etc.

Posted by BruceR at 01:18 AM


I'm with Tacitus. Gen. Clark's remarks yesterday were not things that soldiers say about their juniors. At least not if they want those soldiers to show up for work on time for the next decade or so. Any soldier or veteran who votes for the general now simply isn't paying attention.

Personally, I find the three-headed Deankerryclark beast uncomfortably bizarre, and from this rarefied distance, obviously nearly as potentially disastrous to the nation as the current office-holder. Just so you understand that the above is not a vote for Clark's competitors, unless you count Edwards, who at the moment remains in my Ned Flanders' "I don't know who you are, but I'm sure you're a jerk" psychic jury pool of fuzzy recognitive awareness.

ADDENDUM: To clarify, Dean is, as should be obvious to all by now, quite unbalanced, which excludes him to my mind... btw, if anyone has his primal scream as a .wav file, I really need a new email notification sound... whereas Kerry and Clark are in their own ways, versions of the McClellanist strategy. And as in 1864, running a war hero with obvious human flaws, against a wartime president who, if not winning the current war, is not obviously losing it either, is almost certainly a losing political strategy. (I do think either of the military men would still make good VP candidates though. The thought of Cheney chewing up and spitting out some other poor hapless effete soul like he did to Lieberman in the last televised VP candidates' debate is just too painful to contemplate again.)

Posted by BruceR at 01:02 AM


Colby Cosh votes us, in his usual Coshian backhanded way, as best Canadian blog of the year. It's an honour just to be nominated, if only because if I'd bothered to offer similar awards around here, I'd probably have rated Mr. Cosh's the best. In any case, we both agree on Inkless Wells as #2.

Posted by BruceR at 12:48 AM

January 21, 2004


Ottawa Citizen reporter Juliet O'Neill, who received a leaked copy of the CSIS/RCMP security dossier on Maher Arar had her home and office raided by the Mounties today. Presumably the security chaps are trying to find out who the anti-Arar whistleblower in their own organization is, through O'Neill.

I've been following the Obsidian Wings series on this issue with interest... Katherine drew many of the same conclusions drawn here earlier re how Arar landed up where he did. On the other hand, Canadian security officials seem to steadfastly believe, even if they can't prove it, that the group they were lumping Arar in with was up to something. They could still be right of course... but the fact is that any evidence so far made public against Arar and the others that is even remotely damning seems to have been derived from Syrian torture sessions, not from any of the kinds of investigative work we would normally trust in any other case.

(Certainly, it would seem as a matter of logic that torture-derived evidence needs to be regarded with at least as much skepticism as accomplice testimony... useless unless corroborated from another source.)

One still hopes there was more than intuition working here, though, despite all the evidence that there wasn't. And it's certainly worth noting that not *all* of the four Canadians arrested as part of the putative "Ottawa Ring" appear as non-threatening as Arar does. Whether at least a couple of them (other than Arar) were engaged in plotting actual terrorist activities, or, as seems more likely, were involved in the shipping of computers to Al Qaeda buyers, is still unclear. My faith in the Canadian authorities is still strong enough that I'd still suggest not getting too black-helicoptery on that count just yet.

Case in point: Ahmad Abou El-Maati. At least two degrees of separation from Arar, true, but, unlike Arar's more credible accounting of his version of events, E'-Maati's claim of innocence has a number of odd logical gaps. For instance, as Katherine puts it: "[Border] Guards find in his 18 wheeler 'a schematic map of Ottawa marking government buildings and nuclear research facilities.' He is interrogated for eight hours, and denies owning the map--but he later showed it to a friend: 'He showed me the map. And the map had literally all kinds of government installations,' said a man who used to know him."

Um, I'm sorry, but even in August, 2001, when this occurred, is it all likely that a U.S. border agent, faced with a trucker with a spy map that he claims is not his, is after several hours of interrogation, going to give said map BACK to the guy and let him go? Why would they do that? If he doesn't know how it ended up in his truck, why would he care if the border guards kept it? Or if the guards did keep it, then how did he end up with another copy of a map that wasn't his? Given the anonymity of the source, too, one has to assume this is at least partly pleasant fiction. Whatever happened at the border in August, 2001, it wasn't what El-Maati told his friends happened.

The point is this is almost certainly a case of guilt by tenuous association, rather than a security agency picking up random Ottawa-area Syrians. Certainly Arar was targetted as part of someone's logical thought process, however bizarre and insupportable that process might seem to an impartial observer now (Two degrees of separation from this more shadowy El-Maati dude? Is thatreally all that it was?) And obviously the checks and balances on that process seem insufficient now given the consequences Arar would suffer. But even knowing the illogic would be reassuring to many: I know a number of Canadians who have curtailed American travel plans, including stopovers on international flights, because they fear an Arar-recurrence. The only way that anti-American miasma is ever going to truly lift, I fear, is if we lift off the veils a little further and let the public get a better idea of what really happened in this case, from beginning to end.

Posted by BruceR at 05:10 PM

January 20, 2004


Simberg points to this excellent three-parter on the development of the Bush space policy which was really helpful in clarifying the White House role in all this. There's no doubt after reading it this is a personal focus of Bush-Cheney, for reasons divorced from electoral politics. That's somewhat reassuring.

I'm more partial to the "Bush vision" than I was at first, as the Easterbrook-Simberg interaction led me to think through what my real problem was with the plan as outlined. I've decided a large part of what's not reassuring to me is the administration's continued faith in NASA head Sean O'Keefe -- who seemed completely unimpressive throughout the Columbia disaster and its aftermath -- to pull this off. In military slang, he seems the kind of man the troops would follow only out of a sense of morbid curiosity. I simply can't see him turning the organization around, or meeting the deadlines or cost projections set. While on the surface winding down the Shuttle-ISS era and refocussing on the moon seems sound policy, the continued sole reliance on NASA is really too disquieting. If there'd been even a passing reference to commercial space providers filling in the places where NASA no longer should go, I might have been more relieved.

The obvious example, as Jay Currie points out, is plans to create a whole new NASA launch program (starting at $300 million, but certain to cost more) to recover the Hubble space telescope for the Smithsonian, now that NASA can no longer maintain it. Jeez people, act like Republicans and auction the thing off, along with every other LEO task the President doesn't want you to do anymore. (As someone else suggested, I'd have more faith in the new lunar missions idea if the President had simultaneously called on the private sector to put a GPS-cloud around the Moon by 2013, too, so that the hypothetical NASA landers could rely on that precision to save on maneuvering fuel and increase their payloads.)

Posted by BruceR at 01:17 PM


(No, I have no idea what the headline means, either.)

Sullivan: "The pre-emption doctrine is practically speaking dead." He's wrong on the terms, of course... as Instapundit and the Clueless reminded us recently, the "Bush doctrine" is actually pre-pre-emption... military attack in the absence of any current threat. But he's right it's practically dead... what limited international (and I dare say, Congressional) support the States had for the Iraqi adventure is unlikely to return for another WMD-based case made by this president, even on much more compelling evidence. Iran and Syria, for the short- to medium-term, are quite safe, it seems.

(I confess I don't understand the ire directed at the Washington Post for that article by the other two sites named above... if anything the "imminent threat big lie" they're excised about seems charitable to Bush, making his foreign policy look less like "Hulk-smash-things" than it really is. Try the sentence as they'd apparently prefer it had read... "gaps between the administration's rhetoric and the postwar findings threaten Bush's doctrine of "not waiting for preemption," which envisions attacking a nation before it constitutes any kind of threat to us." That almost sounds Napoleonic... no, wait, scratch "almost"... And anyway, how is saying "Iraq was actually not yet a threat" that different from Dean's saying "it hasn't made us any safer," again? Apparently to be a Republican in the States today, you need to pass the Fitzgerald test of first rate intelligence... Although they're right about the WaPo: I don't understand why that paper steadfastly refuses to change their "imminent threat" keyboard macro to read "grave threat" or "urgent threat", both of which Bush demonstrably did call Iraq.)

Sullivan is also right re Edwards, the Democratic candidate I know next to nothing about. In this race, that's a blessing. The more I find out about Clarkdeankerry, the more I recall steadfast democrat Tom Binkley from Bloom County, fetal on his bed because he secretly thinks Jesse Jackson is "a little loopy..." Ex-Canadian Samantha Bee had a nice piece on the Daily Show last night comparing them all to fringe presidential candidate "Lobsterman." Viewing the candidates sans the still-opaque-to-me Edwards from afar, I'd vote for the lobster... American Democrats! Trust the two Canadians on this one! If anyone knows squishy-centrist leftism, it's us! We've built a whole country on the notion!

Posted by BruceR at 12:59 PM


Brits in Basra say democracy is possible, totally undercutting the CPA's default position vis a vis Sistani.

(You know, if you conjured up the ghosts of Jefferson and Gen. Howe right now, and told them that in two centuries the British army would be the ones pushing democracy on a reluctant American satrapy in the Orient, you really have to wonder what their reaction would be.)

It's certainly not the soldiers' fault. Note the end of the article, too: "At the end of May, for example, a US Marine unit in the city of Najaf had prepared to hold an election for a local assembly, which was cancelled by Mr Bremer days before it was to take place. In a matter of a few weeks, US marines in Najaf had built ballot boxes, a US army civil affairs unit had arranged for voter registration and polling stations throughout the city, and candidates had campaigned."

Note please, that even I don't think direct elections are actually going to help Iraq, as they can only promote the Shia majoritarian interest, and encourage Kurdish and Sunni insurrectionism. That could be held in check through sensible political design: if any country ever needed bicameral federalism, this country's it. But the whole thing's being done in such a rush, to an artificial and apparently poll-driven deadline, that it seems unlikely to easily succeed. I really can't understand why the 1945 German example (of local and regional direct elections and American handover of those responsibilities to the new mayors and governors within the first six months of occupation, but holding off on a federal handover until the political system was demonstrably mature enough for it) could not have been followed in this case.

The American insistence on appointing everyone at first, then making through their own diplomatic stumbling the likely first Iraqi experience of democracy a one-throw-of-the-dice winner-take-all national election (with no way of ensuring there ever be another), seems almost calculated to embolden the extremists and separatists, with the inevitable backlash of strongmanism to follow shortly thereafter. As said here before, we seem headed for Egypt v2.0. Home of Mohammed Atta v2.0 in a decade or so.

Posted by BruceR at 11:19 AM

January 15, 2004


I'm with Easterbrook, Sullivan, Simberg, and Drum. I really can't understand anyone who thinks George Bush's moon "plans" are anything short of a ludicrous bait-and-switch.

The problems should be obvious. The cost of a proper planetary exploration program, given the American economic projections for the next decade, is unsustainable, as Sullivan rightly points out. So Bush announces a $12B lowball, to at least keep it believable. Which, as Easterbrook rightly points out, can't and won't achieve anything.

By the time this is all apparent to average people, Bush's second term will safely be over and it won't matter. In the meantime, it's a few billion more for the established space contractors.

We're not leaving this planet any time soon, folks. Certainly not with this kind of "big iron" approach.

UPDATE: Simberg chimes in with a reflexive "Don't look at me, he didn't come in the same cab" castigation of Easterbrook. A valuable addition to the emerging skeptical dialogue, but it's hard to understand Simberg, who has frequently said things such as "low-cost launch will not come from the existing aerospace industry" and "NASA['s building a Shuttle replacement] would almost certainly be as disastrous as the Shuttle itself, because it will be subject to the same political and budgetary constraints as that program was" takes such issue with a columnist's belief that the organization Bush has laid his hopes in is manifestly not up to the task within the time or budget guidelines given.

Posted by BruceR at 06:07 PM


I just had to save this one for posterity.

From globeandmail.com today.


Posted by BruceR at 05:44 PM

January 14, 2004


*Iraq abolishes civil law in favour of shari'a, ends alimony, according to Juan Cole. Oh, good.

*"It is unrealistic to expect that Canada will ever again field a conventional army with the firepower to destroy another conventional army," John Ibbitson, the Globe today. Sounds about right.

*Shorter Kenneth Pollack: there won't be a disaster in Iraq until at least June. Well, that's... not reassuring at all, actually.

*The number of Americans who think their army should stay in Iraq is down to 51 percent. Shorter Steven Den Beste: it's still a majority!

*the Captain of the Clueless also criticizes a reporter for putting the words "the Pentagon says" in their lede. Anyone who claims to have paid attention in their college journalism class surely should see automatically that attribution was necessary for the statement in question: otherwise it would sound like the reporter had counted up the number of Iraq attacks themselves and given their own opinion. There's no "nudge nudge," Steven. That's how it's always been done.

Posted by BruceR at 10:40 AM


Determined to up the "Bush is Hitler" trope, the Toronto Star's Tom Walkom comes up with something even better: Bush is worse than Hitler! And, by the way, Canadian leaders are like the Iron Guard:

"Former prime minister Jean Chrétien attempted the Swiss solution — stay out of the aggressor's wars but continue to sell him whatever he needs. Hitler was comfortable with that level of tacit support. Bush appears to want more... Martin seems to be veering to the Romanian model of more active support for Bush's military aims."
It's amazing how little most print journalists seem to know of Godwin's Law, the upshot of which being that invoking Hitler is perhaps the only real way to lose a political argument on the internet. Saying "x=Hitler" effectively concedes that you have no interest in persuading the unpersuaded anymore, that you've effectively turned your back and are now only preaching to the narrow band of individuals who happen to think like you.

Which, we hope in Walkom's case, is mercifully few. The idea of such apparently congenital idiocy being more widespread than that would rankle.

Posted by BruceR at 10:15 AM

January 13, 2004


I never bought the GWS-from-depleted-uranium stuff, obviously. The science simply wasn't there. Ditto similar arguments about battlefield PCB exposure, alleged to have occurred both in that war and also in Bosnian peacekeeping duties. However I always thought it entirely reasonable that the various prophylactic treatments given Western soldiers on foreign service (anti-malarials, anti-NBC vaccines, etc.) in the early 1990s, which were often at pre-FDA stages of conventional medical approval and never tested in combination with each other, could lead to adverse health effects in a small number of soldiers, in the same way that even the safest vaccines still occasionally kill people.

Of course, particularly with antimalarials and potentially with anthrax vaccine, the cost of not giving them in lives lost could well have been higher. The generally less than hygienic environment (additionally contaminated by oil fumes and at least some NBC traces) almost certainly didn't make anyone in the First Gulf War healthier, either. But it's fair to say that I figured the vast majority of cases from that war, who reported a variety of non-specific and psychosomatic symptoms, were PTSD cases, and should have been regarded as such. (Not that that makes their suffering any less real, but it does bring it back within the realm of what military medical science can understand, and hopefully someday, counter.)

There's an interesting piece today (thanks to Steve R.) which sheds some new light on the minority of cases with readily apparent symptoms that again points in the direction of the "vaccine cocktails" British soldiers going to Saudi Arabia were getting at the time.

Posted by BruceR at 01:13 PM


*Good Iraq analysis, this.

*This is also worth following.

*Our new Prime Minister seems to be doing well in the elephant's bed so far. (Also here.)

*Another Haitian crisis?

*I agree. A backup generator for National Defence HQ would be a good idea.

*Lame duck.

Posted by BruceR at 10:40 AM


"Administration officials also expressed concern about a separate part of Ayatollah Sistani's statement on Sunday that demanded that any agreement for American-led forces to remain in Iraq be approved by directly elected representatives."

--Financial Times. THAT's a new demand from Sistani, who is obviously flexing his power a bit, and is going to be another difficult circle for the Americans to square. In the same piece, also note Kofi Annan's role in completely kneecapping Paul Bremer on this one.

Posted by BruceR at 10:13 AM

January 11, 2004


Proof of what I said 2 posts below about the inevitability of atrocious occupation behaviour came sooner that I'd frankly have liked.

UPDATE: A couple Flitters posters have reminded me to say that, as far as I can tell from here, this case appears to have been disposed of by American military authorities in as judicious a fashion as could reasonably be asked for, and the punishments handed out certainly seem apt to the crime.

Posted by BruceR at 02:09 PM

January 09, 2004


An important read for those interested in the future of medium-weight mech forces, here. Can't say I agree with all of it, as it's obviously partisan in favour of tracked alternatives, but it still calls into question the MGS purchase. As does the Australian decision in November to buy modified Abrams tanks. The Canadian MGS purchase is currently stalled pending the lifting of the new PM's spending freeze. Certainly some decisions taken prior to the Battle of Baghdad are seeming less wise in the light of that experience, where light armour really didn't seem to have much of a place.

Posted by BruceR at 05:44 PM

January 08, 2004


Interesting events at Instapundit, with discussion of Zeyad's claims of an American atrocity at Samarra.

Two things of note: ironically, the Samarra dams are the same place those Americans captured with Pte. Lynch were found and freed at war's end, in case you were wondering where you might have heard of the place before.

Also worth challenging is the Instaman's emailer (see his update at the bottom), who suggests there is no Tharthar dam within 50km of Samarra... as you can see from this photo, there are two, in fact, together forming the "Samarra barrage," the right one being the hydroelectric dam on the main course of the Tigris, and the left one being for flood control, leading to the world's second largest manmade reservoir, the Tharthar Reservoir. While it's true the reservoir itself is some distance away to the southwest, it's not impossible that in common usage this might be referred to as the "Tharthar dam," and would presumably be the one that Zeyad's relative is referring to (the Baghdad-Tikrit highway runs up from the bottom of the page and across the western dam, while the city of Samarra is in the other direction, just off the east of the image).

Not that this makes the story false or true, mind you, but it's going to be harder to refute than some might like, it seems.

UPDATE: In an update, Zeyad confirms my supposition, that the "Tharthar dam" referred to is in fact the flood dam on the left of the photo. So, to orient everyone to the ground, the allegation is that an Iraqi travelling up the road from the center-bottom of the photo, and intending to drive off the right side of the photo into Samarra proper, was stopped somewhere along the highway in between, and thrown into the watercourse in the lower left of the photo.

My point is that, even if this was a clever anti-American plot of some kind, they wouldn't be so stupid as to include facts that were refutable by some computer geeks back in the States using a map of the whole country. Even assuming disinformation, this story would have to be plausible, after all, not just to us here, but to people who actually live there, as well. If you live in Samarra, you're going to know whether a dam is 3 km or 50 km away from you.

I would add that those who have refuted this one with claims of American paragonism ("American soldiers never drink," "American soldiers would never use white light," "American soldiers would never ignore an allegation like this") have spent little or no sustained time around actual soldiers. Soldiers on sustained occupation duty will inevitably do stupid and bizarre things to even a peaceable local population from time to time: cf. Lawrence's Turks at Deraa, Canadian soldiers in Somalia, etc. etc. And when they're occasionally shooting at you, it's only going to be more likely... even among soldiers of what I will freely admit is the best military in the world at present. Does that mean it did happen? No. Does that mean it should be fully investigated? Probably... although I see Diana raises another concern.

Posted by BruceR at 04:38 PM

January 07, 2004


Phil Carter, normally as reasonable as they come, loses it over the latest Ralph Peters column. As a previous critic of Peters (here and here) I'm not surprised by this. But I can't help feeling that more and more middle of the roaders in America must be getting turned off by the discourse-polarizers on both sides if people like Carter are starting to object so loudly.

Posted by BruceR at 06:59 PM

January 06, 2004


In what has turned out to be a rather radical departure for me, I got the shortest haircut I've had in years yesterday (as close to a complete absence of hair particles as one can get without use of a straight razor, I'd say), giving me a whole new appreciation of Canadian winters.

I'm just saying this so that anyone who sees the giant white ovum strolling across campus in the next couple days won't be confused by the sight. It's just me.

Posted by BruceR at 01:58 PM


I felt a need, after reading to Josh Marshall today, to confess to my three remaining readers that I, in fact, am one of those many commentators who have been using the word "neoconservative" in place of "Jew" to hide my own deep anti-Semitism, and concomitant fear of Richard Perle's hairpiece.

Unfortunately, while I really wanted to admit that to you, a search of this blog for the last two years of posts shows that I've never actually used the word "neoconservative" at all. However, that doesn't mean I'm pure... no, no. I have to come fully clean here.

For instance, in this post here, I really should have written "Jewlithic period." Speaking on behalf of all my racist brethren, I'm really, really sorry for that. I want to thank David Brooks in particular for expanding my mind, and also encouraging me to appreciate the Matrix movies on a whole new, deeply disturbing level.

Posted by BruceR at 01:55 PM

January 05, 2004


The Howard Dean camp is having fun today with UPI "columnist" Rachel "Swimfan" Marsden, who wrote a somewhat silly piece about him. They've pretty much managed to take the American right's latest Coulteresque darling's personal website (rachelmarsden.com) off the internet due to bandwidth overload.

At this point every Canadian 20 years of age or older is thinking, "Jesus Christ, won't this disgusting woman ever just crawl back under some rock somewhere and die?" Marsden's bisexual campus stalking shenanigans were the closest thing we had to a royal scandal in this country at one point, and this particular Oleanna's 15 minutes of fame would seem to have long since expired.

But the Republicans love her, it seems... even though according to their own panting writeup she's still never managed to achieve more than a B.Sc. in life. (The rest of her credentials are largely the rewards of her national notoriety, although I had to laugh to the reference to the "Governor General's Medal" for "academic accomplishments." Note to American readers: we ALL get that one up here. It's the Canadian version of a high school honour roll. I can't imagine anyone else post-university putting it on their resume.)

I'm sure the slavering Republican fandom would be a little less impressed, however, if they had spent much time at Rachel's site back in 2001, where she had considerable fun comparing the current American president to a chimpanzee, evidently not being as much of a diehard GOPer at the time as she is now. Fortunately for the future of Rachel's latest lease on life, one suspects they probably didn't visit her site much at the time.

They can now.

Posted by BruceR at 06:23 PM


SdB points out that support for the Iraq policy among Americans is still strong. He attributes this, remarkably, to an ongoing Sept. 11-based fear... which is basically what Michael Moore has been saying, all along, too, in fact.

What's even more remarkable is that he portrays this as some kind of American strength... when from another perspective it could look only like the refusal to change one's mind in the light of changed circumstances, or put rational calculus ahead of one's emotional responses. (We also saw this in the odd angry yawping in response to the Howard Dean comment that the Hussein capture hadn't made Americans any safer... a statement that, from any kind of dispassionate perspective, was at least a plausible thesis.)

One can't help but feel that many Americans are like Lileks, still waiting for the WMD's to show up, despite all evidence to the contrary. In undergraduate anthropology, students today wonder at the gullibility of the cargo cults. They probably shouldn't.

Posted by BruceR at 10:34 AM

January 02, 2004


I think it's time, as a lifelong computer geek, to give credit where credit is due, and list the computer parts and peripherals makers who have always exceeded my rather cynical expectations. If anyone wants to take this as a list of "BruceR-approved" products, feel free. That's what they are.

1) AMD. Their CPU's may be little furnaces on your motherboards, but once you go Athlon, you never go back.
2) ASUS. Best computer motherboards ever made, bar none.
3) ATI. Radeon videocards changed my life. Like AMD, they've surpassed the market-leader in performance terms (in this case, the rather unscrupulous Nvidia) and they're still going. A Canadian company, BTW... wish I had bought stock.
4) ViewSonic. Also Canadian. Monitors to die for.
5) Saitek. If you have a need for a computer joystick or gamepad, and it's not a Saitek... I'm sorry, but what are you doing with your life?

The occasion for this list was the purchase recently of my very own Saitek Cyborg Evo, which is, in my considered opinion, the best joystick ever made, by about, oh, a country mile. It improves everything about the Cyborg line that needed improving, and gives handling control in flight sims like I have honestly never experienced, anywhere, ever. Longtime readers will know my amateur fascination with human-computer interfaces of all kinds, and this product is so far above any previous attempts to meld hand, mind and machine to support vectored movement in a 3D virtual space that I just had to say something. Wow.

Regular Flit goodness to resume shortly...

Posted by BruceR at 12:57 AM