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Saturday, February 01, 2003

President Bush's remarks

My fellow Americans, this day has brought terrible news and great sadness to our country. At 9:00 a.m. this morning, Mission Control in Houston lost contact with our Space Shuttle Columbia. A short time later, debris was seen falling from the skies above Texas. The Columbia is lost; there are no survivors.

On board was a crew of seven: Colonel Rick Husband; Lt. Colonel Michael Anderson; Commander Laurel Clark; Captain David Brown; Commander William McCool; Dr. Kalpana Chawla; and Ilan Ramon, a Colonel in the Israeli Air Force. These men and women assumed great risk in the service to all humanity.

In an age when space flight has come to seem almost routine, it is easy to overlook the dangers of travel by rocket, and the difficulties of navigating the fierce outer atmosphere of the Earth. These astronauts knew the dangers, and they faced them willingly, knowing they had a high and noble purpose in life. Because of their courage and daring and idealism, we will miss them all the more.

All Americans today are thinking, as well, of the families of these men and women who have been given this sudden shock and grief. You're not alone. Our entire nation grieves with you. And those you loved will always have the respect and gratitude of this country.

The cause in which they died will continue. Mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand. Our journey into space will go on.

In the skies today we saw destruction and tragedy. Yet farther than we can see there is comfort and hope. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."

The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home.

May God bless the grieving families, and may God continue to bless America.



Why they are heroes...

Peggy Noonan, on this morning's tragedy:
We forget to notice the everyday courage of astronauts. We forget to think about all the Americans doing big and dangerous things in the world--members of the armed forces, cops and firemen, doctors in public hospitals in hard places. And now, famously again, astronauts. With their unremarked-upon valor and cool professionalism. With their desire to make progress and push on.

Buzz Aldrin captured it this morning. He tried to read a poem about astronauts on television. He read these words: "As they passed from us to glory, riding fire in the sky." And tough old Buzz, steely-eyed rocket man and veteran of the moon, began to weep.

He was not alone.

No, he was not alone.

Nor should he be.


R.I.P., Columbia (STS-107)

Lord, guard and guide the men who fly
Through the great spaces in the sky.
Be with them always in the air,
In darkening storms or sunlight fair;
Oh, hear us when we lift our prayer,
For those in peril in the air!
Mary C. D. Hamilton, 1915

Eternal Father, King of birth,
Who didst create the heaven and earth,
And bid the planets and the sun
Their own appointed orbits run;
O hear us when we seek thy grace
From those who soar through outer space.
J. E. Volonte, 1961

Alternative verses to Eternal Father, Strong to Save, also known as the "Navy Hymn".


Commander Rick D. Husband
Pilot William C. McCool
Payload Specialist Michael P. Anderson
Mission Specialist Kalpana Chawla
Mission Specialist David M. Brown
Mission Specialist Laurel B. Clark
Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon, Israel


Friday, January 31, 2003

I'm just curious...

One of the latest, greatest objections to going to war with Iraq that I've been reading and hearing lately is "innocent people in Iraq will be killed if we go to war with Iraq."

My question to those who offer this objection is: aren't innocent people in Iraq being killed every day?

Haven't innocent people been killed for the entire 23 years that Saddam has been in power.

Here are some quick calculations.

There have been at least 8395 days in the reign of Saddam Hussein (365 days/year x 23 years).

If only 1 innocent person per day, on average, have been killed by Saddam and his internal security forces, that adds up to more than 8,000 people over the 23 years.

Add in another 20,000 dead Iraqi soldiers (estimated) for the Persian Gulf War (which Saddam started) and another 375,000 (estimated) for the Iran-Iraq war. That comes to a total of 403,000+ people in 23 years.

An average of 17,500+ people per year. 48 people per day, every day for 23 years.

An NFL football team dead, every day. Two Major League Baseball teams dead, every day. Four NBA basketball teams, every day.

A busload of commuters, every day. For 23 years.

Isn't it time for Saddam's killing to stop?

Thursday, January 30, 2003

A tripleheader for the Telegraph

Another great article from our friends across the pond, courtesy of John Keegan:
The new appeasers seem to recognise that the arguments of the 1930s will not wash today. First, the democracies have all the power, enjoying both nuclear and conventional supremacy. Second, the dictators, in this case Saddam, are men of straw. Saddam is certainly a master of diplomatic trickery, but a huff and a puff will blow his house down.

The new appeasers cannot therefore terrify the public with warnings of a battlefield holocaust. Nor can they advocate direct appeasement of the troublemakers, who clearly do not merit it. Appeasement therefore takes a new form.

The objection to war now stated is not the danger it threatens to one's own side, but, paradoxically, that it threatens against the other. It has become commonplace for the appeasers to speak of "millions of deaths" among the opponents' civilian population and to warn of widespread ecological and economic disaster. War itself, not the suffering to Britain that it might bring, is now the enemy. So the blacker the horrors painted, the better the new appeasement's cause is served.

...The history of appeasement does not change. Hitler was once a weak little man - and it was the concessions of the appeasers of his day that allowed him to grow strong. Once Saddam has his nuclear weapons, he will beat the drum of war. It will be a war that the new appeasers, like the old appeasers who rallied to Churchill after Hitler's first blitzkrieg, will bitterly regret that they did not fight when they had the chance to win.

In the words of the song, "everything old is new again."

At least it is for those who choose to ignore or are ignorant of the lessons of history.


Telling it like it is...

Toby Harnden, in the Daily Telegraph, gets it:
Yet for many opposed to war, the UN process has been elevated to an end in itself - and the unstated truth is that most who cite the overweening importance of UN resolutions and inspections see them less as a mechanism to force Saddam to dispose of his weapons, than as a way of disarming Mr Bush politically by mounting a diplomatic filibuster.

Their Gulf policy is one of containment - containment of America, that is, rather than Iraq. The fact that many supported military intervention in Kosovo without UN backing exposes the dishonesty of their current stance. Those calling for more time for inspections must realise that, without American forces stationed on Iraq's borders, Saddam is less rather than more likely to disarm. It is as if anything to postpone the day of reckoning will do - and Saddam knows that, if he can survive into the hot days of April, then he will have faced down the world once again.

...Resentment of American power and appeasement of a despot with a track record of internal repression and external aggression are no basis for a foreign policy. And it is imperative that we realise that the world will be a better as well as a safer place once Saddam has gone.

I couldn't agree more.


The burning question...

Janet Daley asks the tough question:
I wonder what the Blix report would have to have contained for the anti-war lobby to have thrown up its hands and said: "Well, that's that then. No more argument. We've obviously got to get rid of this regime."

...Shall we try to imagine what these voices of the liberal conscience would have said if the white South African authorities had used chemical weapons against the black population in Soweto? Would they have been arguing for British inaction and a lifting of economic sanctions against Pretoria?

There is always a lot to be said for not going to war, even against an evil dictator, when your own country does not appear to be under immediate threat. But if the main argument against the war is primarily self-interest, then the anti-war lobby should drop its claim to the moral high ground.

Is it worth risking British lives to bring freedom to Iraq, and to help install rational government in the most dangerous area of the world? That is the question that the Left needs to answer.

I wonder how the antiwar folks here in the U.S. would answer this question. They've been able to dodge it so far, but now it's on the table.

Let's keep it there, at least until they answer it.


A high risk strategy?

An interesting suggeston from Deborah Orin in the New York Post:
"If you support Bush on Iraq and he wins, you gain zip," explained a Democratic strategist. "If you support him and he loses, you lose along with him. But if you oppose him and things go bad, you stand to be a big winner."

That is both breathtaking and revolting.

At a time when U.S. troops seem headed in harm's way, this strategist - and several other Democrats who are disgusted with their own party - suggest some Dems are calculating they could gain politically if there are body bags.

Ms. Orin doesn't address the fourth possible case -- oppose Bush and he wins. That should make such a politician completely irrelevant on matters of national security in the future, but we know from our experience with the first Persian Gulf War that the big national media won't let their buddies on the antiwar left fall into their well-deserved oblivion.

This is a prime example of what I like to call "moving the goalpost." Every time the Bush administration has gone around or over an obstacle placed in their path by the antiwar left, the peaceniks come up with a new hurdle to cross. Their sympathizers in the big media then trumpet the new position as yet another reason why the administration should not keep going forward.

What these folks don't seem to realize is that moving the goalpost on the old playing field won't affect the Bush administration -- this President has moved the game to a new field, forced upon him by the events of 9/11, with new rules. In short, this is not the '60s and the war on terror is not Vietnam. If the antiwar left insists on continuing to view the current situation through the Vietnam lens, they'll soon become as relevant to the national security politics of the 21st century as Harold Stassen was to Republican presidential campaigns in the 20th century -- always around, always ignored, and always a loser.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Is a new day dawning?

Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity.

GWB, 1-28-2003

I hope that this is truly going to be a guiding principle of our foreign policy from now on. It is no longer acceptable for those who would be our allies simply to be opposed to our enemies. They must share this fundamental value if they wish to sit at our table.

We owe it to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our liberties.

We owe it to those, yet unborn, who deserve the chance to live in freedom.

We owe it to ourselves, to remind us that our freedom is not the norm in our troubled world, and to encourage us to work to preserve it and to pass it on.


I still don't get it...

Just heard one of the antiwar talking heads on the tube complaining about the possibility of civilian casualties in Iraq if and when we start the war. The only conclusion that I can draw from hearing this over and over for the past few weeks is that they think it is OK if Iraqi citizens are sitting ducks for Saddam for his own purposes, but we shouldn't go in and remove Saddam unless we can guarantee that we won't kill anyone.

I guess they are holding out for a super bomb full of that gas the Russians used in the Moscow theater last year -- but with better control of the dosage.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

My impressions of the President's speech

Overall, a good speech, not a great speech. Leading with the domestic issues was probably necessary, but it introduced a certain amount of partisan divisiveness and negative feeling, which colored the listeners' response to the foreign policy section of the speech. In short, the President's opponents got fired up against him in the first part of the speech and probably didn't really hear the second part of the speech.

I was surprised by the AIDS/Africa initiative. I wonder if the prominence given to this issue is an attempt to curry some favor among the African members of the UN Security Council -- Guinea, Angola, and Cameroon. Guinea will hold the presidency of the Security Council during the month of March (following the February presidency of Germany), which is where the best estimates for the start of hostilities against Iraq are coming in.

The President may have overdone it a little on his presentation of evidence against Saddam Hussein, while glossing over detail on policies toward Iran and North Korea. Using the facts and figures from UNSCOM/UNMOVIC was effective, but citing the source of other bits of information about Iraq as "our intelligence officials" or "U.S. intelligence" was, in my opinion, begging the question. The CIA and FBI still have too many unanswered questions about their handling of intelligence before 9/11/2001 to be cited as definitive and credible sources of information.

Additionally, if the President is really planning to send the Secretary of State to the U.N. Security Council next week with "information and intelligence about...Iraq's illegal weapons programs, its attempt to hide those weapons from inspectors, and its links to terrorist groups.", then there was really no point to giving a point-by-point indictment in tonight's speech. A couple of particulars followed by the promise to reveal more at the U.N. next week probably would have sufficed.

Given that the closing theme for the speech seemed to be a "crusade for freedom" (in the words of a couple of TV pundits, immediately after the speech), I think the President should have shown how Saddam has sought these horrible technologies for use against his own people first, against his regional rivals second, and let the audience draw the obvious conclusion that he would use them against more distant rivals (the West) as he developed the technology to even further levels. This would have made the point that every despot starts by oppressing his own people and expands from there. Therefore, taking out a despot while he's still in his "domestic" phase will prevent harm from going beyond the borders and allowing the despot to become an international threat. The flipside of that conclusion is that the possibility of a despot getting aggressive intentions toward his neighbors is sufficient cause to prevent him from acquiring domestic power in the first place.

In short, this was a tale of two speeches -- one dry and partisan and the other, inspirational. It would have been more effective to recast the domestic issues in light of their effects on the foreign issues (and vice versa), where possible, to tie the packages into an integrated whole. We need more inspiration -- more vision -- and less partisanship. Unfortunately, we got too much of the latter and not enough of the former, tonight.


Thoughts on using nukes

Here's a thought-provoking article about situations where the U.S. and its allies might use nuclear weapons to pre-empt WMD strikes by Iraqi forces.

Here is one of the key paragraphs of the article:

I don't expect that we would use a pre-emptive strike on these facilities, unless we had incontrovertible proof that Iraqi WMD were about to be used. Even then, considering the refusal to accept anything said by the Bush administration on the part of, say (1) fanatic radicals here in the US, (2) the major media and academia, or (3) anybody from France or Germany, there would still be an impossible amount of political fallout for decades (I have yet to meet a World War II veteran - and I've known many - who wasn't delighted that we ended that war with atomic bombs, sparing hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of people on both sides. Yet consider how that topic is handled today.)
Emphasis added by me.

In my opinion -- and I am not and never have been a military professional -- this points out that a weapon whose use is hamstrung by political considerations is no weapon at all. If we are indeed fighting a foe who is determined that we should "assimilate or die", what is the political consideration holding us back? How much clearer do they have to be?

Perhaps we need to make it equally as clear to them -- if you want a fight to the finish, then no military option of any kind at any time is off the table as far as we are concerned. You may start the war, but we will do everything in our power to finish it, with maximum damage to you and minimum damage to us.

If you aren't already reading Rev. Sensing's blog, you should be.

UPDATE: Rev. Sensing has noted in the comments, and I should have made clear in my summary, that the quoted material is from a guest post on his site, and does not represent his opinion on the issue. My apologies to Rev. Sensing for any confusion that I caused.

Please check the site in the next day or so for an article detailing Rev. Sensing's view on the issues raised by the guest post.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

When it's not your butt on the line

Donald Sensing has a powerful piece rebutting this proposition put forward in a New York Times article:
Germany, too, is unimpressed. "The likelihood of using force is deterring Saddam, but it is also deterring the allies," said Karsten D. Voigt, the coordinator for German-American cooperation in the country's foreign office.

Mr. Voigt is scornful of German colleagues who refuse to recognize that, in his view, the arms inspections in Iraq have only gotten this far because Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair have been willing to put forces on the Iraqi border. But using them, he says, is another thing.

"We know about containment," he said at breakfast the other day, gesturing in the direction of where the Berlin Wall once stood. "We lived with it for 50 years. It worked. And at the end, we got regime change."

Let me add my 2 cents worth to the arguments against this proposition.

Mr. Voigt's statement is cynical in the extreme. It is very easy for him to make this statement since he does not live under the rule of Saddam Hussein. In fact, it is quite likely that he has never lived as a citizen/subject of a regime like that in Iraq. Thus, it is patently ridiculous for him to assert that "we lived with it for 50 years".

During the 50 years of the Cold War, citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany lived in opulence compared to their compatriots on the other side of the Iron Curtain. The Federal Republic was part of the free world, not the oppressed and enslaved world behind the Iron Curtain. It is very easy to prefer the status quo when it is comfortable.

How generous is Mr. Voigt to offer regime change in Iraq at some unspecified time in the future, at no cost to him or his country but patient waiting? Would he be so patient if someone was attaching live electrodes to his genitals? Would he be so accommodating to Saddam if his son or daughter were being immersed slowly into a vat of acid?

Just one question for you, Mr. Voigt. Would you be willing to trade lives with the average Iraqi? If not, then you should keep your "we lived with it" to yourself.


On supporting the troops

Steven Den Beste has a nice article about Bob Hope and his USO tours to entertain U.S. troops overseas. He concludes his article with this:
There is much disagreement amongst us here in America about this war, in Afghanistan or in Iraq or wherever it ends up taking us. Some think we must fight it; some think it the greatest mistake we can make. Some think that it is needed to prevent great evil; some think that it will cause great evil. Some think we have to fight elsewhere to prevent attacks on our homes; some think that fighting elsewhere will encourage attacks on our homes. Even when it's over, no matter when that happens or how it ends, there will never be unanimity about whether we should have fought at all, or whether we fought it the right way.

But I must forthrightly state that no matter what anyone thinks of the war, we all must support the troops who fight it. They didn't cause the war; they didn't make the decisions that led to it. But they're the ones who are out there risking everything on behalf of us all ? even those with "Not in my name" bumper stickers on their cars.

I do not say that any person who opposes the war is unpatriotic. I do not condemn people for holding that position. Dissent is part of our tradition, and I feel that the encouragement of disagreement is one of our greatest strengths and virtues. If we actually are making a mistake, we need people who are brave enough to say so and try to convince the rest of us of that fact.

But any American who sneers at the soldiers themselves, or blames them for the war, or hopes that they die or be wounded, is beneath contempt.

I couldn't have said it better, myself. Shorter, perhaps, but not better.


The truth slips out

The title of this article in yesterday's Washington Post says it all:
In Britain, War Concern Grows Into Resentment of U.S. Power
Consider this:
"There's no question the anxiety is moving into the mainstream," said Raymond Seitz, a former U.S. ambassador to Britain who is vice chairman of Lehman Brothers Europe. The debate here, he said, has shifted. "It's not about how you deal with weapons of mass destruction or how you combat the threat of terrorism in the world, it's about how do you constrain the United States. How do you tie down Gulliver?"
Isn't this a wonderful expression of what Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was speaking of when he referred to "old Europe"? Don't worry about the big issues confronting all of the civilized world. Worry about how to keep the U.S. from doing something about those issues.
Criticism of America here begins with Iraq but quickly broadens to accusations that Washington is aiding and abetting Israeli repression of Palestinians and is a gluttonous society of large cars, fast food and environmental degradation seeking cheap Iraqi oil to feed its consumption habits.

"People in America don't understand that Blair is a rather lonely figure within his own party and within the country as a whole" concerning war and the alliance with the United States, Michael Gove, a columnist for the Times of London newspaper, said. "Anti-Americanism is a real force here and a growing one. It starts with tightly focused arguments but broadens into the crudest of caricatures."

Makes you wonder how long it will be before we see editorial cartoons from European newspapers where a "hook-nosed Jew" is skipping along, hand-in-hand, with Uncle Sam (redrawn to resemble the Sta-Puf™ marshmallow man) over crumpled, emaciated bodies wearing kaffiyeh?
For the traditional left, said Emmanuele Ottolinghi, a research fellow at the Middle East Center at St. Antony's, anti-Americanism has replaced a belief in socialism as the common denominator that holds disparate groups together. It also binds the left to Britain's growing Muslim population, anti-globalists and anti-Zionists. "Anti-Americanism is glue that holds them together, and hatred of Israel is one aspect," he said.
If you can't beat 'em, find some other reason to hate them. Please note the twin targets -- Americans and Jews.
Former ambassador Seitz said the fears of the British are compounded by the realization that they have little or no control over what happens. "At the end of the day, the British do not control their own fate," he said. "They've hitched their wagon to the American juggernaut, and the decisions that can pose danger to British forces and interests are essentially taken in Washington, not London."
Here is the heart of their problem, both in Britain and in the rest of Europe. By turning inward -- substituting European union for foreign policy and denuding their militaries in favor of domestic subsidy -- the Europeans have given up any effective leverage over nations outside the continent. When they cannot buy off antagonists, they are left impotent in the face of their enemies. And, given the restiveness of the Muslim communities within some of those nations, they are beginning to see that they really do have enemies.

Of course, it's a whole lot easier to criticize friends than it is to stand up to enemies. Once again, they take the path of least resistance, at the cost of being able to defend their principles.

So they waver, swaying in the wind like dead leaves on autumn's trees, waiting only for that moment when a sudden gust breaks the tie which holds them above the cold earth. They appear not to know that they must fall before the new growth of spring can revitalize the trees.

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