Beeb in my bonnet.

A mostly political Weblog.
March 24 2003 7:07 AM

Beeb in My Bonnet

Plus: MSNBC sacked.

Here's a blog with lots of useful insider detail on why that U.S. convoy might have gotten ambushed. ... When I worked at the Washington Monthly in the early 1980s, we were ecstatic when we somehow acquired insider pieces like this. Now they pop up for free in real time! ... 10:58 A.M.

By focusing on the conservative proponents of pre-emption through Iraqi regime change (e.g., Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Kristol, Perle), instead of the conservative proponents of remaking the Middle East through Iraqi regime change (e.g., Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Kristol, Perle), the NYT's  Steven Weisman gets a twofer. 1) He doesn't look like he's been beaten by the WSJ's equally good piece of two days earlier, which emphasized the "remaking Mid-East" basis for the current war; 2) He gets to duck the touchy issue of Israel, and Perle's idea that replacing Saddam Hussein might (in the WSJ's words)

secure Israel's 'streets and borders' by forcing significant change in the Arab world.

How can you talk about one strand of the argument for the current war without talking about the other? The WSJ 's Greenberger and Leggett at least mention both. ...After reading David Frum's The Right Man, though, I'm skeptical of the WSJ's assertion that, as far as Bush himself goes, a concern with ousting Saddam is a post-9/11 phenomenon -- that when he took office, the president "didn't devote much thought to regime change in Iraq." This is not what Bush ex-speechwriter Frum says. Frum recalls that, at his first Oval Office meeting with Bush a few weeks after the latter took office, Bush discussed

his determination to dig Saddam Hussein out of power in Iraq.

And Frum was taking notes. So the Iraq hawks had gotten to Bush well before 9/11. (That's presumably why he gave them jobs in his administration!) ... 3:47 A.M.

Jo Moore Nominee: Blogger Brian Linse's nominee for the Jo Moore prize (for a significant story buried by the Iraq invasion news) is the NAACP's anti-gun lawsuit, which claims gun "manufacturers and distributors have long known how guns reached criminals but permitted illegal sales to continue" -- as the NYT put it on page A-35. Linse makes the trial -- expected to feature the testimony of a gun-company turncoat -- seem less crazy than it initially sounds, and a way bigger story (absent the war) than page A-35. ... Note: This isn't a case where a publicist or public affairs officer has intentionally buried a story under the war. But it's still a story that got buried. ... Links: Walter Olson  on why it's a wacky suit, and why it's happening in Brooklyn. But just because it's wacky doesn't mean there's not news there. Dog sues man! ... 3:45 A.M.

The Beeb's Needs: Some American soldiers have now been killed and captured in Iraq. Journalists can react as WaPo's Tom Ricks does, with a sensible analysis that doesn't dwell on the few casualties, but does note the now-apparent risks of the U.S. military strategy: long supply lines, restrictive rules of combat, little pre-invasion bombardment, and what seems to be an overoptimistic reliance on psycholgical warfare -- all based on "the premise that the senior Iraqi leadership, not the military, is the enemy." ...

Or you can take the line of the BBC broadcast I heard -- how this a) had to be a serious blow to U.S. troop morale and public support for the war and b) how if that wasn't true it was because Americans were out for bloody vengeance after 9/11. Both the charge (a) and the rebuttal (b) seem highly questionable to me. Isn't it more likely that the televised humiliation of prisoners will motivate U.S. soldiers (and voters) by making them ... well, very angry and determined? And if a handful of casualties doesn't cause American public will to crumble, is it because of some crude, vengeful bloodlust or a more sensible perspective on individual casualties after the mass casualties of 9/11 - as well as the realization that the outcry after the loss of 17 soldiers in Somalia was perceived as weakness by al Qaeda, among others. ... P.S. The Iraqi "Somalia" strategy may be effective in one respect -- if it angers our soldiers so much that they become less reluctant to take Iraqi lives, undermining the risky, but probably wise, don't-kill-many-Iraqis approach Ricks describes. ... P.P.S.: A Brit friend had emailed on Friday to defend the BBC, and I was going to write that maybe I'd overreacted. (The radio newscast I heard Friday night wasn't as bad). But now I'm back with Sullivan and his readers. ... 1:39 A.M.

Sunday, March 23, 2003