Saturday, August 06, 2005

Iraq attacked, world seeks nukes in response

Speaking of Hiroshima, The Independent uses the 60th anniversary to segue into this ridiculous article blaming the US for the nuclear amibitions of the likes of North Korea and Iran. Demonstrating The Indy’s need to find the liberation of Iraq to be the cause of all manner of trouble in the world, Anne Plenketh writes:
In the light of the war on Iraq, which did not have nuclear weapons, second-tier nations have judged that North Korea was spared invasion because of its nuclear deterrent, and drawn their own strategic conclusions.
Which second tier nations have made this judgment? Well, Plenketh doesn’t say specifically, but she does immediately go on to mention that “Iran, Egypt and South Korea have been caught cheating” on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to which they are all signatories.

Now, given that US troops have been stationed in South Korea for the last 50 years, it takes a certain kind of dishonesty or utter idiocy to claim that South Korean nuclear desires derive not from the threat coming from the North, but rather as protection from a US invasion. Specifically the kind of dishonesty and/or idiocy that finds its comrades in The Independent newsroom.

Iran’s nuclear program, of course, has been talked about for a decade at least, and its uranium enrichment plant at Natanz came to light in August 2002, 7 months before the invasion of Iraq, and 1 month before Bush even challenged the UN to take action over Iraq’s alleged WMD’s. Those Iranians sure are prescient.

And Egypt’s cheating? Well, although the discovery was announced in January, the cheating that was uncovered had taken place over the last 30 years. I guess Ms. Plenketh is under the mistaken impression that the Iraq War began back in the ‘70s.

Indeed, Plenketh’s ignorance of history is quite clear throughout the article. After the “Diplomatic Editor” rather undiplomatically (and, again, dishonestly) asserts that Bush is “openly hostile” to a “UN solutions” to the nuclear problem (what solutions, I wonder?), she claims that Bush’s approach, characterized as “bomb or talk”;
…contains the risk of opening the path to nuclear blackmail, which is how North Korea has coaxed the West into compensating the hermit state in return for concessions on its nuclear programme.
The only problem here is that North Korea’s blackmail of the west took place on the watch of Bill Clinton, not George Bush, and, not incidentally, with much assistance from The Independent’s favourite US president, Jimmy Carter.

Plenketh’s inability to even understand the words she uses is also on display. She says that:
In a world no longer guided by a universally accepted [non-proliferation] regime, countries are weighing the nuclear option.
But of course there never had been any such “universal acceptance”. She herself had earlier pointed out that the Non-Proliferation Treaty had already been undermined by Israel, Pakistan, and India, which had never signed it. And the cheating that has been going on for years is hardly an indication of "acceptance".

She also claims that Iran is “hemmed in” by Israel and Pakistan, driving Iran's work on nukes. It’s an odd point of view that notes a state which is entirely surrounded by hostile countries and whose very existence has been threatened no less than 3 times in its brief history, and goes on to see it as “hemming in” one of those hostiles. Besides which, wasn’t Plenketh just arguing that it was the recent Iraq war, not Israeli’s long suspected possession of nukes, that drove Iran to seek the same weapons? Ah well. Israel, the US…whatever. The Great Satan in any event, right?

There is, however, one upside to Plenkoff''s tripe. She moves away from one of the standard canards of the left regarding America’s (and Britain’s) liberation of Iraq, at least implicitly. She asserts without qualification that “North Korea's boasting of a nuclear arsenal saved it from invasion.” Based on most of the past coverage of Iraq in the Indy, I would have thought it was North Korea’s lack of oil reserves that saved it from being plundered by the US.

Friday, August 05, 2005

WW II, Hiroshima, and the BBC

In the days leading up to the 60th anniversary of VE-Day back in May, the BBC posted numerous articles detailing various aspects of the Allied victory over Germany. There was a story about the fall of Berlin to the Soviets. There were two others about a British man and a British woman who witnessed the actual Nazi surrender. There was a letter from an 8-year old girl to her RAF pilot father, station away from the UK, about the VE celebrations at home. There was a story about the experiences of Hitler’s nurse during his last days in his Berlin bunker. There was a story about the escape of some Jews from Germany early in the war. And this is just a small sampling.

In other words, there was a plethora of stories about the end of the war detailing all manner of events taking place and the people who experienced them.

We are now approaching the 60th anniversary of VJ-Day. The BBC is again starting to produce daily stories about August, 1945.

Like the one about Keiko Ogura, a survivor of the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima.

And one about Yutaka Nagura, a ex-soldier in the Japanese army and a survivor of the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima.

And one about Yukio Yoshioka, currently a school teacher and a survivor of the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima.

And one detailing the memories of crew members of the Enola Gay regarding the fateful day on which they dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. (Noting in the lead-in that the young airmen were hoping to help the world, the BBC reminds us that they stand accused in some quarters of committing a “war crime”).

And one about the continuing argument over whether the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima was necessary to bring the war to an end.

And one about Tinian, the pacific island from which the Enola Gay took off on its mission to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

And one about the lingering health effects due to radiation exposure for survivors of the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima.

And a photo essay of pictures contrasting Hiroshima in the days after the atomic bomb was dropped on it with today.

Now, I don’t dispute that the introduction of the atomic bomb to the world was certainly a momentous day. But why, when contemplating the end of the war, do we seem dwell upon the suffering inflicted by the dropping of the bomb as particularly notable or distinct among the sea of tragedy suffered throughout World War II? And why should coverage of that suffering far outweigh the celebration of the fact that the war itself had finally been brought to a decisive and just conclusion?

It is usually noted, in moral critiques of the decision to use the bomb, that the primary victims of it were civilians. This is, regrettably, true, and in the moral calculus of whether dropping the bomb was ultimately justified, that fact must surely have weight. But as repugnant as the fact may be, that in itself hardly distinguishes the use of the bomb from everything else that was going on during the war. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima killed about 70,000 people. The Tokyo fire raids killed an estimated 100,000, also mostly civilians. Civilian deaths during the battle of Stalingrad have been estimated at about 1 million. In Nanking non-combatant deaths were approximately 260,000. Some estimates have placed the overall civilian fatality figure for all of WW II at close to 40 million. In this context, the fact that the bomb caused civilian deaths hardly distinguishes it from the rest of the war.**

In recognizing that it has been sixty years since World War II finally and happily came to an end, the dropping of the atomic bomb must certainly play a significant part. But in focusing exclusively, or even primarily, on the unhappy effects of a single event which precipitated the end, the BBC does justice to neither history nor the occassion.

(**The above does not, and is not meant to, imply a moral equivalence between, say, the Rape of Nanking and the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima.)

The Guardian closes down!

I always thought that headlines served the purpose of giving a brief taste of the information to be found in the related article. Reading The Guardian, however, I've learned that they apparently serve an altogether different purpose: to express the hopes of the writer himself.

A headline today in The Guardian:
Elusive sniper saps US morale in Baghdad
Read the article, however, and you will find not a single, solitary mention of US troop morale. Not one.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Unanimous consent for an amendment?

And I just noticed this from the flag burning article.

Similar moves in the past have failed to gather the three-thirds majority
required for constitutional amendments in both houses of the US Congress.

As opposed to the two-halves plus 1 majority needed to pass normal legislation?

Burn or ban it?

To see the difference in attitudes towards and treatment of patriotic symbols between the US and the UK, consider this:

In the US, laws are passed in order to make it more difficult to destroy the national flag.

In the UK, laws are passed in order to make it more difficult to display it.

The fall and rise of British patriotism

Americans have long been mocked and derided, both in Britain and in wider Europe, for their sense of patriotism. American tendencies towards outward displays of nationalism and loyalty, for instance flying the stars and stripes, are very often looked upon with a mixture of amused condescension and suspicious hostility. Rare is the Brit who would be caught dead with a Union Jack hanging in front of his house, apart from, perhaps, on the day of some national celebration. A strong sense of patriotism, or certainly any public display of such, has come to carry the faint whiff of imperialist ambitions from the past, a sense of superiority that is presumed to be incompatible with the multicultural “diversity” mantra to which all right-thinking people are assumed by the cultural elite to subscribe. No doubt there are plenty of Brits with just as strong a sense of patriotism as most Americans, but they seem to have been cowed into keeping it mostly quiet, lest they become pariahs.

But perhaps those days are coming to an end. In two recent pieces, one on the BBC and one in The Guardian, there are signs that, as a result of the radical Muslim problem which Britian has discovered in its midst, at least some seem to be having second thoughts about the downgrading of national pride and purpose in Britain, and that they are looking to America as a model to follow.

The first, on the BBC, was just a small hint. Harold Evans, former editor of The Times, The Sunday Times, and head of the Random House publishing company, is set to take over for Alistair Cooke as the BBC’s man to comment on America. (For those Americans who may be unfamiliar with Cooke, his weekly broadcasts from the US on the BBC, called Letter From America, are legendary in Britain, having run from 1946 until his death last year.) In a profile about Evans and his feelings about America, Evans is quoted as saying:

"In Britain, we've seen those isolated pools of Muslims in Leeds or Huddersfield who seem to have identified with some crazy mullah. But here they are much more likely to say I am American first and a Muslim second. At least, that's my guess.

"No one is ashamed of being a patriot here, whereas nobody dare be a patriot in England - at least not recently, because they are likely to be hooted out. In Britain, patriotism is thought to be the preserve of right-wing nutters and that's a tragedy in my view."

Jonathon Freedland of The Guardian hit the same note yesterday in a much more expansive piece dedicated to the same topic. Freedland notes the lack of a coherent and promoted sense of Britishness, and suggests that perhaps this in part to blame for the seeming lack of national loyalty among some immigrants and first generation Britons, particularly Muslims. Quoting one Aatish Taseer, Freedland says:

"Britons themselves were having a hard time believing in Britishness", [Taseer] writes. If you denigrate your own culture you face the risk of newer arrivals looking for one elsewhere."

In this case, says Taseer, an Islamic identity, a sense of kinship not with Britain or Pakistan but with the global brotherhood of Muslims, the Ummah.

Noting the fact that the US does not seem to have the same degree of home-grown Islamic radicals as Britain, Freedland sensibly, albeit surprisingly, looks to America as a model:
But surely the chief reason is the way America approaches newcomers. It does not allow a vacuum where national identity should be, but fills the void with Americanness. Loyalty is instilled constantly - not only at one-off ceremonies - whether it be saluting the flag at school or singing the national anthem at a ballgame…

America works because it emphasises not only diversity but the ties that bind, too. It encourages a hyphenated identity - think Italian-American - but insists on both sides of the hyphen. In Britain, liberals especially have striven so hard to accept that people are Scottish or Jewish or Asian, they may have forgotten that they are also British. For bothness to work, you have to have both.
Freedland is not entirely correct here. The US does not insist on both sides of the hyphen. It insists only on the right hand side, and simply allows the left hand side to co-exist with it, although the recent onslaught of identity politics (of which Freedland almost certainly approves) is obviously making it increasingly attractive to be some kind of hyphenated American rather than simply an American.

In any event, Freedland concludes:
This, then, is the challenge. To forge a Britishness which welcomes
difference - but which is not so loose, so nebulous, that it leaves a hole where
national identity should be.
It is a big challenge, one that cannot be achieved quickly. And it will take a serious adjustment in attitude from those on the left, where “diversity” is something less to be accepted than to be celebrated and worshipped for its own sake. But regardless, it is good to see the strength of American patriotism being recognized by some voices in places where it has largely been treated with contempt in the past.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Hate crime musings

From the BBC today:

Attacks on Muslims have soared in London since the 7 July bombings, according to police figures.

There were 269 "religious hate" crimes, compared with 40 in the same period last year, the figures show.

Most were verbal abuse or minor assaults, but also include damage to property, including mosques and have a great "emotional impact", police said.

I wonder if the 52 deaths and 700 injuries resulting from the 7/7 bombings have been attributed to “religious hate” crimes. And if, as I suspect, not, then why not?

And if mere verbal abuse constitutes a “hate crime”, then shouldn’t the police be arresting this man for characterizing America as “an ignorant, unsophisticated sort of place, full of bible bashers and ruled to a dangerous extent by trashy television, superstition and religious bigotry, a place lacking in respect for evidence based knowledge”?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The new moderates

The Guardian’s Jamie Wilson today, in an ostensibly straight news article, demonstrates well how Guardian reporters view the world, characterizing the two political forces at odds over the John Bolton nomination.
His nomination to the UN has split both the Senate and the foreign policy community. Moderates have argued his appointment would further damage US international relations at a time when the country should be reaching out to make friends, while conservatives claim he is just what is needed to shake up the UN.
And who does Wilson seek out to articulate this “moderate” viewpoint? Senators Ted Kennedy and Harry Reid. For those of you who have lived under a rock for the past 20 years (or, alternatively, get your information exclusively from The Guardian), you may find it a revelation that neither Kennedy nor Reid is, in fact, a moderate. Americans For Democratic Action, self-described as “America’s oldest independent liberal lobbying organization”, gave ratings of 90 to Ted Kennedy and 78 to Harry Reid, based upon their lifetime voting records.

The “perfect Liberal quotient”, according to the ADA, is 100. It's a tough grading curve when 90 represents a failing grade.

(Negative) comments on Bolton, please

In a website feature soliciting comments from readers on the appointment of John Bolton as US ambassador to the UN, this is how the BBC described Bolton’s appointment.
Mr Bush made his decision without waiting for approval from the Senate, citing Mr Bolton's experience in foreign affairs and blaming political opponents for the irregular nature of the appointment.
You could say that, I suppose.

But if one was trying to be a bit more accurate, one could also say that Bush made his decision after waiting in vain on Senate action for nearly 5 months since his March 8 nomination of Bolton. One might also say that it wasn’t the Senate that failed to act, but that is was the Democrats, ie Bush’s political opponents, that refused to allow a Senate vote on Bolton’s nomination through their use of filibustering tactics. So, rather than suggesting that Bush is simply blaming his opponents, the BBC might have instead revealed that his opponents are to blame.

But that, of course, might not solicit the kind of comments for which the BBC is obviously looking.

Extraordinary admissions

On Sunday the top story on The Independent’s website blared out in its headline:
Extraordinary admission to interrogators by London bomb
The extraordinary admission?
A suspected member of the 21 July bomb cell has told investigators he was motivated by the Iraq war, not religion.
Osman Hussain, suspected of attempting to blow up commuters in Shepherd's ush,
west London, has given an extraordinary account of a plot hatched in a basement gym in Notting Hill, according to leaks from his interrogation by Italian investigating magistrates.
This “admission” was apparently contained in an Italian police report on its interrogations of Hussain. Today, however, we hear a different story from the BBC. Buried in an article about how Hussain apparently did not intend to harm anyone with his bomb (insert guffaw), his lawyer is quoted as saying:
"The justification for [the bombing] was to do with Muslim women and the way
that they've been treated.”
No word today from The Independent on this new “extraordinary admission”, and given that it doesn’t particularly meld with its own opposition to the liberation of Iraq, don’t expect to see any headlines on it soon.

Monday, August 01, 2005

I'm back

I arrived back in the UK this morning and am trying to get back into the swing of things. I was most sorry to hear that I missed the Scott Burgess/Guardian brouhaha while I was gone, but it seems to have culminated in the resignation of The Guardian’s executive editor for news, Albert Scardino. Chalk another one up for the blog world.

Anyway, before I move forward on to new things, I need to look back, to an article written by Paul Harris in The Guardian/Observer just after my departure from the UK two weeks ago. It was, ostensibly, yet another look at the Valerie Plame controversy in which Karl Rove has found himself embroiled. I say ostensibly because, while Harris has certainly told the story that the Dems would like to be told, he has hardly given an accurate portrayal of the situation, filling his article with distortions, misinformation, and outright falsehoods.

After providing a slipshod treatment to the background to Joe Wilson’s NYT article and how the Plame/CIA connection became public through a Bob Novak column, Harris writes:
Novak's column, citing two administration sources, said Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, worked at the CIA. Such a leak could have had two aims. First, it would punish the Wilsons by blowing her cover and thus jeopardising her career. Second, it would warn others doing CIA work not to speak out publicly against the White House.
Here Harris deceives his readers by presenting these two aims as the only two possibilities, while ignoring the possibility (indeed, the most probable possibility) that the leak was aimed at countering the falsehoods in Wilson’s original article, specifically his claim to have been acting at the behest of VP Cheney. In fact, Novak himself has said that his contact with the White House that resulted in him finding out about Plame was prompted by his desire to find out why in the world the White House would send a Clinton administration diplomat on an intelligence gathering mission. In other words the Plame revelation came not from a desire to “punish” the Wilson’s or send a “warning” to the CIA, but instead was aimed at setting the record straight that Wilson was not sent by the White House, but rather was sent by his wife.

Harris then goes on to say:

But [the leak] was also illegal.
No, no, no. What is it with the inability of the British press to get this point correct? As I have pointed out in the past, it is not at all clear that the leak was illegal, and it appears increasingly likely that it wasn’t. Even Harris’ fellow Guardian writer Julian Borger acknowledged way back on June 28 that:
Reports from the investigation have suggested that it has decided that the leak of Ms Plame's identity did not represent a violation of the intelligence identities protection act, and is concentrating instead on the possibility of perjury charges.
Perhaps Harris should spend some time reading his own employer’s newspapers rather than DNC press releases.

More Harris:

Not only was her career ended, but national security had been harmed.
How exactly national security has been harmed by Plame’s outing remains unstated, probably because Harris is simply repeating a DNC talking point rather than reporting known facts. But the claim that Plame’s career was ended by the "revelation" of her employer (a fact apparently already widely known) appears to be simply false. According to USA Today, Wilson has acknowledged that "my wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity." If that is true, she was already working for the CIA in a capacity other than as a covert agent, and Harris provides no reason to think that her outing would prevent her from continuing in that capacity.

Harris goes on to point out that Karl Rove has become a focal point because, it turns out, he acted as a second source to Novak’s original article, apparently confirming to Novak that his information about Plame’s involvement in sending Wilson to Africa was correct. But then Harris makes an extremely odd point, saying that “Rove's only way out is a legal one.” This seems a rather redundant point to make, given that the “only way out” of any legal trouble is necessarily a legal way out. And Harris has been crystal clear, to the point of falsely asserting the definitive existence of a crime, that the trouble for the source of the Plame leak is a legal one.

Anyway, Harris concludes:
If the legal case against Rove has holes in it, the political case is more damning. For the first time in years the Democrats can exploit a scandal that is easy to understand.
Easy to understand? Let’s see. Harris asserts unequivocally that the leak was a crime, when in fact it is not at all clear that such is the case. Harris asserts that the leak was aimed at “punishing” Wilson and sending a “warning” to other CIA critics, but he seems ignorant of the fact that the leak actually came as the unavoidable consequence of correcting a false claim made by Wilson. One can’t help but wonder, if the scandal is so easy to understand, why Harris himself is so confused.