Friday, November 12, 2004

A Little Respect for the Dead Please

When somebody dies, it is common courtesy to wait for a respectable period before badmouthing them, to give those who mourn a chance to grieve in peace. Now I'll admit it very well may be that period has passed in the case of Yasser Arafat (who probably died more than a week ago, not yesterday). But still I think that a reasonable period of respectful silence is in order. That is why I agree with President Bush's first reaction to Arafat's death, "God bless his soul." I think his later comments were also appropriate.
The death of Yasser Arafat is a significant moment in Palestinian history. We express our condolences to the Palestinian people. For the Palestinian people, we hope that the future will bring peace and the fulfillment of their aspirations for an independent, democratic Palestine that is at peace with its neighbors. During the period of transition that is ahead, we urge all in the region and throughout the world to join in helping make progress toward these goals and toward the ultimate goal of peace.
I think that some of the gushing that is going on out there carries it a bit too far however. Jimmie Carter's piece in the New York Times (reg. req.) goes overboard, especially in assigning all of the blame for recent terrorist attacks on Hamas when a significant amount of it has come from PLO factions.

But I really don't agree with this reaction at Little Green Footballs. I guess this article pretty much sums up what I don't like about LGF. Criticism is one thing but sometimes Charles (the proprietor) and regularly LGF commentators cross over the line into mean spirited inflammatory and even hateful rhetoric. It's too bad because other wise the site is a source of insightful commentary on Israel and the Middle East that you don't get very many other places.

Q&A on Iraq

An old friend of mine who frequently disagrees with me politically sent these questions on the Iraq war. I have answered them here to help explain where I stand.

1. who exactly are we fighting in iraq and why?

A lot of factions: Foreign Islamist terrorists; A radical Shia Sheik and his followers; Baathist holdouts and Fedayeen created entirely for this purpose. We're fighting them because before we leave we need to help the Iraqis establish a democracy and those factions will do anything to stop that.

2. is this consistent with the intial reasons we were told as to why we had no choice to go in unilaterally i.e. WMD's ?

WMD's was the most often stated reason for going in, but there were many others. Bush told us that Sadaam was a tyrant and a menace to his people and the region, that he supported terrorists and that a functioning democracy in Iraq would serve as a model for others in the region.

I believe that Sadaam was a tyrant and a menace to his people and the region, and we have removed him. We have gotten rid of one of the major state sponsors of terrorism. We are fighting now because 1) We can't just leave the country in the mess it is today. 2) If we are able to help nourish that democracy to fruition then it will have a positive impact on the rest of the region. Fighting against Sadaam at first and now the terrorists is perfectly in line with our goals.

3. where is this going, to what end, and is it worth the cost?

I'd be happy if 10 years from now Iraq is a reasonably stable democracy and they don't absolutely hate our guts. I don't expect any gratitude. Look at Germany and France. They can barely stand us. As far as whether it will be worth the cost, I don't know. I'm not very good at that kind of cost benefit analysis. I do believe that 100 years from now if the Middle East is peaceful prosperous and contributing their fair share to humanity, this war will be seen as the turning point. I hope that it is.

4. is this consistent with true conservative american ideals?

American, yes. Conservative, no. Remember, it was the conservatives and their real politiks that got us into this mess right? I mean if we hadn't supported fascist dictators like Sadaam all of the Middle East would be a virtual paradise by now anyway right? Spreading freedom and democracy, fighting fascism, those used to be progressive, dare I say it... liberal ideals. What happened?

5. how does it benefit us short and long term apart from allowing us to continue to use oil recklessly?

Short term, I think that this has helped to pull the rug out from under Arafat. Many people understate what a fantastic supporter Sadaam was of Palestinian terrorism. Getting rid of Sadaam was good for our policy towards Israel. Long term, I already stated. This war is going to change the flow of history in the Middle East. I hope it changes it for the better. But I do know that it is going to look bad for a long time before it gets better.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Those Ignorant Republicans (Part 1)

Those on the left have been loudly decrying Bush's supporters as ignorant. They even claim that the divide in America is not based on liberal vs. conservative or left vs. right but "reality based" vs. "not reality based". Reality based, a phrase that has taken on truly Orwellian dimensions.

One of the main pieces of evidence cited as proof that Bush supporters are not reality based is the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) survey decrying "The Separate Realities of Bush and Kerry Supporters". Over the next few days I'm going to examine some of the results of this survey and offer my opinions as to which answers best reflect reality.

The first survey question I want to tackle is:

Q13.Is it your belief that, just before the war, Iraq.[ARO]

Had actual weapons of
mass destruction 27%
Bush supporters 47
Kerry supporters 8
Had no weapons of mass destruction
but had a major program for
developing them 22
Bush supporters 25
Kerry supporters 18
Had some limited activities that
could be used to help develop weapons
of mass destruction, but not an active
program 37
Bush supporters 25
Kerry supporters 51
Did not have any activities related
to weapons of mass destruction 12
Bush supporters 2
Kerry supporters 22
(No answer) 2

Well, what is the best answer?

For the moment, let's ignore the fact that they have already found WMD in Iraq.

So pretending that never happened, what possible evidence could we have that Iraq had WMD prior to the war? Well, there's the undisputed fact that they had WMD in 1991. Then there's the fact that they were supposed to get rid of those WMDs and document it (according to about a dozen UN resolutions). Finally there is no documentation that they destroyed all of the WMDs they possessed in 1991. So given all of these facts, the inescapable logic apparently goes (1) they had the WMDs in 1991. (2) We have no idea what happened to them. (3) We have not found them in Iraq. Therefore (4) they must not have existed.


Now it would have been one thing if the question had asked "Have we found WMDs?" Yet another if it would have asked "Is there strong evidence that they were there prior to the war?" But the question is simply "Is it your belief that..."

Given that many on the left are using this survey to paint the republicans as clueless you would think that they would be able to prove that they are right. But where is the proof that Iraq did not have WMD before the war? Is there any proof of this at all? The fact is, we don't know. The WMD are probably not there now. But is it so hard to imagine that they could have been hidden, moved to another country or destroyed in the months leading up to the war? Is that so inconceivable that anyone who could possibly believe it should be tarred with the epithet "not reality based"?

Consider the results of another question from the same survey:
Q38. As you may know, Charles Duelfer, the chief weapons inspector

selected by the Bush administration to investigate whether Iraq had
weapons of mass destruction, has just presented his final report to
Congress. Is it your impression he concluded that, just before the
war, Iraq…
Only 19% of Bush supporters said that Duelfer had concluded that Iraq indeed had WMD. So contrary to the accusations, most of the Bush supporters interviewed seem to know exactly what the facts are. However, they are not willing to say that simply because we have not found any... sorry... many weapons of mass destruction in Iraq means that they could not have existed before the war.

The facts are these. They existed in 1991. After 12 years of UN inspections we have no idea where they are today. To conclude otherwise is pure speculation on either part. The "reality based" community wants you to believe that the only speculation you should believe is theirs, because they say it is so.

Sorry, but I remain unconvinced.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

From Little Green Footballs, this post links to a Guardian article. In it we find the following:
Because, while the Democrat supporters had right on their side, the Republican supporters were far, far better at fighting dirty. Conservative mega-sites such as galvanised their hundreds of thousands of visitors into an army of amateur attack dogs - ready to yap and snap the moment a foolish journalist wrote anything bad about Bush. Woe betide any TV reporter who didn't check his facts properly before claiming that George W didn't finish his national guard service.
Oh the injustice of being a Guardian reporter. Thousand of people reading your work, expecting all of the facts to be checked properly. And then they have the audacity to point it out if you get something wrong. Will the horrors never cease?

Look, denial of service attacks are fighting dirty. Rigging online opinion polls (something the Freepers do sometimes do) would be fighting dirty if anyone took these things seriously. But debate, response and criticism are not fighting dirty. Sometimes I get the impression that the left would be much happier if those mean Republicans stopped reading their newspapers and left them to themselves.

Monday, November 08, 2004

I saw a link on Instapundit to Bob Herbert's New York Times column on Republican ignorance. It doesn't look like the left is going to give up on this meme any time soon. Reading Herbert's piece, I have to admit I am a little bit confused. He refers to the PIPA survey:
A recent survey by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland found that nearly 70 percent of President Bush's supporters believe the U.S. has come up with "clear evidence" that Saddam Hussein was working closely with Al Qaeda. A third of the president's supporters believe weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. And more than a third believe that a substantial majority of world opinion supported the U.S.-led invasion.
Where did he get these numbers?!? The report is right here. "nearly 70 percent of President Bush's supporters believe the U.S. has come up with 'clear evidence' that Saddam Hussein was working closely with Al Qaeda." Well, if you count 63 percent as nearly 70 percent. "And more than a third believe that a substantial majority of world opinion supported the U.S.-led invasion." More than a third? How is 26% more than a third?

But these points are mere trifles. By now we've come to expect New York Times columnists to stretch the numbers when they've got a point to prove. But the third error is unforgivable. "A third of the president's supporters believe weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq." This question wasn't even on the survey. Where did it come from? Perhaps he is refering to the 47 percent of bush supporters who believe that Iraq had actual weapons of mass destruction (an entirely different question).

Can somebody tell me what this man is talking about? Is there another PIPA report? I certainly hope there is. I would hate to think that such agregious errors made their way into the "paper of record". I mean they do have fact checkers at The New York Times who get paid to do things like... check facts. Right?