March 31, 2004
THOUGHTS ON FALLUJAH
I know it was only last week, but it's important to note what was going on in Fallujah then, to help understand what's going on now:
"FALLUJAH, March 26 -- A U.S. Marine was killed and several others were wounded Friday in a running gun battle that also left 15 Iraqis dead as Marines conducted house-to-house searches in this restive city west of Baghdad.
"A U.S. military spokesman said there were no other details of the casualties and refused further comment on the "offensive operation" in Fallujah because it was "still ongoing" more than 15 hours after the shooting started at about 8:30 a.m....
"The fighting began when Marines came under fire from Iraqi insurgents clad in civilian clothes and armed with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles, witnesses said. As the fighting continued intermittently, a number of Iraqi civilians wandered into the battle zone without apparently realizing that they were in danger, residents said.
"In addition to the 15 Iraqis killed, hospitals reported that 25 others were wounded, including several children.
"Among the dead were an Iraqi freelance cameraman working for ABC News, the network confirmed, and at least one woman and a child. The cameraman, Burhan Mohammed Mazhour, was shot in the head, Iraqi doctors reported, although it was not clear who shot him...
"A spokesman for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Maj. T.V. Johnson, said the operation in an industrial area on the eastern edge of Fallujah was aimed at rooting out "rogue elements and thugs."
"The Marines took over responsibility for Fallujah from the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division a week ago, and Friday's battle was their first major engagement since returning to Iraq...
"According to some Iraqis who said they were witnesses and a physician who treated the casualties, the dead and wounded Iraqis were shot by Marines. The doctor based that assessment on the bullets removed from the bodies of dead and wounded, which he said came from U.S. weapons rather than those ordinarily fired by insurgents...
On Thursday, one U.S. Marine had been killed and two others wounded when rebels attacked their convoy east of Fallujah."
Analysis (to steal a Phil-Carterism): Things in Fallujah, which as in Samarra, had settled down to a stay-out-and-let-live policy after some earlier unsuccessful attempts to bring the town under control, ratcheted up after the Marines rotated into the area and decided to try again. They responded to a fatal convoy ambush, the latest in a series of deadly attacks on them, with raids into the city the next day... raids that may have involved some indiscriminate shooting, and certainly seem to have angered the local population. Elements of that population struck out four days later at the nearest target they could kill.
Does that justify the mutilation of the bodies of 4 American mercenaries today? Of course not. But it does help put it into a more coherent framework. It's important to note that a large part of the consistently low U.S. bodycount up until now has been a policy of staying out of hotspots like Samarra and Fallujah as much as possible.
(Earlier incorrect surmise on the contractors replaced.) The dead contractors were from Blackwater Security Consulting, which according to the website means they were "veteran military, intelligence and law enforcement professionals" with "roots in the Special Operations community." (The website currently features a rather inappropriate jpg of a burning car, evidently at some domestic company training facility). So if it's any consolation, the dead men were almost certainly locked and loaded when they were attacked (in fact, guns and american military ID were found on them). One would not be wrong in calling them mercenaries. "Civilians" would seem a bit of a stretch, in any case.
Interestingly, the stories say they were "providing security for food deliveries" in Fallujah... deliveries to whom is not specified, though. It's hard to understand, given that they had to have known what had gone on in the city just five days before -- given that they were trained professionals, and that they departed from an American base -- why they thought they'd be safe driving through the scene of recent fighting in a two-car convoy.
ALSO OF NOTE. There was much praise for the Iraqi police in Fallujah a couple weeks ago, when, fighting for their lives, they only asked Americans nearby for "more ammunition." (Probably because the Americans apparently only allowed them 14 bullets per gun.) Yesterday while Americans were getting strung up the Iraqi police were nowhere to be seen. Maybe the Belmont Club was right... maybe that attack in February will forever be seen as their finest hour. It's all been downhill since for them, anyway.
(That entry Sullivan praises was another fine example of the work of the second of the self-proclaimed terrorist psychoanalyzers to appear on the blogs, Wretchard, btw... blaming al Qaeda international masterminds for what it turned out, in retrospect, was just a violent prison break by the local organized crime element in Fallujah. The first was of course, the always-amusing-to-read Dan Darling. Darling, like Instapundit, says today that the American punishment should be the cessation of its reconstruction efforts in Fallujah. Actually, I suspect there hasn't been any reconstruction attempted in that city for months now, as Darling should surely know. The hostility in Fallujah isn't new; what's new this week is the Marines attempting to bring the city under control for the first time since war's end. Their lack of knowledge of what was going on today until it was well over suggests they still can't keep any military presence in the city for any length of time.)
THE SPIRIT OF NAPSTER LIVES
"The mere fact of placing a copy [of a copyrighted song] on a shared directory in a computer where that copy can be accessed via a P2P service does not amount to distribution... Before it constitutes distribution, there must be a positive act by the owner of the shared directory, such as sending out the copies or advertising that they are available for copying."
--Canadian federal court judge Konrad von Finckenstein, today.
This is a big blow to anyone trying to crack down on file-swapping in Canada. Finckenstein was expected merely to rule that ISPs are not required to turn over the identities of their customers, which would have been roadblock enough. But his supplemental ruling that opening your computer to the internet alone does not constitute a willingness to contravene copyright, that a "positive act" is required, until it's overturned or new law is drafted, makes restricting file-sharers in Canada effectively impossible. In Canada, at least, it's open season on music-sharing again.
ON CLARKE, AND THE JINGOPUNDITS
Blogging's lost a lot of its interest for me recently, as I've belatedly come to recognize that to a great degree this medium is just repeating the errors of older media.
There was a time you could go to American political blogs and find new stuff, but now, on Buzzmachine and Instapundit, all you get is Republican party talking points.
If I wanted this, I could just go to the party websites. And I've more time to read a real paper on the subway.
The shark-jumping for me happened with Richard Clarke. If you believe, as Glenn Reynolds evidently does, that saying one thing when you're in the employ of someone, and another thing after leaving that employ, means you have "no credibility left," then you're simply not living in the same world I am. We ALL do that. If I left one of my employers today, and then said something critical about them in this space, would I also be pilloried for not bringing it up earlier?
Caught Clarke on Jon Stewart last night. I'm not a big fan of whistle-blowers generally, but as far as I can tell for a whistle-blower he has carried himself about as well as a Cassandra can. And no one thus far has answered, or even for the most part dared to address, his fundamental argument (presented subtly, evidently to avoid self-aggrandizement) about the pre-WTC situation... that the "security strategy" that Bush and Rice pulled off the shelf and implemented after Sept. 11 was for all intents and purposes the same security strategy he had given them in January, 2001... making Clarke, not Rumsfeld or Ashcroft, the principal architect of the successful counter-terror war of 2001-2003.
The corollary of that, of course, is that Rice's insistence that a "better strategy" than Clarke's had been created under Bush's auspices is a through-and-through lie, and they'd done nothing at all on the terrorist file until after the attacks. If Clarke (who has seen the plan he wrote and the plan that was executed) is right in saying there are no significant differences, a righteous nation would be naming schools after the guy, not painting this stoic and honorable man as an embittered closet-case as they're doing now.
AND FURTHERMORE: All the Rice lobby has to do to impeach Clarke for all time, of course, is point out one thing in their September "strategy" that was not in Clarke's January plan. They likely won't declassify the relevant documents now, but in 50 years or whatever, Clarke's contributions to national security should become clear to posterity.
In the end, Richard Clarke, when he was on the job, was dedicated to making Americans' lives (and by extension, my life) safer. I find it intolerable that that lifetime contribution can be so easily ignored because it happens to be politically inconvenient at the moment for some.
AND FURTHERMORE, PART 2: Kaus and Easterbrook (and Reynolds) are into the glue. Strong criticism of your country's military plans, with war and fatal casualties only days away, is not something any devoted national servant would ever consider. The fact Clarke's criticisms of Bush were measured and mild, right when the president was leading the country to war, is a sign of a deep personal propriety, not hypocrisy as they would have it.
"endearingly macho" -- Mark Steyn
"wonderfully detailed analysis" -- John Allemang, Globe and Mail
"unusually candid" -- Tom Ricks, Foreignpolicy.com
Bill & Bob
Ghosts of Alex