Discussions on politics, foreign affairs, religion, and the state of American culture...oh, heck with it. It's an electronic soapbox where I get to spout off about all the idiocy that manifests itself in this day and age.
WHO IS THIS GUY?
Benjamin Kepple is a journalist in New Hampshire. He is a former reporter/writer for Investor's Business Daily,
Heterodoxy, and FrontPage Magazine. He has also been published in the Daily News of Los Angeles,
the Ottawa Citizen, AlbertaViews, and other publications. He was also a contributing editor for the 2nd edition of "Choosing the Right College," published by ISI Books.
Throughout his reporting career, Kepple has thrown questions at everyone from former presidential candidates and
major Washington lobbyists to ex-leftist militants and defenders of domestic terror groups. First as a magazine writer
and then as a hard-news reporter, Kepple has written on education, economics, cultural affairs, and politics --
as well as car accidents, police shootings, and school board meetings.
As a student at the University of Michigan, Kepple was prominently mentioned in a 1998 Detroit Free Press
article on race relations at the school's Ann Arbor campus. Also that year, Kepple briefly appeared as a student
panelist on "NewsHour" with Jim Lehrer. In 1999, he was a guest on The Mike Rosen Show (KOA, 850-AM, Denver)
regarding Boston College's Mary Daly controversy.
PROUDLY SERVING THE BLOGOSPHERE SINCE SEPT. 2001
Patior ut potiar
"It's people like you who I would not hesitate to hit with my car
if I saw crossing the street, thinking I would benefit society."
-- J. Artz, Mar. 11, '98
"Right now, your problems are the last thing on my mind."
-- Dr. Progressive, Mar. 26, '01
"It's like a blog on steroids."
-- Matt Rubush, Nov. '01
"Benjamin Kepple runs a fine Web log. . ."
-- Ken Layne, Dec. 2, '01
"Ben, you remind me of my mother in law."
-- Jason Hirschman, Dec. 26, '01
"Give him five years and we'll be able to find him eating Thai cuisine as he hosts his very
own Tuesday night TBS movie show."
-- Jesse Kepple, Jan. 10, '02
"You're going to be the Steve Jobs of blogs!"
-- Matt Rubush, Jan. 24, '02
"Truth be told, I see very little that's French in Ben, save for the fact that he works 35 hours and smokes 16 packs of cigarettes a week." .
-- Chris Weinkopf, Mar. 22, '02
"Ben Kepple is so witty. Thank God somebody is."
-- Allison Barnes, Mar. 28, '02
"We all know you're witty, Ben. That's why we talk to you."
-- Matthew S. Schwartz, Mar. 30, '02
"The most convincing anti-smoking editorial I've ever read."
-- Clay Waters, June 1, '02
"As usual, Brother Kepple, I disagree with almost every word you type. But damn! I sure am glad you're there."
-- Brian Linse, Jul. 31, '02
"Not as succinct as Phil, but side-splittingly funny."
-- Sasha Castel, Oct. 23, '02
"Actually, you're WRONG!"
-- Oliver Willis, Dec. 5, '02
"Permanently aghast and agog."
-- Oliver Willis, Feb. 25, '03
"Ben Kepple is a festering sore on my buttocks."
-- Dean Esmay, May 15, '03
All work published on this site, excluding external links and citations, as well as some imagery, is (C) 2001, 2002, by Benjamin Kepple.
All rights are reserved. Said work may not be republished in any medium or form without the prior consent of
Mr. Kepple. However, favourable quotes praising my work are welcomed and appreciated, especially if you are
a working journalist.
Blogwolves Chat Continues The uncertainties of war may have caused the Coalition Forces to temporarily halt their advance towards Baghdad, but it hasn't stopped the Blogwolves nightly war chat from continuing. We here at The Rant have always had a great deal of respect for this fine group of warbloggers, who do so much to keep the American People informed about happenings in the Gulf during these trying times.
Sky News: Iraqi Missiles Fall Back on Baghdad It would appear that the Iraqi Government launched the missile strikes which have killed 65 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, Sky News reports, although there is no evidence yet that the Iraqis did this on purpose. However, the incompetence of Iraq's commanders has not gone unnoticed. Saddam Hussein has reportedly sacked the fellow in charge of the city's air defenses. But it's still not known whether "sacked" is a euphemism for "being taken outside and cruelly tortured before being put out of one's miserable existence."
FOX News Chides, Derides Nearby Protestors It would appear that a sharp-eyed Bergen (NJ) Record newsman noticed that Fox News poked fun at about 200 protestors during a demonstration near its New York headquarters. Witness the event:
The news ticker rimming Fox's headquarters on Sixth Avenue wasn't carrying war updates as the protest began. Instead, it poked fun at the demonstrators, chiding them.
"War protester auditions here today ... thanks for coming!" read one message. "Who won your right to show up here today?" another questioned. "Protesters or soldiers?" Said a third: "How do you keep a war protester in suspense? Ignore them."
Still another read: "Attention protesters: the Michael Moore Fan Club meets Thursday at a phone booth at Sixth Avenue and 50th Street" - a reference to the film maker who denounced the war while accepting an Oscar on Sunday night for his documentary "Bowling for Columbine."
Needless to say, this has all the journalism professors in an uproar. Although I find it quite funny, actually. You can't deny that a bit of wit went into that overt display of one's editorial position.
When Protestors Screw Up the Drive From The Washington Post, an interesting story on the disruptive and illegal tactics which some anti-war protestors are using to get their message out.
Motorists who are blocked by the demonstrators are often angered by the delays. A couple of drivers yesterday seemed to want to accelerate right into the protesters, [protestor Andrew] Willis said.
Lon Anderson, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said: "We have such a fragile transportation system that it essentially takes very little to destroy the commutes of tens of thousands of people. It puts our area motorists as hostages."
The protesters said they were aware of the problems and were even sorry. They were accompanied by fellow antiwar activists who handed out cards to commuters apologizing for the delays and explaining their opposition to the war.
All right, look. If these people are so sorry for the delays they're causing, why don't they stand on the damned sidewalk?
Now, no matter what one thinks about protesting during wartime, everyone can agree that lawful and peaceful assembly is a cherished American political tradition. These types of protests, in which demonstrators form human chains and block intersections, are not lawful and peaceful assembly. They are dangerous and damaging stunts which should be dealt with accordingly. Not with a small fine, and not with a simple court summons, but with jail time. I would also like to say that if such protestors have disrupted emergency services because of this playacting, they should be held liable for any suffering or loss of life that was caused due to it.
Not that the protestors involved in such tomfoolery care all that much:
But Willis said that blocking traffic generates media attention, which helps spread the antiwar message. And disrupting life in Washington, he said, seems a small inconvenience compared with the destruction wrought by U.S. military action.
I have spent a few minutes thinking of a polite way to say how I feel about such an arrogant comment. As of now, that statement is: "You rebel scum."
What to Do About Al-Jazeera? Andrew Castel-Dodge has some interesting thoughts on the Arab satellite television network, the cultural differences that exist between the Western and Arab world, and how it affects the station's news coverage.
Blogging Business Say. Potential Democratic Presidential candidate Gary Hart has a blog. Apparently, Mr Hart thinks so much of certain bloggers that he has added them onto a link list of his very own. These include many of the standard left-of-centre bloggers we all know about, notably Oliver Willis.
Now, I'm happy for Mr Willis in this regard, and I don't want to be considered a troublemaker. But didn't Mr Hart's people notice that Oliver supports Sen John Edwards (D-NC) for President? To the point where he has a link button promoting this fact, a link button which leads to an entire section of his site devoted to promoting Sen Edwards?
Boy! Steyn is Good Check out his latest column in The Spectator. It's really top-notch.
But I do have one quibble about the piece. You see, Mr Steyn writes:
If things were the other way round, if Iraq invaded Vermont and some diehard Yankees holed up on the outskirts of White River Junction and started firing on Saddam’s forces as they attempted to advance up the valley, the Republican Guard would think nothing of levelling the entire downtown area and everyone in it.
Now hold on just one minute. Since when did White River Junction have outskirts?
And Now, A Deliciously Cruel Interlude (Note: contains rather offensive language and healthy dose of schadenfreude)
Heh, heh, heh. The NY Press has come out with its annual "50 Most Loathesome New Yorkers". Oh, it's a wonderfully nasty article, it really is. Each sentence drips with viciousness and spite and general disgust; each person listed upon it is painted in the cruelest of lights. It's not a perfect article, of course -- Gigot unfairly gets No. 47, Kissinger unfairly gets No. 11, and Safire unfairly gets No. 10, and all for partisan reasons -- but in general the article is about 75-80 percent spot-on in its gleeful maliciousness.
In part, here are some notable entries:
No. 50. Naomi Campbell: It’s easy to hate models; we'd all like to make a living getting fucked in speedboats and staying hooked on other people's heroin. But a model who's an ungrateful asshole to boot actually deserves the inevitable cruel fate of her lot.
No. 44: Naz and Jay-Z: These endlessly feuding rappers should be merged to form one, giant, illiterate organism called Notorious S.U.C.K. Either that, or they should stop pretending and jump into bed together already.
No. 31: Sam Waksal: Just another bloodless monster whose greed helped to sabotage the national economy in return for the miserable, fleeting privilege of a spot on the A list.
No. 29. Jack Grubman: Winner of the "Most likely to cause angry mobs to run through Wall St. with pitchforks" award.
Well, You Can Kiss Your Reconstruction Role in Iraq Goodbye The duplicitous and vile French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, refused to say which side he wanted to win in the American-Iraqi conflict, The Telegraph of London reports in today's editions.
M de Villepin added insult to injury when he praised Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle for their work in liberating France from the Nazis, but in doing so left out the minor contributions that one President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made in that effort.
It seems to me that, until President Chirac takes some action to repair this and other errors, the United States should punish the Fifth Republic until it learns how to behave. We should end all military cooperation, engage in punitive trade sanctions, tighten visitation requirements for all Frenchmen who are not already permanent residents, and generally make things difficult and irritating for them. I mean, zut freaking alors. Either they're being incredibly stupid or they're downright perfidious, and as such they should be dealt with. Such actions are not those of a true ally and an old friend.
That's not to say that all French people don't see what's up, and are rightfully ashamed of their Government's actions. Consider this second Telegraph article:
In Paris Match this week, the editor, Alain Genestar, writes: "War is ugly. This one, like others, should be condemned. But to this ugliness is added this unhealthy rejoicing at the difficulties faced by those who decided to launch war.
"Here and there, never, of course, officially in the chancelleries, but in the streets and demonstrations, people take pleasure in mocking the American troops for their suffering, their mistakes and reverses as if these obstacles in the path of war prove they are right to be against Bush."
It's incredible how the rot has spread, isn't it? But while M Genestar's comments should give us hope, as the saying goes, that there are still good men in Sodom; it does not appear as if the Fifth Republic is going to repent any time soon.
Report: American Public Cares Little for Protest Coverage A consultancy's research reveals that only 14 percent of Americans think broadcast news programmes pay too little attention to anti-war protests, the Washington Post has reported.
The Post cites a report from Frank N. Magid Associates, a television news consultancy. This report also says that war protests "were the topic that tested lowest among 6,400 viewers across the nation," and that only 13 percent of viewers surveyed thought that TV news should pay more attention to dissent during wartime. In short, as the Post put it, "the (firm) put it in even starker terms: Covering war protests may be harmful to a station's bottom line."
As one might imagine, the very idea that few care about anti-war protests has anti-war protestors rather upset. The Post, again:
"The antiwar movement in this country is far bigger than it was during the first few years of the Vietnam War, but you wouldn't know it from the coverage," said Adam Eidinger, a Washington activist. "I think the media has been completely biased. You don't hear dissenting voices; you see people marching in the streets, but you rarely hear what they have to say in the media."
Of course, it might very well help if the protestors in question had a coherent message which they were able to deliver effectively. I don't know about the rest of you, but the message I've gotten from the people marching in places like San Francisco is that they not only want an end to war, they want an end to capitalism, eating meat, wearing fur, racism, sexism, classism, armaments production, and the fact their local coffee house still doesn't serve organically grown java, the bastards.
Perhaps it would also help if the protestors on scene focused on their message and not on silly stunts, such as screwing up the rush-hour commute. It would also help if the protestors gave their full names. As I wrote here, it is problematic for news reporters to call you "Venus" instead of calling you by both your Christian name and your surname.
However, the news director for WTOP-AM/FM, a Washington radio station, had this to say about the coverage:
"It's important for us to cover the dissent and we have. Our listeners have told us we cover too much dissent, but it's always a question of balance. . . . The consultants who tell stations to ignore the antiwar side of the story don't seem to have the same conscience as the news people. That kind of advice goes against the grain of a journalist. I would not follow advice like that," (said Jim Farley).
This to me seems a reasonable point. Anti-war coverage shouldn't be ignored, and no news outlet in the country does ignore it. That said, there are very real considerations any news outlet must give in terms of the play such coverage receives. Everyone involved with a story wants that story to get the best play it can get, naturally; but quite often that just doesn't jive with the cold hard reality of the news business. The vast majority of Americans are more concerned about what's happening in the war and what it means for them, rather than stories about anti-war protests. Until anti-war protestors figure out how the media works, instead of simply griping about corporate dominance or other silliness, they'll continue to find themselves buried inside someplace.
The Tikrit Option Andrew has an interesting argument -- that the Iraqi city of Tikrit is serving as a Hiroshima of sorts. By that, we mean that it is being left as an "example" city in case Saddam's regime uses weapons of mass destruction.
A Liberal senator has been thrown into the firestorm of shaky U.S.-Canada relations after the Senate's Debates quoted him shouting "Screw the Americans" during a Senate sitting this week.
The quote was attributed to outspoken Senator Laurier LaPierre, who has expressed anti-American sentiments in the past, in the official transcript of Tuesday's Senate sitting. Opposition MPs and senators were quick to jump on the quote as another example of the Liberal government's strong anti-Americanism.
What ever happened to, "The Americans are our best friends, whether we like it or not?"
United Way Calls Off Sarandon Event The United Way of Tampa Bay has called off a charity event featuring actress Susan Sarandon because it received three dozen complains about Sarandon's anti-war stance. Sarandon's "people" have described the move as follows:
"People have a right to believe and say what they want," (Sarandon's person) continued. "For us to see this type of censorship and political pressure to control the agenda and personal opinions of what people think is just disheartening."
I am not a big fan of "disinviting" someone to a speech, primarily because I think it's rude. Of course, we also know that, sometimes, a speaker's recent conduct makes it impossible for them to carry out a previously-scheduled engagement. Here, though, I think one could assign blame to both sides.
As I see it, the United Way probably should have known that Ms Sarandon was quite outspoken on a number of things. Since it wanted to avoid controversy, it should have never invited her in the first place. It's not like a simple Google search couldn't have drummed up a number of -- well, pointed -- things that Ms Sarandon has seen fit to declare. She has been so prolific in this regard that I am surprised her handlers do not simply doctor up each pronouncement, label it "Communique No. ---", and send it off to Variety.
That said, it is also silly to say that disinviting someone to a speech is somehow "censorship." It's a private event, and its organizers have the right to run their event the way they see fit. For reasonable Americans, this is not a difficult concept to grasp. Sadly, there are many folks who believe that they have the right to say whatever they want and expect folks to just go along with it, as if it doesn't matter. Such a state, by its very nature, causes their words themselves to not matter.
Well, We Didn't Get Him Fox News is reporting that U.S. officials believe Saddam Hussein is in control of his military. It's a perfectly reasonable assessment. The Iraqis aren't giving up, and a key reason for that is because Saddam is still pulling the strings. Once we're able to liquidate him, we'll end the war.
The report does have some good news, however. Qusay Hussein, Saddam's evil younger son, may very well be "out of commission." The thinking behind that idea is that Qusay, who controls Iraq's western military district, hasn't been seen all that much lately. Officials also point out that no missiles have been fired from the western district, an important point because missiles from there could strike Israel or other neighboring nations.
So it's not an all-bad report. In short, what we can learn from this is that we've likely killed one major bastard, and we have two major bastards to go.
You Know, This Could Just Be Important Before everyone goes attacking the source in this report, let us consider that our military will be the ones to make the final determination. Besides, if true, the facts presented in this report would certainly explain why the Iraqi regime had all those chemical suits and atrophine shots ready near Karbala.
The solution, for most of the world, is to shelter behind the illusion that the world is still at peace. This, even while the flames of Islamist terror - characterized above all by the indiscriminate murder of civilians - spread across the planet, fanned by international cowardice, irresolution and even complicity. After a decade of Clintonian appeasement, culminating in the Manhattan atrocity, the US has had enough of this.
It's unexpectedly harsh, too. The fact this got out through the Chinese media should signal alarm bells. The way I see it, either the Chinese want to calm things down in terms of their relations with the Bush Administration, or they're planning more repression in Xinjiang.
Dear God Bill O'Reilly has just said that the United States has lost 24 soldiers killed in action so far in the Iraqi war. Iraq, for its part, has lost 35,000 of its own troops. That's a rate of 1,458 Iraqis killed for every 1 American casualty.
Statistics like this really make me wish the Iraqi forces out in the field would capitulate and go home. They just can't win. They can't.
War Update It seems to me the opening of our "second front" is being given the attention it deserves. Now, we have 1,000 paratroopers of the 173rd Army Airborne Infantry Brigade who have landed in northern Iraq and secured a key airfield. What I'm surprised about the reports thus far is that they haven't taken into account the sizable and potent Kurdish fighting force already in Northern Iraq. They're eager to fight, there's 90,000 of them, and they could do a lot of damage -- just like the Northern Alliance did in Afghanistan. Let's get these guys into action!
The Republican Guard -- Saddam Hussein's fiercest and most loyal fighters -- and a convoy of at least 1,000 enemy vehicles on the offensive streamed toward allied troops. Reports out of the Iraqi capital suggested the soldiers hoped to take advantage of tired coalition soldiers.
Oh, man. This is going to go down as Mistake Number One Thirteen or Fourteen in the Iraqis' battle plan. Supposedly they are going to try and take advantage of tired coalition troops. Exhaustion, however, has never been a hallmark of our air forces.
UPDATE: MSNBC has just reported that -- guess what -- 1,000 enemy vehicles haven't left Baghdad after all. Shoot. They would have been easy pickings.
One Quick Word About the Dolphins
(or, "It's Flipper! Flipper From HELL!") I don't know about the rest of you, but I think it's quite cool that the U.S. Navy uses smart dolphins to seek out enemy mines. Apparently the dolphins, imbued with built-in sonar and keen natural abilities, have incredible abilities in this regard. Also, the linked Washington Times article also shows that dolphins have been used to defend Navy ships and installations from attack.
This is really, really cool. Sure, the animal-rights people think this is horrible, but I think their concerns are a bit over-the-top. For one thing, the dolphins only find the mines; they leave the hard part for people. For another, you can imagine that these 75 dolphins are treated quite well. They certainly have a better time of it than they do in the wild, and they probably get extra fish-rations, or whatever might serve as combat pay for dolphins.
Finally -- and I can't remember where I heard this, whether it was in the "Blogwolves" chat last night or on another blog -- these dolphins can kick humans' collective ass in certain areas. It seems that in exercises between dolphins and Navy frogmen, dolphins defending US ships were able to rip off the humans' face masks and ruin their breathing equipment.
This last fact has me confused as to why PETA is upset about the matter. If the dolphins can hold their own against, or even defeat, trained human troops, then surely PETA's energies would be better served defending dull-witted, defenseless creatures which can't survive in the wild. You know, like Hollywood celebrities ...
My Frivileged Life Oooh. Another new word has entered the Grand American Lexicon. It's all thanks to James Lileks, who while mocking British reporters noted that one of them had combined the words 'frivolous' and 'privileged' into one magical new word, now known as 'frivileged.' I hope he doesn't mind if I borrow it, but I'm going to start using it in my speech on a regular basis. Not only will it garner odd looks from the people at work ("What's that Californian bastard going on about now?"), the word can be corrupted even further to serve as a convenient expletive-substitute. You know, like, when Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica used to shout "FRACK!"
Of course, I have to say I'm feeling quite frivileged today. Right now, I have my eyes dead-set on my upcoming vacation in April -- yes, I'm going again -- and coordinating my travel plans accordingly. But wait, it seems we have a few reader questions. OK, one at a time, please. Larry?
JIM: Mr Kepple, are you going to blog from the road?
KEPPLE: Well, yeah, I'm going to try. I should have the opportunity along the way, at least at some point. Mike?
TED: Mr Kepple, if you do blog along the way, will you promise long updates and quick-breaking reports only to renege on those promises once you've left?
KEPPLE: Thanks for asking! Well, actually, no. This time around I am merely going to promise sporadic accounts of my life on the road. It should be a fun trip, and I look forward to sharing all the pertinent details with my readership. George?
HEINRICH: Ah, Herr Kepple, zis traveling on ze road trip you claim to be doing soon. Vere going vill you be?
KEPPLE: Well, I'm glad you asked. I'll be heading to various East Coast and Midwestern destinations; then I shall return via Canada to Manchester, New Hampshire. Vladimir?
MIKE: When's this going to take place, sir?
KEPPLE: Oh, in a few weeks. It's going to rule. Harry?
SMITTY: Do you think any of your readers will care one way or the other about your road trip?
KEPPLE: People's uncaring attitudes never stopped folks from showing vacation slides, now did they?
SMITTY: Well, yeah, but ...
KEPPLE: Good! I'm glad you agree with me!
SMITTY: What! That's not what I said! Now look, stop twisting my words around.
KEPPLE: (in high pitched voice) Ooooooooh. Stop it, he said.
SMITTY: You rat bastard!
KEPPLE: I'm glad you're looking forward to it too. You should feel frivileged.
I don't know whether I am going to audio-blog just yet. That would be pretty cool, although there may be some technical issues that could crop up. On the other hand, it would be pretty cool to deliver an audio-blog from, I don't know, New Stanton, Pa. But we will see how things go. In the meantime, we return you to your regularly scheduled programming. Especially since I have to go in to work now.
Say! There's Light at the End of the Tunnel! We're within 50 miles of Baghdad, Fox News reports. You know, it sounds like we're going to get there pretty soon. Amazing that the war is less than a week old, and we're almost at our primary objective. It also seems as if the resistance we're receiving to our advance is truly sporadic. That's to be expected, though; not all the Iraqis are going to give up, although one hopes they would. If you're on the wrong side and you're carrying a Kalashnikov, one would think your life expectancy would be rather short.
Salam Pax is Still Standing The blogosphere's Man in Baghdad is back after a two-day hiatus without Internet service. He's got back entries which he would have posted if he could. Meanwhile -- he still has power, everyone's all right there, which is good news. So go read it.
And Now, An Unfortunate Rhetoric Interlude It seems that, as our troops march ever closer to the Iraqi capital, the rhetoric among both certain pro-war and anti-war factions has heated up considerably. I suppose that one could ascribe this unfortunate trend to anger and frustration with the progress of our war against the Iraqi regime, but whatever its primal cause, it is a singularly unpleasant thing to see happening.
On one side of the aisle, we have Oliver Willis' recent comment that went with a link to the pictures of U.S. soliders taken captive or killed in action. Mr Willis wrote, in part, "Here are the American soldiers killed in Iraq. Call your local neocon and tell him to look, maybe he won't be so quick to battle." This has generated quite a storm of controvery both at Mr Willis' site, and among other writers. D.C. Thornton, for instance, writes: "However, nothing could be more reprehensible than exploiting the deaths of soldiers for a partisan cheap shot. I am beyond angry. How dare you, Oliver. How fucking dare you."
This was not, one might say, Mr Willis' finest hour. Nor is it the first time he has written something similarly unfortunate as of late. However, in the prior instance of this, he did retract his comments, and I would hope he would do so again. Everyone can get steamed under the collar once in a while, after all. But as Mr Willis has not yet done so, and I do not believe he will, let me say this. If I had wanted to read such things, I would have picked up Michael Moore's latest screed. And I am starting to miss the guy I used to think I could argue with about this-or-that and have it only be an argument.
Because, really, if I wanted to read something like that, there are plenty of places I could go. And one of the nice things about Mr Willis' site is that he usually does a good job of sticking with the issues, making a rational case for his views, that type of thing. Sure, he's a bit partisan; but hey, that's forgivable. But in recent days one gets the impression that this goes beyond partisanship. Such words are not only ill-advisable, they come off to the reader as nasty, spite-driven, and exultant, when the topic at hand should be treated with none of those emotions.
I do hope that Mr Willis will soon return to writing the high-quality posts we've all come to expect from him.
Just fucking carpet bomb the whole miserable fucking country now. The Iraqis have shown by their actions that they are just as evil as their leader and they are guilty either by action or inaction of maintaining the regime. They are all guilty. They have no claim on our pity on our help on our blood or our mercy.
Sasha has written a response to the post, in which she spells out her disagreements with Mr Hill. It is short but wonderfully-written, and eloquently argues against such talk. And she's right. We can all be angry and frustrated and horrified at what happened to our soldiers, for their treatment has been barbaric and without consideration to the laws of war. But there is no cause for such heated and unthinking rhetoric. None. Furthermore, I would say that if this was a post written in the cold light of reason, I would ask Mr Hill one thing.
Namely, if he must think like a 'hinkle-dreck quatschkopf', then I would hope he would keep such thoughts private.
Signing Off for Now Hey, everybody. I must go into work to earn my daily bread, so I am going to sign off the warblogging for now. In the meantime, you can see plenty of coverage below, including a whole mess of stuff on the firefight in Umm Qasr -- written as it was happening early today. I should return sometime late this evening or early tomorrow morning. Sundays and Mondays, because of my work schedule, generally limit my blogging ability, so posting might be a bit light until then. However, no matter the limitations, I will certainly be back in full throttle on Monday night.
See you then. In the meantime, pray for our troops, and pray for a quick victory in this war.
They griped that their requests for water or food were ignored or delayed for hours. When they did get fed, they got cheese or peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches that didn't taste great.
"They didn't give us any water at all," said a woman who wished to be identified as Venus, 23, of Berkeley. "One (deputy) looked at me and turned away, and another said, 'I just got on duty, I don't know about water.' "
Chris, 25, of Berkeley said their complaints were met by derision by deputies, who said, "This is what you get for protesting. Next time, don't protest."
I think Garry Trudeau put it best, in a line I remember from one of his "Doonesbury" comics: "You know, you're DAMNED lucky this isn't Robert Bork's America!" But I wonder: does this whole article embarrass the other protestors? I mean, you can imagine that the protestors in New York would read this and kind of groan inwardly. "They're griping because they were fed peanut-butter sandwiches? Oh, for the love of Pete."
Publishing Delays; More on Umm Qasr The post below, detailing the Iraqis' first press conference since the start of the war, was written about 4 a.m. on Sunday. However, problems with Blogger prevented it from being posted then. Gad. I thought I had lost the thing entirely, and yours truly -- faced with the double blow of losing the post and suffering through the botched coverage of the Umm Qasr firefight* -- was engaged in much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
But hey. It's up, so God be praised.
* In the "Blogwolves" chat last night, I and about a dozen other warbloggers were all quite annoyed to see that the networks pulled away from an airstrike upon the Iraqi positions in the interest of providing -- you guessed it -- more commentary from the legions of analysts and news presenters they keep on staff. While the luxury of sleep has led me to see that yes, we had never before seen live coverage of anything like the Umm Qasr fighting, I do wish that at least one station had kept things simple, and just provided the pool-feed via SkyNews. For they were talking when the jets came in, and all we saw afterwards was smoke rising from the Iraqi positions, and the next thing we knew the Staff Sergeant** was telling us it was time to mop things up. A very anticlimactic end to a long-running battle.
** The Staff Sergeant -- whose name we do not know, but who was regularly consulted by the SkyNews correspondent on scene -- deserves some sort of minor medal for providing the best running commentary we've seen thus far in this war.
*** Interesting to see how everyone thought last night that the U.S. forces ought to have used much more firepower in that situation, ranging from the network analysts to a bunch of folks on-line. Still, now that 20-20 hindsight is available to us, I think it's worth noting that we were able to take out the Iraqi positions without any loss of life on our side. It was all very well-coordinated by the U.S. Marines, and we should all be proud of their work.
UPDATE:The Command Post now says Sky's camera was pointed in the wrong direction, which seems to make sense ... but even still, they make much the same points that I do, although in a much succinter fashion.
Iraqi Info Minister, Brigadier General Gives Press Conference The Iraqis have apparently managed to scrape up enough command-and-control to hold press conferences, although their attempts to rebut CentCom are pretty weak. At about 3:30 AM EST, we saw the Iraqi Information Minister -- he's not dead yet -- and a brigadier general who looked as if he had just received a brevet promotion -- give a briefing. Gloating disinformation, but let's see how things are going:
"The fighters and the heroic Iraqi units at Umm Qasr are giving them a taste ... of death. They are feeding the American and British mercenaries the taste of death."
That's the Iraqi Information Minister, a right bastard who laughed during the briefing. But hey. I wouldn't want to be in his shoes at this point. I just hope that our forces can perform another surgical strike and hit him.
Here's a verbatim transcript from the InfoMin:
"The district of Umm Qasr and the fort of Umm Qasr as you know, as is being broadcasted all over the world now; this small port and this small district at Umm Qasr, when they have divided the territories by the United Nations, they took a piece of the port of Umm-Qasr and they gave it to the Kuwaiti Government. That's why the American forces are now only in the territories that have been given to the Kuwaitis by the United Nations."
Translation: See! They're not triumphantly advancing in our territory! Really!
"There is only a wire ... that separates the two areas, and this is the fourth day of the military aggression that has been undertaken by the armies of the greatest nation ... accompianed by Britain ... also, although, it is the fourth day they are still lying to the world, but your cameras and the news people are exposing the lies."
Translation: See! They're lying! Really!
"The army of the invaders, the weak invaders, the losers, the mercenaries, the hired mercenaries from the Americans and British ... have been taught yesterday and this morning a lesson they will not forget. ... We have put them into the swamp. They will never get out of it alive. No one will ever come out of the swamp except in a body bag."
Translation: See! We're going to win! Really!
Well, fortunately that's about all there was to the whole press conference, which also involved the InfoMin laughing and insulting General Franks. In all, it was a pretty lousy attempt to rebuff the much more informative and reasonable briefing given earlier today by General Franks. I will say this. It seemed as if every reporter left in Baghdad was in attendance at the briefing, and the brigadier designated to give it started out thusly:
"Please allow me to give you a briefing."
(roars from journalists)
"Please .. please .. please allow me to give you a briefing."
(more roars from journalists)
The InfoMin, laughing, stepped in and appeared to say, "It's his first time!"
I bet this guy was a captain four days ago; he looks young and inexperienced, and quite frankly looks pretty lost. And while the Iraqis will undoubtedly try to give as much disinformation as they can in their spin campaign, we can say this for sure: this newly-appointed spokesman will get a trial by fire in more ways than one.
And Now, a LIVE Conservation With My Brother
Related to the Umm Qasr Firefight
Edited transcript. Contains offensive language.
JESSE: "Damnit, why do they have to keep talking about how fucking wonderful this coverage is?"
BEN: "I don't know. I don't know."
JESSE: "I got to hear Aaron Browning talk about how wonderful a pixelized satellite video phone shot was, of a shrubbery and 2 figures standing in the background, for almost an hour the other night. Or whatever his name is."
JESSE: "Why aren't we launching grenades?"
BEN: "Well, they do have tanks going in."
JESSE: "Well, they should blow up that building."
JESSE: "You're talking about that big compound right? The Davidian-style building?"
BEN: "Yeah. Oh Christ, not more analysis."
JESSE: "No, we don't want analysis! We want full screen! Hahah."
BEN: "No kidding. No kidding."
JESSE: "I knew this was a good night to drink."
BEN: "Heh. Aye."
BEN: (expletives deleted)
JESSE: "That's on a hilltop?"
BEN: "No, it's just a saying."
JESSE: "Oh heh, alright."
BEN: "Hey, we're back."
JESSE: "Those Iraqis are fucked. We're bringing in M1A1s?"
BEN: "Yeah. HEY! They moved away!"
JESSE: "Goddamnit, why did they cut the video?"
BEN: "Must be a lull. Grrrrrrrr."
JESSE: "They need to mount a camera on a cruise missile and put that on TV."
BEN: "Didn't you see General Franks' briefing? They had similar footage."
JESSE: "120 gunmen? Shiat. Heh.. "120 gunmen in there that will have to be 'dealt with." "
BEN: "Lovely. Those [Iraqi] guys need to quit before things get out of hand."
JESSE: "They won't. I thought they would, but its not going to happen. This is going to get bloody. You know, there is a chance that they may be experiencing a bit of nationalism. This might unify them to fight the Americans "
BEN: "Let's just hope not. They [U.S. forces] say they're calling in helicopters."
JESSE: "Sure, they hate Saddam... but the regime is quasi-fascist and look how other fascist governments have operated in the past."
BEN: "Let's stick to the battle, I am blogging our conversation."
JESSE: "Correct my typos, please. :-D. I just heard marines yell something. Hey, get down on your bellies, this ain't done yet. I'm surprised there hasn't been any heavy backup."
BEN: "They did bring in four tanks."
JESSE: "Tomahawks, choppers, M1A1s, some rocket launchers or something, napalm. They aren't firing."
BEN: "Well, they can't just keep firing willy-nilly."
JESSE: "Sure they can. They did in Vietnam. Excess-shelling was in the book for Christ's sake. "In a house." This is like Waco."
BEN: "Liberation! Not occupation!"
BEN: "Hey, now there's quality commentary: 'It's crap!' "
JESSE: "Christ, they're talking about how wonderful the footage is again. They must have some sort of quota for that ... or its just a filler."
BEN: " 'Like a soccer match,' heh."
BEN: "Well, yeah, you can't just have dead air time."
JESSE: "I would have no problem with a full screen footage stream, with the national anthem playing in the background. If Iraqi TV is playing patriotic songs we should too! "
BEN: "You've got a point there."
JESSE: "Heh, speaking of Waco.. Maybe we can drive the Iraqis out with loud music. Maybe some Celine Dion."
BEN: "I blogged all niiiiiiiight ... "
BEN: "Where is the air support?"
JESSE: "Napalm. The smell of victory. Are the B-52s in Iraq yet?"
BEN: "They left from England when?"
JESSE: "Not sure."
BEN: "I don't know."
JESSE: "Something is burning."
BEN: "Boy, how nice of them to switch back to the actual live firefight."
JESSE: "The only way the coverage would be worse is if they had the Fox Morning Crew 'analyzing' the situation."
JESSE: "Well I'm going off-line. If anything crazy happens, pop in a VHS."
Willis Issues Retraction Kudos to Oliver Willis for issuing a retraction in relation to this post he wrote. I had issued my own response to that post, but I do want to say that I appreciate Mr Willis' retraction and the sentiments he expresses therein.
As we here in New Hampshire would say, "No trouble."
I haven't seen anything like this Umm Qasr firefight since I saw that footage of Srebrenica getting shelled back in the Nineties. This is just amazing footage. However, there's good news -- despite the firefight, it seems like we've all got our ducks in a row.
CNN "Stealing" War Coverage: Report Dude, SkyNews needs to get a logo on-screen quick. CNN is, um, borrowing their footage! (or, at the very least, being a bit sly in terms of reporting where it came from).
Jesus. OK, I'm sitting in my apartment in New Hampshire, watching as U.S. forces in Umm Qasr get in a firefight with Iraqi troops. Small-arms fire and tank movements are the order of the day. They're also firing missiles, apparently, although I haven't seen any. It's somewhat like that scene in Full Metal Jacket, when Sgt. Joker meets up with Sgt. Cowboy and his company and they're stuck in urban warfare.
High Crimes, and Misdeameanors It now appears that the incident at Camp Pennsylvania -- which, we note, caused more casualties than the entire Iraqi Army has managed to inflict thus far -- was reportedly caused by one of our own men. The soldier, whom Sky News reports is a Muslim, was shot in the leg immediately after he allegedly rolled three grenades into his officers' tents.
This has, naturally, caused great commotion in the blogosphere; but first let us look at the soldier suspected of attempting to kill his superiors. We know, thanks to the SkyNews report, that this soldier had "been acting 'weird' for days." We can thus postulate that said solider likely had some issues; whether they were due to mental imbalance or religious fervor we do not know. What we do know is that this soldier will now face a tribunal to ascertain his role in the matter. If he is found guilty, may God grant that justice is done quickly in this world so that he may face justice in the next. And if he is found guilty, then may God cast him down into Satan's maw, to suffer the worst tortures of the damned for ever and ever.
But so much for him. Let's look at how the blogosphere has thus reacted to this incident.
Quite frankly, I'm annoyed at both sides at this moment in time. On the right, we have certain parties suggesting that all Muslims are -- because of their faith -- of questionable loyalty to the United States; and on the left, we have other parties arguing that those on the 'other side of the aisle' are, to summarize, xenophobic. This is most unfortunate, and I don't know with whom I am more disappointed.
Our first party in question goes by the nom du blog of "Dixie Flatline." Let us examine his argument in depth, in addition to his response to Mr Willis, our second party. I have placed their remarks in italics, while mine are in plain text. First is Mr Flatline:
I'm angry right now, and I may regret these words. But, I think it is entirely reasonable for Americans to suspect the loyalty of American Muslims. There is substantial evidence that their allegiances lie not with their country, but with their god. When an American soldier, trusted, respected, takes three grenades and attempts to murder his leaders while they plan and execute a war to secure American interests, suspicion is justified.
Notice that Mr Flatine refers to a singular case of this happening. Yet he argues that this singular -- one, uno, ein -- case, out of a population of three million American Muslims, constitutes substantial evidence towards Muslims' supposed disloyalty. If a second case appears, perhaps Mr Flatline would call for building camps in the Arizona desert.
You can call me a bigot, or a racist, or an ignorant fool. But you can't call me wrong. Not when Muslim FBI agents refuse to follow orders, not when American soldiers of the Muslim faith attempt to execute their commanding officers during wartime.
Oh, I most certainly can call you wrong. Primarily, it's because I'm not willing to paint millions of American citizens as disloyal because of their faith, simply because a handful of their coreligionists do awful things. Of course, as a Roman Catholic, I know full well that my coreligionists were once routinely accused of disloyalty because their allegiance was falsely theorized to be with the Vatican, instead of with Washington. And, as such, I'm not willing to argue that those who adhere to a relatively decentralised faith have cast their allegiance to Mecca.
It would be foolish to say that there are no such people in this country, of course, but it would be as foolish to assume that they were only Muslim. There are Protestant fundamentalists who would like nothing more than to see Washington break, for instance. But their numbers are so small as to be truly insignificant, and no serious person would argue that such deluded wretches represent Protestantism as a whole. I would argue that things are the same with the Muslims in this great country; they have come here to do what immigrants have done for centuries -- live free, make a living, and worship God as they see fit.
Oliver Willis links to me and compares me, perhaps unsurprisingly, given the intellectual depth of the American left, to Osama bin Laden. I assume the Hitler comparison is mere minutes away. Perhaps Mr. Willis, when he is finished trotting out the same tired left-wing canards, will address the matter at hand—an American Army NCO, who just happens to be a Muslim, attempted to execute the command staff of the 101st Airborne Division, in the middle of a war.
You address the matter at hand. It's a unique case. Unique meaning different, unique meaning unusual, unique meaning one. What part of this do you not understand? As for the soldier, well, there's no question about what to do with him if and when his guilt is established. Execute and have done with it. But it is one thing to call for a traitor's just death and another to call for the explusion of Muslim Army personnel. That is what you want, right? I'm just reading between the lines here, but that's for what you seem to be calling.
One more thing. Mr. Willis titles his post referencing me "The Real Agenda," as if I have some racist, ulterior motive for pointing out that there is something disturbing about American soldiers, who happen to be Muslim, attempting to kill their commanding officers. With all due respect, sir, it is you who has an agenda--ignore any uncomfortable facts that disturb your tidy, pre-conceived worldview, attack your enemies with sly, ad hominem accusations of racism while not addressing the substance of their argument, and retreat, smug and self-satisfied, behind your rhetorical barricades, eyes blinded to 13 wounded Americans, some grievously hurt, at the hands of a despicable coward.
Well, that's the thing -- it was one American soldier. Not ten, or one hundred, or one thousand. One. Settle down, son. It is quite disturbing that this one soldier attempted to snuff out his superiors. But these things are not happening all across the theatre of operations. Hence, it is simplistic, disingenuous and quite-plainly-dumb to paint American Muslims with such a broad brush, and similarly foolish to claim that they are all simply waiting for the right time to perform similar acts.
But let's look at the other side of the equation. Now, Mr Willis makes what I think is a relatively reasonable argument in this short essay. The FBI's practice of questioning Iraqi citizens here in this country is a debate for another time, but on the whole I think that Mr Willis is generally in the right.
Unfortunately, Mr Willis pulls what I call a "Hal Holbrook" -- namely, he aims too high and he misses. If he had left his remarks at that, he would have won and held the high ground. He did not. In this post, he says as follows:
Maybe it is because so many of us in "blue" America actually interact with Arabs and Muslims beyond television caricatures, makes us realize how repellent the demonization cited here really is.
MORE: The posting over on the repellent Little Green Footballs is even worse.
"There is no middle ground with these Muslims, they are all to be suspected, even the ones in uniform."
"Would you like to share a foxhole with one of the "Fruits of Islam"? I would grow eyes on the back of my head..."
If this is how "red" America thinks, you can fucking have it to yourselves.
Why Mr Willis sees fit to slander the inhabitants of a good two-thirds of our great nation is beyond me, especially since he has spent considerable energy criticizing those who paint with a broad brush. It would have been judicious for him to merely criticize those who deserve criticizing.
Meanwhile, we have some good news. The four soldiers reported killed were ... not in fact killed. They were merely wounded. May they have a speedy recovery, and our thanks for their sacrifice.
Germany Threatens Pullout if Turks Enter Iraq This is all well and good, but I can imagine that OKH or whatever group runs Germany's military now will be most displeased to hear of the inevitable "logistical delays," and "processing snafus," and other problems that will occur when they actually give the order to remove their troops.
Today's Not-So-Bright Move The Jerusalem Post reports that Fatah, a part of the Palestinian Authority, has called for militants to strike US, UK, and Israeli targets. Attention militants: this is not how you go about getting your own statelet.
Australian Broadcasting Corp. Reporter Killed in No. Iraq MSNBC has the full report. Four others were also killed in the car bombing, which is being blamed on the al-Qaeda linked militant group Ansar al-Islam. (link via The Command Post)
The journalist's identity hasn't been released yet, but some over at The Command Post have asked this question: "Ever notice that when a journalist dies, it always gets reported before civilian casualties?" I don't know about jourmalists' deaths being reported before civilian casualties per se ... but I do think that one person who left a comment got it right. Gail Rampke writes:
"I have to say I understand this. When a journalist dies he/she is one of their 'own', and since journalists do the reporting I think it's understandable."
Every time a journalist dies it makes all the rest of us remember that there, but for the grace of God, go I ...
As for other war news, there's more fighting around Basra -- geez, first we liberate it, then we're still fighting -- and there are reports of new bombing around Baghdad. It's not about 10 pm there, so I think we'll see some more shockenawe soon.
General Tommy Franks Delivers Briefing * "Because of the courage and dedication of these heroes, the mission of Operation Iraqi Freedom will be achieved."
* Objectives: to end Saddam's regime; to isolate and destroy weapons of mass destruction; drive out terrorism; collect intelligence related to terrorism; collect intelligence related to trafficking of weapons of mass destruction; to provide humanitarian assistance to Iraq; to secure oil resources for Iraqi people; help Iraqi people make the switch to representative Government.
* So far Gen. Franks is pretty much giving a summary of what we already know; but it's interesting background and shows the mass amount of coordination used in our attacks thus far.
* They're panning out over the crowd. I have never seen this many reporters and cameras in one place ever.
* Brig. General Vincent Brooks reports that key oil platforms in the Gulf have been saved. "On these platforms, we found a variety of things. We found weapons, ammunition, and explosives." Anti-mining operations have made ports free to accept humanitiarian aid.
* "The good news is that only 9 out of 500 oil wells in the Ramallah (phonetic) oil field were sabotaged by the regime."
* Iraqi units abandoning their equipment, returning to their homes, Brooks said. Iraqi units are preparing to surrender even as he speaks; columns of troops are away from their vehicles, and awaiting coalition arrival.
* Millions of meals, medicines, and other products to be distributed to Iraqi people, Brooks said
* "Our forces are operating inside Iraq. We have operations ongoing in the north, in the west, in the south, and in and around Baghdad. Our troops are performing as we would expect: magnificently. And indeed, the outcome is not in doubt. There may well be tough days ahead, but forces on the field will achieve the objectives that have been set out by the Governments of this coalition."
-- Franks' closing statement.
* Q&A *
Franks' notable quotes:
"It is obvious that the regime continues to move around air defense assets as best it can to ensure survivability."
"I believe we should all be very confident that the application of force going into that country is designed to be so precise that it avoids in every way possible the exposure of non-combatants to it."
"What we have seen up to this point is that Iraqis are welcoming the forces that come in. Once again, this is about Iraq's liberation, not occupation."
"Why would you ask if we had to scramble?" (Ouch.)
"All of us who have served in different times and different places have certain feelings about the loss of a comrade. These are wonderful young people. My thoughts and prayers, and those of a great many nations, go out to their families."
"I have no idea where (Saddam) is right now. I'm sure we'll know more in the days ahead."
"Someone asked me some time ago what would happen if this regime used weapons of mass destruction. We'd win."
"The nature of war, which is why my own president said it's a last resort; a final option; is that noncombatants are injured and killed in a war. That's why this coalition goes to extraordinary lengths to be precise in their targeting. We have done that and will continue to do that. There is no assurance that this Operation, Operation Iraqi Freedom, ends in a number of hours or in a number of days."
"All in this room should remain convinced that what we say from this podium ... should be absolute truth as we know it."
"One doesn't know whether the regime has the ability to strike any neighboring country with missiles. We do know that two dozen Scud missile launchers remain unaccounted for since the days of the Gulf War."
"We did strike, last evening, a terrorist complex."
"There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction."
Greatest surprise -- that Franks received anniversary note from his wife, when he forgot to send her one. Other than that, however, there were no real surprises, Franks said.
Five-minute summary/analysis of Q&A session: Give NBC News' Kelly O'Donnell a gold star -- out of all the networks, she asked the best question, first about Basra and second, the potential of trouble with Turkish forces in the north. On the other hand, General Franks slapped ABC News' correspondent in the opening question -- which was great, it established his control of the conference. The man from CBS played it smart with a softball, which I thought was wise since he was second-in-line. CNN asked a good question about opposition from the regime, and Fox News asked a very reasonable question about weapons of mass destruction.
That said, the British reporters were foolish to be so "snarky," as Fox News put it, in their questioning. SkyNews, ITV, and the BBC were all that way. There's a difference between being pointed and being a smart-mouth. My disapproval isn't so much that it was snarky, although I think it's important to be polite. It's that, as we have seen, being snarky won't exactly encourage Franks to answer a reporter's question.
Signing Off for Now Well, we've appeared to hit the typical morning-in-Baghdad lull for now, so I'm going to head to sleep. I will return at mid-morning on Saturday. Meanwhile, read the dispatches below -- with musical interludes, occasional analysis, and other fun stuff. Yes, musical interludes. Really.
Times of London: Conscripts Kill Officers Surrendering Iraqi conscripts were forced to kill their officers after being put between the rock of American military power and the hard place of their officers' commands to go and fight.
Baghdad in a Few Days ... FNC reports that if all goes well, coalition forces will surround the Iraqi capital within a few days. However, officials warn against becoming overconfident. That said, there are also rumors that we killed Saddam Hussein, or at least severely wounded him. Iraq's military leadership are apparently cut off from communicating with their forces.
Whoa. I was just watching an Iraqi military video, in which top Iraqi officials were explaining the war situation on Iraqi television. Folks, you could hear the bombs falling above as the briefing was taking place.
FNC: Iraqis Surrendering In Force They're also trying to surrender to journalists. Echoes of the first war, folks, echoes of the first war. Heh. Iraqis are tearing down posters of Saddam -- with the help of the Marines.
M Chirac Needs a New "Plan B" French President Jacques Chirac has warned that his nation will attempt to keep the US and the UK from overseeing the reconstruction of Iraq, the Financial Times reports:
The FT writes:
Jacques Chirac, French president, on Friday ended the fragile truce at the European Union summit in Brussels with a strong attack on the "illegal" US-British attack on Iraq.
Mr Chirac signalled that France would campaign through the United Nations to keep any American or British involvement in the running of postwar Iraq to a minimum.
Just hours after Tony Blair, British prime minister, called for a new UN resolution on the reconstruction of Iraq, Mr Chirac said France would not accept a dominant US and British role in such efforts.
"France will not accept a resolution that would legitimise military intervention and give the US and British the powers of administration in Iraq," he said.
Mr Chirac, in his end-of-summit press conference, also toughened his rhetoric against the war allies, claiming their action "breached international legality". His words reflect a French determination that having failed to stop the war, it will attempt to set the terms of the peace through the UN.
Um. I wish I knew what exactly M Chirac was taking when he made these comments, because it'd be fun to be in a mental state so far removed from reality. Why, in the name of God, would M Chirac think that the United States or the United Kingdom would care one red cent what France -- or any of the other lame-duck P-5 powers -- think about Iraq's reconstruction? If France wanted to protect its commercial interests, it should have gotten on the right side of the debate the first time around. It didn't. That was a mistake. Now deal with it.
Iraqi TV Stations Still on Air That's the report from Salam Pax, who -- despite shock'n'awe -- is STILL managing to post out of Baghdad. I have to admit that I'm surprised at this. I mean, I thought we were supposed to attack places like power stations, and broadcasting facilities, and radio stations. Maybe this is part of our plan to walk into Baghdad as liberators and not conquerors.
"Chemical Ali" Killed Now, here's some very good news. The despicable Gen. Ali Hassan Majid, who gleefully murdered close to 100,000 Iraqi Kurds during the 1980s -- even going so far as to gas many of them -- was killed in the "decapitation strike" Wednesday night, ABC reports. The CIA also says that two other Iraqi leaders were snuffed out in the strike.
France Working on Saddam Exile Deal, Report Says I don't think any of us are surprised by this. ABC News has the whole story. Apparently the exile deal would let Saddam escape to ... wait for it ... Mauritania. Oooh. Mauritania. Something tells me it's not going to work.
Well, We Punched One Ticket to Hell, It Seems ... ... but whose? Fox News is reporting now that some Arab newspapers are reporting that we killed Qusay Hussein, Saddam's younger son, in our initial air strike. Qusay Hussein is even more of a bastard than his older brother Uday, whom other news reports say got waxed during that first strike.
This could be a moot point, of course -- we're a third of the way to Baghdad, although there are apparently some troubles near Basra. However, the Iraqi 51st Infantry Division has reportedly surrendered.
Signing Off -- But Only For a While It's morning in Baghdad, and it's warm in the city. However, this probably means that there will be no more news from the front for quite some time. And, quite frankly, I'm really rather tired and growing weary of the war. So without further ado, I'm signing off. I will probably be back late Friday night, with updates on the situation in Iraq. In the meantime, I encourage you to read what I've written below -- check it for some great commentary, primary sources, and other bloggers who are doing a much better job at warblogging than I am.
More War Info Check out Sgt Stryker's Daily Briefing for up-to-the-minute analysis of the ongoing conflict. It's a great way to get a new handle on what's happening, especially if you're sick of hearing the news networks fill in for hours between Actual News.
Fundamental Cluelessness Alert This L.A. Weekly column, which calls for celebrities to boycott the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, is a bit off. I won't bore you with all the details, but I do want to make one point. To do so, I shall quote liberally from this badly-argued editorial:
"What a wake-up call! Just one more reason why star activists should boycott this 75th Oscars. Kick the infotainment conglomerates and the companies who advertise with them where it will hurt the most: in the wallet. Big Media — because its moguls promote the war agenda of the Bush administration (whose FCC just happens to be deciding the fate of further media consolidation) while its on-air talking heads ridicule those actors who oppose the hawks. Corporate America — because Oscar sponsors like American Express, Anheuser-Busch, Charles Schwab, General Motors, J.C. Penney, MasterCard and PepsiCo exercise too much power over the kind of content going out to the public.
Yes, the advertisers will really be hurt if no one tunes in for the Oscars. Imagine, what would they do with all that free airtime the networks would be forced to provide them because the ratings for the show weren't up to par? Only the networks themselves would be hurt, which would inevitably flow downstream to ... you guessed it, the actors and the writers. I don't mean the big wheels, either; I mean the struggling fellows waiting tables at McCormack & Schmick's on Rodeo and hoping to get a call back on some doomed pilot. Corporate America exercises "too much power" over content because corporate America "pays for it." Just because the shows don't have names like the "Acme Variety Philharmonic Half-Hour" doesn't mean the basic economics have changed.
"Imagine an Academy Awards stripped of all glitz and glibness, that is nameless and faceless, that is muted and mute. Moviemakers could make their biggest statement by shocking everyone and not showing up, or stopping by and not saying anything at all. Think of the world tuning in to the sight of silence: a night of peace amid war. Think of all the fleeing viewers and lost moola."
I wish I could think of this, but I can't. It might put me in a good mood, and I can't have that at this time in the evening. It's a pity, on both economic and cultural grounds, that these Hollywood types don't seem to realize that their job out in public is to look sharp, thank Mom, sit down, stand up, and go home back to L.A.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled War coverage.
First Strike Great story from The Washington Post on our first strike against the Iraqi leadership. Interesting note: the man on TV last night was not Saddam Hussein, at least according to his ex-mistress.
UPDATE: Well, of course, it's a good story. Look at the bylines.
OLYMPIA -- A man spent hours chained to the wrong building Tuesday in an ill-planned effort to protest war with Iraq, police said.
Jody Mason padlocked himself to an entrance of the Washington State Grange building at 924 Capitol Way S., thinking it was a sub-office of the U.S. Department of Energy.
Go read the whole thing -- and look in awe at the photo -- in this story from The Olympian of Olympia, Wash.
An Economics Interlude Reuters has a story on gas prices not going up. I don't know why such a story was necessary, but here's the money graf:
The national average retail gasoline price on Thursday was holding around $1.71 a gallon, down slightly from the all-time high of $1.72 hit earlier this week, though some areas, including in California, were still above the psychological $2 mark, AAA said.
Now, hold on a minute. When the hell did $2 become the psychological mark? For me, it's $1.50. Any time gasoline is over $1.50 per gallon, it means that I can't fill up the tank for less than $20, which causes much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Buy on Rumor, Sell on News --
But We Might Have Gotten Uday Rumors travelling around the blogosphere have said that Uday Hussein, Saddam Hussein's eldest son and a right bastard on his very own, got seriously hurt -- or even waxed -- by our surgical strike on Wednesday evening. The alternative -- and apparently the official Iranian version of the story -- is that he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in a fight after issuing some orders, which means that he got attacked/killed by his own men.
H.D. Miller also makes the reasonable point that it would explain why Saddam looked rather shaken when he made his address to the Iraqi people. If, as Mr Miller notes, it actually was Saddam and not some evil doppelganger bodyguard.
Winding Down Well, no new news for quite some time now, and shock'n awe might not exactly happen. In any event, I want you all to know that I will not be blogging on Friday, which is my traditional day off. Work and blogging have meant the war has taken up nearly all of my waking hours, and I'm tired. But I will keep blogging tonight if any major news takes place.
FNC: REPUBLICAN GUARD, SPECIAL REPUBLICAN GUARD UNITS WANT TO SURRENDER Shep Smith also reports that one Presidential palace has been hit; other Government buildings, offices of Tariq Aziz, also destroyed via cruise missile attacks. There are also reports that U.S. forces have taken Basra.
Report: Iraq Fires Banned Missiles Kids, this story may be a sign that longer inspections probably weren't going to work. They're firing the missiles they said they didn't have, which would seem to indicate non-compliance, so on and so forth. But, hey. What do I know?
Baghdad Watch: Services Still On, But Iraqi TV No Help I can't for the life of me believe that Salam Pax is still up and able to blog. But he is. He reports: "All radio and TV stations are still on; and while the air raid began, the Iraqi TV was showing patriotic songs and didn't even bother to inform viewers that we are under attack."
That is All, for Now We'll return some time this evening for more live updates of the War. In the interim, read the posts down below -- you'll find some excellent primary sources, some great on-the-ground reporting and some excellent commentary from the homefront.
Say! Lileks restarted his Dr Strangelove image series, the one that mysteriously disappeared a while back. Today, it's Major Kong riding the atom bomb down to the target. It's a short Bleat today, but a good one, too -- some neat stuff on post-war church architecture. Oh, and of course, the war.
The one and only fun surprise tonight was hearing about the massive operation in Afghanistan. Geraldo appeared to be the only reporter with those troops, which is a special kind of entertainment. But man, what a double-smackdown. So we can't fight the "war on terror" while fighting the "war on Iraq," eh?
If I woke up to news that a bunch of special operations soldiers marched out of North Korea with Kim Jong Il's head on a stick, I guess I wouldn't be completely shocked.
Just as an aside -- I was talking with a journo I know out in central California last night, and I can't tell you how much I wanted to be on Pacific Time.
He's Back and In Action, Everybody So much for the Sparks Police Blotter -- Ken Layne is delivering up-to-the-minute commentary on the war. I don't know how he's able to do it ... but you'd expect the impossible from a former wire-services man.
FNC: Main highway between Jordan, Iraq bombed Harrigan reports that the highway was obliterated near Post 160, a refeueling station along the highway between Amman and Baghdad. "That post has been bombed, craters in the highway; that refueling station is gone."
Geraldo: Raid Carried Out, At Least Two Captured One thousand elite troopers from 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division attack three villages reportedly full of Taliban, al-Qaeda. Also, Sky News correspondent ordered off the roof in Baghdad where he had been reporting. Saddam speech still not on Iraqi TV.
US Army Launches Afghan Offensive 1000+ troops of 82nd Airborne Division in "series of offensive operations" south and east of Kandahar. Geraldo report delayed. Rumor has it that attack against al-Qaeda could also be attack against Usama Bin Laden or other high-ranking al-Qaeda officials.
Still No All-Clear Siren in Baghdad ... ... reports Salam Pax, the Blogosphere's Man in Baghdad. Salam also reports that three state broadcasters continue to operate; countering BBC report. However, FNC reports that Iraqi military frequencies have been overtaken; Iraqi TV broadcasts still controlled by the enemy.
Pax reports "distant explosions" from his vantage point in Baghdad. TV pool images showing anti-aircraft fire.
UPDATE: How in HELL is this guy still blogging?!
SECOND UPDATE: Electricity still on in Baghdad, BBC reports. Worldwide terror alert issued; artillery-fire on Iraqi-Kuwaiti border. Still no forward progress.
FNC: British "stunned" at attack No Pentagon briefings scheduled for this evening; shock-and-awe not expected yet; WH officially closes at midnight; Ari Fleischer gaggle scheduled for 945 AM EST tomorrow.
FNC: We May Have Hit Saddam Hussein Pre-"Shock and Awe" attack targeted one of five Iraqi leaders, FNC's Rita Cosby reports. One of those five may have been: Saddam Hussein, Uday Hussein, Qusay Hussein, and two of Saddam's brothers.
* Some folks, like my good friend Jacob in New York, and my good friend Sasha in Maine, have informed me that the war has started already. This is based on reports of a Kuwaiti-Iraqi naval conflict in the Persian Gulf that resulted in the death of one Iraqi combatant.
Personally, that doesn't count in my book, nor does the American-British smashing of Iraqi air installations which fired upon allied warplanes. That's not to say that they're not developments in the war; they are; but they are merely skirmishes leading up to the big event. And, as such, they are not deserving of the Large Banner Headline that we here at The Rant would signal the true start of the Second Gulf War.
"I think unleashing 3,000 smart bombs against the city of Baghdad in the first several days of the war . . . to me, if those were unleashed against the San Francisco Bay Area, I would call that an act of extreme terrorism," said Stark, a Democrat from Fremont.
But the White House was quick to respond, the San Francisco Chronicle noted:
"Others will judge them and decide whether or not they agree with them," spokeswoman Claire Buchan said.
* Speaking of California, a man has fallen to his death from the Golden Gate Bridge after attempting to hang an anti-war banner, police report.
* US warplanes are dropping surrender-leaflets throughout Iraq. Let's hope that the poor conscripts in the Iraqi Army take heed. Sure, at least 20 already have, but we have a lot more than 20 to worry about.
The Dome Light is Fixed! Just wanted to thank everyone for their assistance regarding the dome light on my Ford Taurus. I am pleased to announce that, with the aid of God and a petroleum product known as WD-40, that I was able to sufficiently con the Ford's higher-brain functions into realizing the driver's side door was, in fact, closed. This now paves the way for a successful state inspection of my automobile and praise from all who know me. The five individuals who left comments, plus those who e-mailed, were very helpful in this regard!