LEFT PERVERSITY I

“Unless Hussein … suddenly unzips his skin to reveal he is actually Bin Laden, we are likely to march to war with the support of an ‘international coalition’ that amounts to a fig leaf named Tony Blair and a motley collection of nations one can buy on EBay.” – Robert Scheer, the Nation. Italy? Spain? Poland? Ebay? Isn’t it amazing how quickly these alleged liberal internationalists turn into ugly and arrogant xenophobes as long as it can be used against Bush?

LEFT PERVERSITY II: “If and when US and British occupation forces march down Baghdad’s Rashid Street, we will doubtless be treated to footage of spontaneous celebrations and GIs being embraced as they hand out sweets. There will be no shortage of people keen to collaborate with the new power; relief among many Iraqis, not least because occupation will mean an end to the misery of sanctions; there will be revelations of atrocities and war crimes trials. All this will be used to justify what is about to take place. But a foreign invasion which is endorsed by only a small minority of Iraqis and which seems certain to lead to long-term occupation, loss of independence and effective foreign control of the country’s oil can scarcely be regarded as national liberation. It is also difficult to imagine the US accepting anything but the most “managed” democracy, given the kind of government genuine elections might well throw up.” – Seumas Milne, the Guardian, yesterday. Well, we’ll see, won’t we? But it’s interesting how some on the left are beginning to worry what the future portends.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES ON IRAQ

Rarely have we seen a more pathetic display of incoherence, shifting arguments, issue-avoidance and flim-flam than in the New York Times’ editorials on Iraq. I can see only one connective thread: naked partisanship. If everything were the same and this were a Democratic president, the Times would be gung-ho. At least that’s the unavoidable conclusion of their previous arguments. Instead, we have a series of editorials placing obstacle afater obstacle in the path of a serious attempt to disarm Saddam. Each time the administration’s policy accords with the Times (on the U.N. route, for example), the Times subsequently moves the goal-posts. Here’s my fisking of a recent, spectacularly incoherent editorial. I’m not the only one who has seen this. The New Republic’s latest editorial contains an icy blast at the shallowness of the Times’ reasoning. I’ve come reluctantly to believe that in the mindset of the Times editorialists, wounding this presidency has become a far greater objective than dealing honestly or consistently with issues of national security. In this, they incarnate the problem at the heart of many (but mercifully not all) of today’s Democrats.

LETTERS

“Meanwhile,GW was expected to become manager of the local K-Mart. Suddenly GW is not only President, but he really does become a great one, not in his own mind, but in the hearts and minds of a large majority of Americans.This is some sort of horrible alternate universe for the in-crowd. Why, the man is stupid! Too stupid to know how to lie! He’s religious! He doesn’t even cheat on his wife! How can this be? To the in-crowd, GW is an affront to their view of the world. Only his total failure will vindicate the in-crowd’s value system. Meanwhile, GW, the sweet guy who’s too decent to hate anyone, ignores the in-crowd and gets on with his job (“I’m a loving man, but I’ve got a job to do”). The joke is that the more the in-crowd hates him, the more they destroy themselves (they have ignored Dick Nixon’s advice). Will the New York Times ever be trusted again? Will Enron Paul be read by anyone? Will any of the current crop of Democrats amount to anything? Not in a lifetime…” Check out more reader response on the Letters Page.

IRAQ’S NUKES

Great to see Josh Marshall doing a blog interview. I should do more myself. Even better to see an interview with Kenneth Pollack, the man who’s done more work actually persuading people of the Saddamite threat than anyone. To my mind, here’s the key part, on whether Saddam has nukes or is moving toward nukes. I’ve been relieved to see a widespread skepticism about Baghdad’s nuclear capacity. But here’s Pollack:

But in 1994 we really thought the IAEA had eradicated their nuclear program. And the IAEA really thought that they’d eradicated their nuclear program. And they were telling us they’d eradicated their nuclear program. And Khidhir Hamza comes out and says ‘No, the nuclear program in 1994 was bigger than it had ever been before.’ In point of fact the Iraqis had found all kinds of ways to hide what they were doing. It introduced inefficiencies in what they were doing. For example, they talk about these short track cascades. Normally the cascade is enormous. The way we do it it’s three football fields long. That’s the most efficient way to do it. The Iraqis figured out ways to do short cascades, which didn’t require as much energy, which weren’t as big and therefore were much more easily concealed. They were more inefficient. They didn’t produce the enriched uranium nearly as well. But nevertheless they were able to do it.

Telling, no?

NEW EUROPE BACKS BUSH

Stunning article in the Times of London today. Eight leaders of European countries call for unity between Europe and America in dealing with Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. They are: Josxe9 Marxeda Aznar, of Spain, Josxe9 Manuel Durxe3o Barroso, of Portugal, Silvio Berlusconi, of Italy, Britain’s Tony Blair, Vxe1clav Havel, of the Czech Republic, Peter Medgyessy, of Hungary, Leszek Miller, of Poland, and Anders Fogh Rasmussen, of Denmark. Their average economic growth last year was more than twice that of France and Germany. And they see the real issues involved:

We in Europe have a relationship with the United States which has stood the test of time. Thanks in large part to American bravery, generosity and far-sightedness, Europe was set free from the two forms of tyranny that devastated our continent in the 20th century: Nazism and Communism. Thanks, too, to the continued cooperation between Europe and the United States we have managed to guarantee peace and freedom on our continent. The transatlantic relationship must not become a casualty of the current Iraqi regimex92s persistent attempts to threaten world security.

And they are in no illusions about what we have to do now:

The combination of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism is a threat of incalculable consequences. It is one at which all of us should feel concerned. Resolution 1441 is Saddam Husseinx92s last chance to disarm using peaceful means. The opportunity to avoid greater confrontation rests with him.

Let’s not get too huffy about Europe. Much of it is far closer to the U.S. position than the tired and increasingly narcissistic powers in Berlin and Paris. Schroder, remember, has brought his party to historic lows in the polls. Chirac is president mainly because he was the only alternative to fascism. The center of gravity in Europe is indeed shifting. And Washington’s clarity in the war on terror is one reason.

BLAIR’S LATEST: He’s usually not that comfortable in the House of Commons, but I loved the following exchange between Blair and a backbench heckler yesterday:

When a Labour MP shouted “Whox92s next?” at him, he retorted that after Iraq, “yes, through the UN we have to confront North Korea about its nuclear programme.” Another MP barked “Where does it stop?” bringing the response: “We stop when the threat to our country is fully and properly dealt with.”

A lion in winter.

REPORTING FROM LA-LA LAND: Each time I hear some reporter telling us what the average Iraqi on the street is thinking, I look for the obligatory context that the interviewee can only say pro-Saddam things or face being murdered. Yet so many times, especially on television, when a host asks a reporter in Baghdad on the “mood” there, we get the pretense that somehow freedom of thought is possible. The Washington Post’s latest is another classic:

At the Al-Zahawi teahouse in Baghdad’s old quarter, a ramshackle building where men gab over games of backgammon and dominoes, a trio of retired teachers who heard excerpts of Bush’s address this morning said they were unconvinced by his arguments. “He claims we have all of these weapons,” said Atta Ahmed, 65, a potbellied former math instructor. “Why doesn’t he show the evidence?”

C’mon. Let’s have some basic honesty here, can we?

THE FRENCH AND EMPIRE: This picture is worth framing.

TAPPER’S SCOOP

Reading Jake Tapper’s breezy and highly skeptical view of last night’s SOTU, I stopped in my tracks at the following item:

Bush was only repeating here what the Iraqis themselves have said, according to press reports. According to a Kuwaiti newspaper story from last summer, in a June 2002 meeting among Hussein, his two sons and other members of his inner circle of advisors, Ali Hasan al-Majid, a Saddam cousin who possesses a diabolical expertise in chemical warfare, asked “has the time not come to take the fight to their own homes in America? They wanted this to be a war on all fronts, so let it be a war on all fronts and using all weapons and means.” Another referred to Iraqis becoming “human bombs in the thousands, willing to blow up America in particular,” and yet another suggested that “If bin Laden truly did carry out the September attacks as they claim, then as Allah is my witness, we will prove to them that what happened in September is a picnic compared to the wrath of Saddam Hussein.”

Jeez. Which Kuwaiti Bob Woodward unearthed that anecdote? If true, why isn’t it common knowledge?

SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE

“Unelected in 2000, the Washington regime of George W Bush is now totalitarian, captured by a clique whose fanaticism and ambitions of “endless war” and “full spectrum dominance” are a matter of record. All the world knows their names: Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, Cheney and Perle, and Powell, the false liberal. Bush’s State of the Union speech last night was reminiscent of that other great moment in 1938 when Hitler called his generals together and told them: “I must have war.” He then had it.” – John Pilger, the Daily Mirror.