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Joshua Sharf

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August 7, 2008

(Not) Lost in Translation II

Rima Barakat Sinclair also found time to opine on Iraq during her candidacy. In the past, at the Big Tent Event on April 10, and at a subsequent Colorado Federation of Republican Women's meeting, Mrs. Barakat Sinclair has expressed admiration for the salutory effects of the regime change on Iraq's women, and the opportunities they now enjoy. She also - at a Colorado Jewish Republicans meeting in June of 2008 - expressed gratitude for the service and good works of an injured Iraqi veteran who spoke there.

However, in the chat session with Al-Arab Al-Yawm, she responded quite differently to a question from an Iraqi expatriate who had returned to the Middle East. Here's his question:

Ms. Rima ... Being an Iraqi I would like to ask you questions that have been so long in the minds of Iraqis for more than five years. Being an American, and in the vicinity of (American political kitchen) I returned to the region convinced that the US desired a return of Iraqi rights, which are still waiting, hoping for the dream of freedom. How is it that America & Britain are unable to find a solution to Iraq's security crisis, economically and socially? Was it the scheme of the freedom promised by the Iraqis that the price of the blood of thousands and thousands widowed and orphaned thousands and displaced millions? Did the U.S. administration expect the events that took place in Iraq? Are things, in a nutshell, in Iraq as expected and planned by the U.S. government, or was what has happened and is happening in Iraq not an unthinkable shock when I returned preparing to enter Iraq? If the purpose of the occupation of Iraq was to find weapons of mass destruction (across continents), then where can't America eliminate the weapons of mass destruction that kill Iraqis daily, in numbers increasing with the growing militia sources, and the processing of enough simple weapons to destroy dozens of Iraqis?

And here's her answer:

When reality contradicts propaganda and theory, logic gives you an honest answer. You have found the answer to your question yourself. What happened and is happening in Iraq does not constitute a surprise. In 1994, Dick Cheney, George Bush's current Vice-President, predicted the expected consequences for Iraq if U.S. troops entered the country. What was said then is achieved today, knowing that Mr. Cheney is still one of the foremost supporters of starting a war against Iraq. He is today also one of the most zealous advocates of waging war against Iran under the same slogan, "weapons of mass destruction" and "protecting Israel."

This amazing video shows that in 1994, Dick Cheney understood the consequences of invading Iraq:

And here, Mrs. Barakat Sinclair provides a transcript in mixed Arabic and English.

No attempt to defend the invasion. No attempt to defend America's performance. An outright attack on the integrity of a sitting Vice President in a foreign newspaper. Tell-tale quotes around "weapons of mass destruction" when obliquely referring to Iran's nuclear weapons program.

In other parts of the chat session, Mrs. Barakat Sinclair is quite fulsome in her praise of America's protection of free speech and civil liberties. The Constitution completely and correctly protects Mrs. Barakat Sinclair's rights as a citizen. I leave it to the reader to judge the use she's putting them to, and her fitness for office.

August 17, 2007

Zero-Sum War

From lefty activist David Sirota today's Denver Post PoliticsWest site, and the Gang of Four Blog:

I will say, John, that I do think what's telling/frightening about your outlook is your assertion that winning automatically means "somebody else loses." That's called zero-sum thinking - the exact kind of thinking that got us into this mess in the first place. We are in the middle of a civil war in Iraq - it's hard to frame the quagmire (not my words - Dick Cheney's) in the conventional terms of us "winning" and someone else "losing" because frankly, I don't hope that the Iraqis lose (while you might). I do, however, think us getting out of Iraq will hurt Osama bin Laden's cause because it's no secret that he's been using the Iraq War as a huge recruiting tool for Al Qaeda.

Oh yeah, when I originally answered your question about Iraq I forgot to add that I also think us "winning" means fewer American men and women coming home in body bags or with arms and legs blown off.

This argument doesn't just border on the incoherent. It's taken up residency and is applying for an H1-B.

What he's trying to say, in his own, hyper-partisan sort of way, is that while territorial war is zero-sum, and the results of elections may be zero-sum, the result of the political process is not zero-sum, and that the war in Iraq is now essentially an exercise in Iraqi civil politics.

He then does the not-so-subtle switcheroo when he talks about us winning and "the Iraqis" losing. But in a civil war, it's perfectly ok if some Iraqis lose in order for the rest of the Iraqis to win. That's what's happened in Baquaba and Anbar. I would characterize the al-Qaeda-affiliated Iraqis (and their foreign leadership) as most definitive "losers." I would characterize Iraqi civilians who no longer have to worry about their lungs being ripped out for smoking as, "winners." (Unless Baghdad civil government imposes a single-payer health care system, then they'll be "losers," too.)

I would say that the Iraqis living near Baqubah were losers, until we arrived and helped the Iraqi Army turn them into winners. If we help to stabilize the place and give ordinary Iraqis a role in their own political life, then both we and (most) Iraqis will be "winners," and al-Qaeda will be losers.

As for Iraq as a recruitment tool for bin Laden, even if this assertion were true, it wouldn't be true where it mattered - Iraq. The fact is that the al-Qaeda-in-Iraq leadership is foreign, sent in by Syria on one border and allowed in by Saudi Arabia on another. This is because al-Qaeda has made itself so unpopular it can't get Iraqis to lead it, it can't even persuade Iraqis to fight for it. (Blackmail and coecion don't count as, "persuasion.") So if legions are flocking to bin Laden because of our involvement in Iraq, it's news to the Iraqis.

As for his history lesson, I suppose he's technically right. The only reason that Germany was able to fight itself to the brink of world domination twice in 25 years was that it had stopped fighting itself. But I think if you go back to the 1000s and 1100s, you'll find plenty of Franks fighting Germans and Franks fighting Anglo-Saxons and Anglo Normans.

I should point out that the group blog membership is balanced between left and right, so that's why this isn't a post about media bias.

July 17, 2007

Iraqi Smuggling Ring Operating on US-Mexican Border?

Smuggling Iraqis, that is.

ABC News is reporting that the FBI is investigating a smuggling operation geared towards getting Iraqis across the US-Mexican border into the US:

The FBI is investigating an alleged human smuggling operation based in Chaparral, N.M., that agents say is bringing "Iraqis and other Middle Eastern" individuals across the Rio Grande from Mexico.

An FBI intelligence report distributed by the Washington, D.C. Joint Terrorism Task Force, obtained by the Blotter on, says the illegal ring has been bringing Iraqis across the border illegally for more than a year.

Some reporter should investigate this, or something.

Still, the way Bensman discusses this, it sounds as though we'd need regime change in most of Latin America to put a stop to it. The FBI will probably announce some high-profile arrests, or not, depending on how the political fallout vis-a-vis the war is calculated, and then others will rush in to provide this highly lucrative service.

July 11, 2007

Democratic Immunity

Those of us warning of disaster should the US pack up and leave Iraq to Iran's devices have implicitly, although perhaps not explicitly, counting on the American public to hold the Democrats and weak-kneed Republicans accountable for such irresponsibility.

Don't hold your breath.

The American public won't know. And if it knows, it won't care.

Right now, today, as our soldiers fight, the AP reports massacres that didn't occur and fails to report those that do. When we've left, when our attention has turned to someplace else, someplace of critical national security importance like, say, Belize, the MSM simply won't be around to report on Iraq. In fact, they're not there to report on Iraq now, since Reuters and the AP rely almost exclusively on local Arab stringers for their writing.

With Iraq reduced to a bad memory, with Americns no longer dying in attacks, and with the Presidential election considered much more interesting (heck, with Congressional hearings into the Bush administration much more interesting), murders and massacres in Iraq will barely break the A section, much less the front page.

And when they do, the notion that an American presence might have prevented them will never be mentioned, except to chide the Administration for not getting it right from day one, by way of criticizing those who supported the war from the beginning. Even were Iraq to descend into Vietnam-like catastrophe, or Sudan-like genocide, the MSM will both blame the chaos on us and claim that there's nothing we can do to prevent it.

At least, not until Americans start dying again. Here.

August 21, 2006

Midwestern Approach to Finance?

Supposedly a conservative approach to finance at a national level.

Has she ever seen what the national debt was, as a percent of GDP, at the end of WWII? My problem with Iraq isn't that we're doing too much, it's that we're probably not doing enough. In any event, she could probably fund the whole war effort from this list.

UPDATE: Link fixed.

August 14, 2006

Practical Suggestions on Iraq

When I knew Michael Eisenstadt, I always got the impression that he was a pragmatic, center-left guy. Unlike most center-left guys, though, he's actually interested in seeing the Iraq project succeed, and has offered practical advice both before and after the invasion. This may come in part from his experience in the reserves, and his participation in the First Gulf War.

I hope that someone in the administration is reading today's Daily Standard, where Michael's offering of good, sound advice on avoiding a sectarian civil war can be found. Here's his conclusion, but read the whole thing.

As the sectarian violence in Iraq increases, the United States cannot afford to be seen standing by while Iraqis slaughter each other; this would further undermine its credibility in Iraq and the region and encourage neighboring states to actively support one side or another, making a bad situation worse. The United States has both a moral obligation to act, and an interest in doing so, when U.S. forces can save innocent lives, and when it has a reasonable chance of limiting or containing the violence. The recent U.S. decision to send thousands of extra troops to Baghdad--the site of most of the sectarian bloodletting of the past few months--is thus a step in the right direction.

On the other hand, there is a significant danger that U.S. intervention will further undermine domestic support for an increasingly unpopular war; further stress an already overstretched force; and jeopardize the tacit U.S. alliance with the Shiites, which has underpinned U.S. policy in post-Saddam Iraq. Finding a way to contain the sectarian violence and to balance these latent tensions in U.S. Iraq policy may prove as difficult for Washington as containing the insurgency has been. But it is essential if the United States is yet to achieve an acceptable outcome in Iraq--and if Iraq is to have a future as a viable state.

July 13, 2006

Iraqi Parliament Speaker Blames the Jews

The Iraqi Parliament speaker has decided that the US and "the Jews," are conspiring to keep Iraq under US control:

Mahmoud al-Mashhadani hinted that the Americans and Israelis did not want to see officials of Sunni and Shi'ite parties running the country because "this is not their agenda."

"They will say that we brought you in a democratic way to the government but you are sectarian people. One of you is killing the other and you don't deserve to become leaders because you are war lords," al-Mashhadani told reporters after a parliament meeting.

Al-Mashhadani is a member of the Sunni Muslim Iraqi Accordance Front while Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a member of the Shi'ite Dawa party.

"Some people say 'we saw you beheading, kidnappings and killing. In the end we even started kidnapping women who are our honor,"' al-Mashhadani said. "These acts are not the work of Iraqis. I am sure that he who does this is a Jew and the son of a Jew."

"I can tell you about these Jewish, Israelis and Zionists who are using Iraqi money and oil to frustrate the Islamic movement in Iraq and come with the agent and cheap project."

"No one deserves to rule Iraq other than Islamists," he said.

Emphasis added, of course.

Some were hoping that the Sunni decision to join the political process meant that they were committed to that process. Apparently they, like Mookie al-Sadr on the other side, joined it in order to hijack it for their own ends. (This is also the logical conclusion of not insisting that Iraq be Israel-friendly from the beginning.)

The notion that Islamists - Sunni or Shiite - were going to join the government, and then, having gotten comfortable with "the process," were going to abandon religious fanatacism in favor of budget earmarks was naive beyond belief. Now, the wolf is in the fold. We can't leave, because we can't let the Islamists run the country. We can't throw this monster and his whole party in Abu Ghraib, because they part of the Legitimately-Elected-Government-Of-Iraq.

This isn't some backbencher looking for a headline. This is the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, people.

June 29, 2006

The Washington Post Goes Litigator

My friend Peter Baker is following the President around on the campaign trail. This morning's report from a Missouri fundraiser for Senator Jim Talent contains this technically accurate but deeply dishonest paragraph:

Sharpening his rhetoric as the midterm congressional campaign season accelerates, Bush offered a robust defense of his decision to invade Iraq even though, ultimately, no weapons of mass destruction were found, and drew standing ovations for his attacks on those who question his leadership of the war or the fight against terrorists.

The only merit in this sentence is that it so neatly encapsulates the MSM's storyline on Iraq and the politics surrounding it. And the only thing that allows the Post to publish something like this without abject shame is their years-long ostrich-like refusal to publish anything that doesn't fit.

Saying that, "Bush offered a robust defense of his decision to invade Iraq even though, ultimately, no weapons of mass destruction were found," is like saying that, in 1778, Washington defended the Revolution even though there was trade with Mexico, meaning that George III hadn't quite, "cut off trade with all parts of the world."

Never mind that they have been found. Never mind that the WMDs were merely one reason for going to war in the first place. Never mind Iraq's running a pre-war bed-and-breakfast for Islamist terrorists. Never mind the Duelfer Report's findings that Saddam was planning to restart his WMD production after his hos on the Security Council got sanctions lifted. The war was all about WMDs, and the fact that we haven't found Castle Anthrax makes it a failure.

The second half of the sentence is no better. The President takes hits all the time for his "leadership of the war." What he's objecting to here is something very specific - the attempt by politicians to run the war by PERT chart, or at least to score points by appearing to try to do so.

The Post is trying to narrow the focus of the war to a point it can pretend it's won, while broadening the President's presumed response into Ray Bolger.

And no Post political story about the President would be complete without the obligatory Bush-as-Rove's-sock-puppet reference:

In his appearance in this St. Louis suburb, he said directly that some Democrats want to surrender, adopting the more cutting approach of his senior political adviser, Karl Rove.

The fact that this is exactly the take that Congressional Republicans, in one of their few recent moments of lucidity, used exactly the same language is of no moment whatsoever. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

This is how the MSM and the Post will make use of the narrative they've established.

June 23, 2006

Former Spook Calls It

In From the Cold had this to say about the MSM's treatment of the chemical and biological shells found in Iraq:

The MSM--if it ever gets around to this story--will likely claim that Santorum and Hoekstra are playing politics with intelligence.

From this morning's Washington Post (buried on Page A10):

The intelligence officials also suggested that they were pressured by Hoekstra into declassifying the study in recent weeks. Hoekstra first sought its release June 15 and June 19 and made the request again giving John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, 48 hours to declassify it, according to a senior intelligence official.

In From the Cold does what the Post declines to - describes the way intelligence now operates that makes such pressure necessary:

As a young intelligence officer, I was drilled that important information should make its way up the chain of command as soon as possible. Apparently, things have changed since I left the business. Information that contradicts prevailing judgements can be ignored, or simply buried on an intelligence website--let the customer find out on his own. If members of Congress want information, simply delay your response as long as possible, and provide data only when someone with enough horsepower (in this case, the HPSCI chairman) demands answers. Then, provide only a fraction of what they ask for.

March 29, 2006

CJR's High Journalistic Standards (Update)

Columbia Journalism Review's Daily takes note of my comments on Hugh's interview yesterday with Michael Ware. In doing so, they exhibit the kind of straw-man argumentation that's made the MSM a kind of Jefferson Society with keyboards.

But the View isn't done. "[Ware] could do a lot more reporting under the protection of the US military than he either knows or acknowledges." (Ware doesn't know the embed option exists?) "If he's really concerned about either his safety or that of his staff, there does seem to be an answer."

This was the part of the interview I was referring to, and going back and reading it, it appears I misheard:

But I mean, what I'm saying to you is that if you think anyone would have the right to complain or to take umbrage at what I do, it would be the troops here on the ground. It would be U.S. military intelligence. It would be the U.S. military. You'd think that they wouldn't give me embeds, wouldn't you? You'd think that they wouldn't grant me backgrounders, or wouldn't take me out on special events. You'd think that they wouldn't give me access to the generals, or to military intelligence. You know, in this war alone, I've been in combat with virtually every kind of U.S. fighting force there is, from the SEAL's, to the Green Berets, to Delta, to Infantry, Airborne, Armored, Mechanized. I mean, I've been there, done that in combat. I've been in every major battle of this war, except from Najaf and the first battle of Fallujah. That includes the battle of Tal-Afar, the Battle of Samara, and the Battle of Fallujah, with front line units. I witnessed an event that the Pentagon subsequently asked me to write about as a witness, which is now a matter for the Congressional Medal of Honor nomination. And I am mentioned in that citation. So if anyone would have a problem with what I do in exploring the issues of this war, you'd think it'd be the military. Yet strangely, they don't.

When I heard this on the air, it sounded to me as though Ware was complaining that he might be denied access based on how he reported. Going back and reading it, he's clearly not saying that. But he does say this about other reporters:

And something happens, something that may not exactly play well back home. And yet, it's something that you know, well, people outside of this experience would never understand that. I mean, how do you relay that without betraying the trust and the confidence of the troops? And for some journalists, they have to bear in mind well, if I write a negative story about the military on this embed, will they give me another embed? So there's always these pressures from all the players. (emphasis added. -ed)

And yet, there's plenty of evidence that most reporters don't get out much beyond Baghdad, and those that do limit themselves to military press events. Bill Roggio reported that while he saw reporters on the ground outside of those events. Ware appears to have been all over the place, and does seem to have availed himself of the military's openness in a way that is unusual for western journalists.

Incredibly, the CJR responds to my complaint as though I had the right interpretation, and proceeds to defend the press on that basis.

UPDATE: In reading even further, I found another quote which supports my initial interpretation, that Ware seems to believe that the military picks and chooses its embeds based on their coverage. Ware's ostensibly referring to what other reporters believe, but then goes on to describe a case where he claims the Iraqi government came after him for a story he wrote. So he's also clearly tying this to his own experience. Whether his later comment is a clumsy recovery aimed at buttering up his, er, bread-and-butter is unclear, but it's certainly at odds with the second quote, from earlier in the interview.

March 28, 2006

Reporting From the Other Side

One section of Hugh Hewitt's interview with Michael Ware struck me in particular. Hugh analogized to WWII, and what would happen if a reporter had the chance to report from the other side in that war.

Actually, William Shirer & other journalists did report from Germany during the war. But they did it 1) when the US wasn't a belligerent, and 2) while reporting that they were under Germany censorship. Neither of those conditions obtains with Michael Ware.

Like it or not, when the war broke out, the Germans didn't make it a habit to kill foreign correspondents; they deported them. Once the war started, any newspaperman wandering across the front lines to hang out with the Germans on maneuvers would have been shot as a spy. And for good reason. The mere fact this is at least a matter of dispute amongst the councils of our current enemy should tell you something about the service that Mr. Ware is performing.

Remember, too that normal military censorship has relatively well-known rules. Talk about morale if you like, but the troop train schedule is off-limits. Ware's admitted to being "careful," but without careful questioning after each story, it's impossible for a reader to figure out what kind of restraints he's putting on himself. Not only can't you read between the lines, you're not even sure what directlon the lines run, or if there are any lines.

The fact is, there are plenty of embeds who reports what they see, good or bad. Michael Yon comes to mind. The military is confident in the rightness of its behavior to the point that as long as Yon doesn't pick up a weapon again, or as long as Bill Roggio doesn't have flashbacks to his service days, they can keep going and reporting as long as they like. While it does seem that Ware has gotten out of the bar at the Palestine Hotel, he could do a lot more reporting under the protection of the US military than he either knows or acknowledges. If he's really concerned about either his safety or that of his staff, there does seem to be an answer.

This is worse than the deal cut with Saddam, first, because it comes after Eason Jordan's nasty little revelation, and second, because you can't make normal assumptions about what's fair game and what's not.

This guy's sold his soul for a few bylines.

UPDATE: Upon further reflection, this post has been revised and extended from its initial form..

March 17, 2006

Better Late Than Never

While inhabitants of the blogosphere have known about the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's exploits in Tall Afar for some time, apparently the news is just penetrating the Denver Post newsroom.

Better late than never, I suppose. I don't have the print version in front of me, so I can't say what page it's on, but it's nice to see a report about local soldiers that doesn't focus solely on their funerals.

Bonds. Iraqi Bonds

Powerline's John Hinderaker is undoubtedly correct when he says that it'll be decades before we know if the Iraqi experiment has succeeded. According to this morning's Wall Street Journal, some American money managers are willing to take that bet:

T. Rowe Price Group Inc., based in Baltimore, says about $16 million of its $558 million Emerging Market Bond Fund is invested in the new Iraqi bonds. Standish Mellon Asset Management Co., of Boston, says it has about $2 million in Iraqi bonds, spread out among some of its emerging-market mutual funds. It declined to identify the funds but said they had a total of $400 million in assets.

ING Group and Merrill Lynch & Co. recently showed up on a brokers-only computer network as bidders for the Iraqi bonds, one person with access to the system says. It couldn't be learned whether the firms were interested as buyers for their own accounts or for customers. Merrill and ING said they couldn't comment on interest in Iraq.

A couple of points. Since the investors are few, and most individuals won't touch them, it's hard to get a true market for the bonds just yet. Secondly, their relative stability is probably as much due to the US stake in Iraqi success as in any inherent confidence that Mookie al Sadr is following the market. Finally, everyone's a sucker for oil. Everyone, all the time. Venezuela could nationalize everything tomorrow, and in five years, after having wrecked their economy and driven off improvements, they could open it back up and all would be forgiven.

The one fund that we know is dabbling in the bonds, T. Rowe Price's Emerging Markets Bond Fund, has above-average Lipper and Morningstar ratings, and above-average performance over a long period of time. And it's had the same manager for 12 years, so it's not some new guy desperate to push up returns this quarter or else. (Although it would be interesting to know what happened in 3Q1998; that was a meltdown quarter for foreign bonds - LTCM - but they underperformed their group by 30%.)

Now, the yield on that debt has risen substantially, from 5.8% when issued to 9.5% now, the highest dollar-denominated debt in the world. Still, that's not 1970s Latin American levels, and it indicates a willingness by serious managers to take the bonds seriously.


Power, Faith, and Fantasy

Six Days of War

An Army of Davids

Learning to Read Midrash

Size Matters

Deals From Hell

A War Like No Other


A Civil War

Supreme Command

The (Mis)Behavior of Markets

The Wisdom of Crowds

Inventing Money

When Genius Failed

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Back in Action : An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude

How Would You Move Mt. Fuji?

Good to Great

Built to Last

Financial Fine Print

The Day the Universe Changed


The Multiple Identities of the Middle-East

The Case for Democracy

A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam

The Italians

Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory

Beyond the Verse: Talmudic Readings and Lectures

Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud