No Yoko: Kausfiles hears that, in the event, Yoko Ono did not turn up on the trip of N.Y. VIPs to Cuba (which has now taken place). ... Kausfiles gets results? Probably not. (I suspect it's more like 'Yoko has a brain.') But I will let you know more if I find out more. ... Update: I've now talked with Michael Holtzman of Brown Lloyd James, the outfit that put together what turned out to be a highly embarrassing "Executive Mission to Cuba." Holtzman says that Ono was "never on the trip" -- she was only extended a "notional invitation" by Cuba and wasn't ever a "confirmed participant" or even "scheduled to be" on the trip. Hmmm. Then why did people who were on the trip expect her to be on the trip as late as the night beforethe trip? .... Holtzman also says there was "no meeting scheduled ever" with Fidel Castro because meeting with Castro "wasn't what this trip was about." Then why am I staring at an itinerary from Brown Lloyd James (complete with color photo of the Hotel Nacional) that has been circulated fairly widely in New York by the trip's participants -- and that has this as the final entry for April 11:
7pm: Dinner at a Plantation (President Castro invited)
Holtzman admits that you don't ever nail down a meeting with Cuba's maximum leader much more tightly than that -- Castro doesn't RSVP and confirm his planned attendance at such events. He's Castro! He just decides to meet or to not meet. (In a later version of the itinerary, I'm told, the dinner with Fidel was switched to a lunch.) .. Upshot: Was I born yesterday? My guess is that meeting with Castro was indeed "what this trip was about," but the anticipated meeting was scotched because somebody, on one side or the other, got embarrassed (or outraged). Kausfiles (and, more importantly, the WSJ) may have gotten some results after all. .... 5:20 P.M.
Loot, loot, loot for the home team: WaPo's Anthony Shadid describes how Shiite clerics are moving to fill the void left by U.S. forces' failure to establish order in the wake of their ouster of Saddam Hussein. Maybe this sponataneous governance is what Donald Rumsfeld has in mind when he talks about Iraqis deciding for themselves how they want to be governed -- and I'm not being snide. There's nothing inherent in government-by-imam that would necessarily produce terrorism or otherwise be horribly inimical to U.S. interests, and it has the virtue of being home-grown rather than imposed by us. But a) power in this situation goes at least in part to the men with the guns; b) remember the Taliban? c) wasn't there some fancy theory about how separation of church and state was the key to modernization? -- and d) the following comments by one of the warlord/clerics should at least temper any hawkish triumphalism that would have Americans being actively embraced by Iraq's oppressed Shiites:
"The Americans asked to talk to me, but I refused," [Sayyid Sadeq] Aalaq said, sitting in an office at the mosque. Overhead was a portrait of Ali, the prophet Muhammad's son-in-law whom Shiites believe was his rightful heir. "If I met with them, my popularity would collapse."
P.S.: The most interesting thing I've heard about our failure to prevent a period of anarchy and looting after Saddam's fall was WaPo reporter Dana Priest's suggestion, on Washington Week in Review, that the failure wasn't simply the consequence of having too few troops in Iraq. Rather, Priest said, the failure was intentional-- that Washington anticipated and wanted a period of anarchy in which local Iraqis would kill Saddam loyalists without us having to take responsibility for it. But is that what happened? My impression is that the looting, especially of the National Museum of Antiquities, has badly (and rightly) damaged our reputation. But I haven't heard about lots of Baath party thugs being strung up. Maybe we're just not being told about it. Or maybe the post-Saddam anarchy was a screw-up after all -- just a different kind of screw-up. ...
P.P.S.: Yes, this is the first time in my adult life that I can remember actually hearing something suprising, interesting, and important on Washington Week. Note to WETA: See that this doesn't happen again. ...
Update: In WaPo, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith denies vigilantism is "something we want to happen," but Bush defense adviser Richard Perle doesn't seem too unhappy about it. Jonathan Weisman's story reports:
Months before the invasion of Iraq, Pentagon war planners anticipated the fall of Saddam Hussein would usher in a period of chaos and lawlessness, but for military reasons, they chose to field a light, fleet invasion force that could not hope to quell such unrest when it emerged, Pentagon officials said yesterday.
In other words, If Rumsfeld is going to take credit for the military success of his decision to go in "light," he also has to take criticism for the civic downside of that decision -- the current period of semi-anarchy. Which might explain why he's been somewhat testy on the subject. ... 2:19 A.M.
It's Not Our Fault! Was Fidel Castro's clampdown provoked by American envoy James Cason's anti-Castro activities (as the Hollywood lefties seem to believe)? Ann Louise Bardach, who broke the story of the ill-timed Yoko Ono-led pilgrimage to Havana, has another theory: Castro's cracking down because Miami's Cubans were suddenly getting more reasonable.
However, while Washington has hardened its views, Cuban exile groups in Florida have moderated theirs. According to several recent polls, a majority of Cuban exiles in South Florida now say they favor negotiations with Havana. The most influential exile group, the Cuban American National Foundation, is for the first time advocating a more pragmatic policy of limited engagement.
This created the real possibility that the embargo against Cuba might be lifted or relaxed, which is what really seems to terrify Castro. Bardach details how Castro has derailed all previous efforts at greater interaction between the two countries. ... P.S.: Isn't it annoying when people (on the left and in the center) euphemistically describe the potential opening of Cuba as a "dialogue." The idea isn't to have a dialogue! It's to end dictatorship in Cuba by swamping Castro with American goods, American culture, and an opening wedge of capitalist freedom. Unfortunately, Castro seems to be smart enough to realize this. ... 12:28 A.M.
Sunday, April 13, 2003
Sunday, April 13, 2003
Post Remains Silent! Still no mention of Castro's clampdown in Rupert Murdoch's flagship U.S. paper, the NY Post. ... [How about Murdoch's London Times?--ed. Two stories, one with the lede (the arrests of dissidents) buried. The NYT, in contrast, has run 11 stories. Is this evidence of a Murdochian be-nice-to-Fidel conspiracy? We report, you decide!] 11:44 P.M.
The Dark Side of the Feiler Faster Thesis(which holds that the faster news cycle enables faster political cycles): 1) The press already seems ready for the next war, with Syria -- Iraq's been processed. 'Don't make us re-embed!' 2) Remember all the fuss about whether the government would have the guts to admit that the July 4 lone-gunman attack on an El Al counter was a terrorist incident? It turns out the F.B.I. has (sensibly) ruled that it was terrorism. But here's the kicker:
The FBI findings were made several months ago and were recently approved by the Justice Department. McLaughlin said his office was told not to issue a press release but was given permission to confirm the decision if asked.
In other words, the reason the news is only coming out now instead of months ago is that nobody in the media bothered to ask! It had been a huge story, with saturation coverage ... but soon it was old news, and the press was on to the next huge story. ... Publicists take note: Want to bury something bad? You don't need a war to hide behind. Just announce an investigation, and if you're lucky, you won't even have to endure a one day story when the investigation's conclusions come back. Nobody will ask! ... Maybe O.J.'s actually found the real killer! Someone check! ... 10:49 P.M.
Friday, April 11, 2003
Friday, April 11, 2003
Always bury bad news on Friday: .... Castro has celebrated the arrival of Yoko Ono and N.Y. media bigs by starting to execute people after quick trials. ... The condemned were hijackers of ferry boats who were trying to get to the U.S., not mere dissidents. Still ... Nobody was hurt in the attempted hijacking. ... If these people were executed in the U.S. after such rudimentary procedures-- the hijacking was only nine days ago! -- Steve Earle would be writing heartbreaking songs about them. (And don't the French march in the streets when those ugly Americans talk about executing convicted murderers after years of appeals?) ... For a defense of the hijackers by a relative, see this Miami Herald story. ... Hope Yoko and Company have a nice meal at Fidel's plantation! Don't spoil dessert by mentioning any of this unpleasant business! ... P.S.: Maybe it's a plea for attention -- Castro's just desperately trying to get some coverage for his repression in the allegedly right-wing New York Post! But I guess only the New York Times cares about the fight against Communism any more! Rupert Murdoch's Post has moved on. ... 5:10 P.M.
Gearbox is back. ... 3:58 A.M.
Keeping events in perspective:
"Mortgage rates up as Baghdad falls" -- headline on CNNMoney site.
Fiesta Stalinista II: Andrew Breitbart joins Lucianne in slamming the ill-timed pilgrimage of Yoko Ono and N.Y. media types to Havana to meet Fidel Castro. ... Breitbart can't quite figure out just why all these showbiz celebrities love to visit Castro so much. His leading explanation seems to be that they're idiots. This is not an implausible theory. Breitbart quotes a Spielberg adviser who seems to believe Fidel 's clampdown is excused because it had been "provoked" by our ambassador, James Cason. But Cason did 'provocative' things like meeting with dissidents in their homes, and holding press conferences. How does that make Castro any less repressive? ... Meanwhile, over in the Washington Monthly, Damien Cave beats his gums for several pages and can't quite explain the fascination with Castro either -- except to report that, contrary to kausfiles' earlier assumption, Castro doesn't harangue his dinner guests but is, rather, a good listener! Well, alright then! ... Is that really the reason? Kausfiles' still-favorite explanation: It's the 'ho's! Plus the unspoiled-by-commercialism tattered beauty of Havana, of course. ... P.S.: Maybe, on the way to Castro's plantation, the Yoko Posse could stop by for tea with Marta Beatriz Roque, an economist whose persecution is described in this Jeff Jacoby column. Roque was just sentenced to 20 years in prison. ... Jacoby segues from his moving account of Roque into a save-get-key rant in favor of the Cuban embargo, which has been in place for decades and not stopped Castro. (In fact, I'm told Roque and her fellow imprisoned democrats oppose the embargo.) ... Oh yes, I almost forgot: Jacoby ends with a call to attack Cuba with "force, if necessary." Now why would Castro think we might do something like that? Why not try drowning him in a tidal wave of cheesy American culture first? ... P.P.S.:Lucianne has slammed the Yoko Ono visit to Cuba. The WSJ has now slammed the Yoko Ono visit to Cuba. Where's the NY Post? The story is a natural for them -- imagine if Susan Sarandon had made the trip! Even curiouser, a NEXIS search of recent Post issues reveals precious little coverage of Castro's huge crackdown, period. Mickey's Assignment Desk: Is Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. owns the Post, sucking up to Castro for some reason? Is he angling for the Havana TV franchise? Is there some other hidden explanation? This is a job for the Daily News! ... 1:02 A.M.
This Eason Jordan piece is pretty amazing, and suggests that what some conservative friends have been telling me may turn out to be true -- that the human rights case for ousting Saddam could turn out to be strong enough to compensate even for a U.S. failure to find WMD. ... Mickey's Assignment Desk #1: Should there be a "gross violation of human rights" exception to the generally-accepted ban on trans-border aggression, in addition to a "genocide" exception? Over to you, Samantha Power! ... Mickey's Assignment Desk #2: Should Jordan really have withheld the news that Uday Hussein intended to kill his brothers-in-law, two of the most valuable defectors we had? Jordan did it to save the life of an Iraqi translator, whom he was convinced Uday would kill if he went with the story. On the other hand, Jordan doesn't seem to have warned the brothers-in-law, who subsequently were killed. ... Did Jordan pass the news on to the U.S. government? That might have lent some substance to Saddam's otherwise seemingly delusional claim that Jordan was really a spy for the U.S. -- but the way out of that dilemma, for Jordan, was to publish. Take it away, Jack Shafer! ... More on the Jordanian crisis: Jonah Goldberg, New Republic(check also the last graf of this Franklin Foer piece). and James Glassman (another good last graf). Glenn Reynolds promises something here, but it's already been, like, 15 minutes ... 12:25 A.M.
Has Jo Moore moved to Florida? ... 11:58 A.M.
Gen. McCaffrey, call your office: The "troop strength" debate isn't quite over! ...
The US does not have enough troops on the ground in Baghdad to maintain order, BBC correspondents in the city say. -- BBC News.
More: From Slate's "Today's Papers":
Basra also appears to getting a bit Mad Max-ian. "We have no medicine, no hospitals, no police," one resident told the LAT. The Wall Street Journal describes "gangland"-type violence. One worker at a maternity hospital recounted how he was shot as armed men came to steal the hospital's electricity generator. As the NYT mentions, the Red Cross, citing a lack of security, suspended its operations across Iraq yesterday.
Wednesday, April 9, 2003 Who screwed over Amy Smithson? A juicy NYT Editor's Notereveals that key remarks attributed to chem-weapons expert Smithson were not only given "on the condition that she would not be quoted by name" -- a condition the NYT apparently violated -- they were "paraphrases of a remark Ms. Smithson made" in an email on condition that she not be quoted by name. [Emphasis added.] In other words, she never said or emailed those words at all! ... The byline on the story in questionwas "Judith Miller with Douglas Jehl." ... Obvious solution they missed: Why not just take out the quotes and attribute it to an "old Kennedy hand"? Then it will read like a Johnny Apple story! ... 2:48 A.M.
Wednesday, April 9, 2003
Who screwed over Amy Smithson? A juicy NYT Editor's Notereveals that key remarks attributed to chem-weapons expert Smithson were not only given "on the condition that she would not be quoted by name" -- a condition the NYT apparently violated -- they were "paraphrases of a remark Ms. Smithson made" in an email on condition that she not be quoted by name. [Emphasis added.] In other words, she never said or emailed those words at all! ... The byline on the story in questionwas "Judith Miller with Douglas Jehl." ... Obvious solution they missed: Why not just take out the quotes and attribute it to an "old Kennedy hand"? Then it will read like a Johnny Apple story! ... 2:48 A.M.
Tuesday, April 8, 2003
Tuesday, April 8, 2003
La Fiesta de la Gulag: Why are a group of high-powered "New York-based VIPs" -- as reported in A.L. Bardach's Newsweek International "Global Buzz" column -- joining Yoko Ono in traveling to Cuba to meet with Fidel Castroin the middle of Castro's repressive campaign to throw scores of dissidents in prison? ... It's one thing to go to visit Cuba. It's another to go now, when Castro will use the publicity as cover for his anti-democracy drive. It's especially ironic that press and publishing executives are paying an apparent premium to meet with a man who is busy jailing journalists and writers for being journalists and writers. (The trip's cost, -- a reported $6,500 per person -- is inexplicable, unless you consider that Ono's presence guarantees an audience with Fidel.) ... P.S. Does it matter that the trip was scheduled before Castro's crackdown? No. It can be cancelled. It's as if the Lennonist junketeers were determined to prove Richard Cohen right. ... P.P.S.: Why do so many U.S. big shots like go to Cuba anyway? It can't be that much fun to hear Castro pontificate for hours. I'm reliably informed by multiple sources that one potential lure for some (not all!) is ... well, let's just say the prostitution scene is reportedly a shopper's paradise. That motive emphatically does not apply to the current Yoko Ono trip, which seems to be a short businesslike visit. So what's their excuse? ... ... Mickey's Asignment Desk: Some good could still come of the trip if those on it can be shamed into either speaking out against Castro's clampdown or meeting with some of the beleaguered dissidents. Where's the N.Y. Post when you need it? ... 10:53 P.M.
"They Got the Memo": Am I the only one troubled by the rules of engagement that apparently permit the following report, from the NYT:
An Associated Press reporter, Ellen Knickmeyer, traveling with the marines, said civilians approaching their positions were given two, sometimes three or four warning shots. But in one instance, she said an old man with a cane approaching Marine gunners appeared disoriented, and when he continued forward, he was killed.
"They shouldn't be out — they got the memo," she quoted a Marine rifleman as saying, apparently referring to warnings to Iraqi civilians.
Yes, these rules of engagement are completely rational -- there have been deadly suicide attacks, including one by a pregnant woman, and Saddam's side has called for more of them. If a seemingly disoriented old man can really be a Mob boss, he can presumably be a suicide bomber. The U.S. did drop leaflets telling Iraqi to stay in their homes, and if they're out on the street, well ...
But rules of engagement that make sense in narrow, self-protective terms can still be insane in larger, what-are-we-doing-here terms. Follow the "we gave them notice" slope down to the bottom and you wind up sending Lt. Bob Kerrey to a small village in Vietnam that's been declared a "free fire zone," where (in Kerrey's words) "standard operating procedure was to dispose of the people we made contact with." That made sense too -- it only took one old man to warn the Viet Cong, after all. But it was insane in terms of winning popular support for our side. ...
Michael Gordon picks up on this point, and suggests the British did it better in Basra:
Also, once they achieved control, [the British] dispensed with body armor. That marked an important philosophical difference with the Americans, who have emphasized the maximum amount of force protection. The British are not trying to tell the Americans how to go about their fights, but in Basra the British did it their way.
The British approach, Gordon notes, requires considerable bravery, since it doesn't involve the precautionary measure of killing anything that might be a threat.
"It is important in Arab culture not to show fear," [British Major] General [Albert E.]Whitley said.
Yes, Basra is not Baghdad. Baghdad is bigger; Baghdad where all the bad guys went after Basra to make their last stand. The clock is ticking on the taking of Baghdad in a way it wasn't ticking in Basra. And the British aren't targets the way Americans are targets. Still ... Maybe the Americans will adopt a more British approach if things calm down. ... P.S.: This WaPo account, a great piece of war reporting, also mentions the aggressive U.S. rules:
"Be advised, the suicide bombers are out," Johnson told his troops on the radio.
"We've got enemies coming from the north!" shouted one platoon leader.
"Engage and destroy," Johnson ordered.
From then on, any vehicle that approached from the north was considered fair game. Several civilian vehicles were blasted with 25mm high-explosive rounds and machine-gun fire, their passengers assumed to be hostile.
Update:WaPo's Loeb and Ricks ventilate the debate on aggressive U.S. tactics, although not these particular rules of engagement. ... 10:08 P.M.
Monday, April 7, 2003
The post-Saddam era ... isn't that when, led by idealistic hawks such as Paul Wolfowitz, the U.S. is supposed to achieve a Mideast peace by pressuring both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, including pressuring Israel on ithe settlement issue? This story -- assuming it's true (it's in The Guardian) -- doesn't seem an auspicious sign. ... Has Ariel Sharon been getting advice from Jo Moore? ... 10:28 A.M.
Andrew Sullivan prints a good pro-Army email making the case against Rumsfeld on the troop dilution issue. It seems to have reduced Sullivan himself to a state of ambivalence ("I have a feeling this debate is going to go on fo [sic] quite some time") from his earlier, more typical position of instantaneous sneering certitude ("I guess the anti-neo-cons have got to grasp at something"). Maybe he'll give himself one of his awards. ... 2:00 A.M.
'How was it out there?': NBC's Dr. Bob Arnot has always seemed a sensible fellow. But at the moment -- 1:20 A.M., PST -- he's in central Baghdad sticking his microphone in the face of a Marine officer trying to take out an Iraqi armored personnel carrier, as if the commander were an Indy 500 driver on a pit stop. Isn't this behavior kind of annoying to the Marines trying to do their jobs in hostile territory? ... (The last embedded reporter I saw who seemed slightly out of control like this was in fact soon kicked out of his unit by the commanding officer.) ... 1:32 A.M.
Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--Escapee from American Prospect. Salon--Better click fast! Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! Washington Monthly--Includes "Tilting at Windmills" Lucianne.com--Stirs the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. The Liberal Death Star--Registration required. NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare! Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog. Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko's MediaNews--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. Overlawyered.com--Daily horror stories. Eugene Volokh --Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna--A hybrid vehicle. Tom Paine.com--Web-lib populists. B-Log--Blog of spirituality! Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk.