Saturday, December 20, 2003

Libya-Iraq: What's the difference?

With Libya we have a country ruled by a brutal dictator who is "widely regarded in the West as the principal financier of international terrorism" and who has an "appalling" human rights record...

"Over the past three decades, Libya’s human rights record has been appalling. It has included the abduction, forced disappearance or assassination of political opponents; torture and mistreatment of detainees; and long-term detention without charge or trial or after grossly unfair trials. Today hundreds of people remain arbitrarily detained, some for over a decade, and there are serious concerns about treatment in detention and the fairness of procedures in several on-going high profile trials before the Peoples’ Courts. Libya has been a closed country for United Nations and non-governmental human rights investigators."

And yet we now have word from Bush and Blair that because Col. Moammar Gadhafi has agreed to
dismantle its WMD programs they are ready to welcome Libya back into the international community.

Why are they so willing to negotiate with Libya when they insisted that military force was the only way to deal with Iraq? Saddam Hussein had already made the same agreements that Gadhafi is proposing. He said they had no more WMDs and he allowed U.N. inspectors in to check it out. None were found. Why couldn't we have handled Iraq the same way we are doing in Libya? Why was regime change necessary in Iraq but it is not in Libya? Is the freedom of the Iraqi people more important than the freedom of the Libyan people?

The difference is simply that Bush's foreign policy is not based on principles - it is determined by political opportunism. We needed a war to distract the country from the poor economy and to make it look like we were doing something about the 9-11 attacks.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Pillars made of straw and forged documents

Last week Jonathan Gurwitz, the Express-News’ right-wing columnist, rushed out a column
in the wake of the U.S. capture of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Gurwitz sought to trumpet the capture as an ideological victory for war proponents and as an excuse to throw sand in the face of liberal war critics.
“Saddam’s capture, news reports erode anti-war myths” touted the headline.
The only problem is that Gurwitz based much of his column on a report in the London Daily Telegraph that as it now turns out was based on a phony document. (Thanks to Allen Brill for the links).

“Britain's Sunday Telegraph reported that the new Iraqi government has uncovered documentary proof that Mohamed Atta, mastermind of the 9-11 attacks, was trained in Baghdad by the Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal.”

I knew when I first read Gurwitz’ column that it did not pass the smell test but I had no way of proving it. As it turns out, it was only a matter of time until someone exposed the story as a sham - MSNBC - Dubious Link Between Atta and Saddam.

“A widely publicized Iraqi document that purports to show that September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta visited Baghdad in  the summer of  2001 is probably a fabrication that is contradicted by U.S. law-enforcement records showing Atta was staying at cheap motels and apartments in the United States when the trip presumably would have taken place, according to U.S. law enforcement officials and FBI documents.”

Gurwitz also throws out another lame argument in his column which tries to invent the “pillars of criticism” upon with liberal anti-war sentiments are based.

“The third pillar of criticism ridicules the notion that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction or programs to produce them. This pillar, too, is crumbling.”

That’s because this pillar is made of straw - as in it’s a strawman argument. The majority of war critics have never denied that Hussein “possessed weapons of mass destruction” - i.e. in the past tense. That Hussein once possessed chemical weapons is a historical fact. The question was whether or not he still has these weapons in sufficient quantities so as to be an imminent threat and thus merit a pre-emptive strike by the U.S. military. It looks like that is the real myth. Even now the Bush administration’s chief weapons hunter in Iraq is about to give up and throw in the towel.

I would say that Gurwitz and the Express-News owe their readers a correction, but I doubt that any will be forthcoming.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Best films I have seen in 2003

Needless to say, I haven't seen very many movies this year. Being a new dad seriously cuts back on the time you can spend watching videos and practically eliminates the ability to go to the matinee.

Nevertheless, as the movie awards season approaches I have listed the best movies of 2003 that I have actually seen. The list will obviously change as I see more movies and I may as well just leave the top spot blank for Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

Best films I have seen that came out in 2003

1. Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
2. X-Men 2
3. Bend It Like Beckham
4. Down With Love
5. Terminator 3
6. Matrix Reloaded
7. Shanghai Knights
8. The Italian Job
9. Daredevil
10. The Recruit

Worst Films I have seen in 2003

1. Hollywood Homicide
2. Legally Blonde 2
3. The Hunted
4. The Hulk
5. How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days

Films I still want to see from 2003

Finding Nemo
Master and Commander
The Last Samurai
Cold Mountain
Matrix Revolutions
Bruce Almighty
Kill Bill Vol. 1
Open Range
Once Upon a Time In Mexico
Love Actually
Mystic River
Lost In Translation
Secondhand Lions
Runaway Jury
The Haunted Mansion
Brother Bear
Lara Croft 2
Freaky Friday
School of Rock
Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas
The Missing
Winged Migration
Matchstick Men
Cheaper By the Dozen

Monday, December 15, 2003

Hussein captured

I got up Sunday morning and read the papers and then went about my day without turning on the TV or the radio (other than for Christmas music). So it wasn't until much later that I finally learned of Saddam Hussein's caputure by U.S. forces in Iraq.
This is certainly good news. Regardless of whether Hussein has actually been coordinating the guerrilla warfare campaign against U.S. troops, his capture is a psychological blow to that faction. The fact that we were able to capture him alive is also a coup for U.S. intelligence services. I hope that this means the security situation in Iraq will improve but it is no guarantee.

One has to feel a little sorry for the newspaper industry due to the timing of the announcement. Word came too late to get the news in the Sunday papers and gave every other news medium - TV, radio, Internet, a 24-hour head star at providing mass coverage. The newspapers were left having to trumpet the news nearly a day late in their Monday papers which are typically their least read.
The 14 hour delay in breaking the news is understandable and even commendable, but I couldn't help but wonder at first whether Bush's professed indifference to reading newspapers didn't play a role in the decision as well.