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I wonder what Picasso would have said?

Living in Chicago and its sprawling suburbs and ex-urbs this week has been an experience that any long time resident will never forget and will relish for the rest of their lives.

This is especially true if the sun rises and sets only for Our Beloved Bears. Always much more than a sports franchise and something slightly less than a religious icon, The Beloveds in many ways have defined the city of Chicago for more than three quarters of a century.

Chicago has always been a working class town whose immigrant population prided itself on displaying a tough, no nonsense, hard working personae. The poet laureate of the working class, Carl Sandburg immortalized that personae in his incredibly descriptive and strangely lyrical poem Chicago:

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

And the lesser known stanza that has spoken to Chicagoans for generations:

Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning
as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with
white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young
man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has
never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse.
and under his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of
Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog
Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with
Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

Tough words. Tough town. Is it any wonder that the city so desperately loves its football team? Sandburg may as well have had the Bears in mind when he wrote that poem. “Stormy, husky, brawling” could describe any Bears defense of the last 50 years.

Those of you who live in other great American cities where sports teams play for championships on a more or less regular basis will, I hope, forgive the excess of civic pride which has morphed into a kind of fevered insanity over The Beloveds and their trip to the Super Bowl. Each day that passes brings the city closer to nirvana – that blissful, dreamlike state where all cares and concerns are set aside and visions of Bears linemen doing a sack dance over a prostrate Peyton Manning dominate the figments of fans all over town. A euphoria beyond drugs, beyond revelation, beyond the moment your divorce became final has captured the city and turned ordinarily logical and reasonable Chicagoans into raving lunatics. Consider:

1. The world famous lions that grace the entrance to the world famous Art Institute of Chicago were fitted recently with football helmets bearing the insignia of the Chicago Bears:
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2. A Chicago resident, Jennifer Gordon, sold advertising space on her pregnant belly to Her asking price? Two 50 yard line tickets to the game in Miami.

3. Bears at the Brookfield Zoo were treated to a pinata in the shape of an Indianapolis Colt’s football helmet. After utterly destroying the enemy symbol, the Ursus arctos toyed with the remains to the great satisfaction of onlookers.

4. The CNA Building in the loop configured its lights to spell out “Go Bears” after dark. Several other office buildings also programmed messages of support including “Da Bears” lighting up one building on Lake Shore Drive.

5. Both local sports talk radio stations sent their entire contingent of on air hosts to Miami. That means that more than 50 big mouth, arrogant, opinionated, and truly dumb Chicagoans who don’t know jack about football are living it up in the sun while the rest of us are freezing to death.

Hizzhoner, Da Mayor got into the swing of things. The traditional bet between mayors of the competing cities usually involves an exchange of some kind of tasty cuisine that each city is noted for.

You can see Daley’s dilemma immediately; what is there to eat in Indianapolis that any Chicagoan would recognize as food?

Not always known for his tact, Daley graciously gave Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson an out by ignoring tradition and substituting volume for quality:

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Dozens of delicacies from the city’s finest culinary establishments are offered including, the world’s finest coffee roasted and blended right here in Chicago. Several tins of Stewart’s Coffee will be delivered along with cheesecake, ribs, burgers, sausages, nachos, pizza, beer, wine, nuts, hot dogs, Italian beef, popcorn, pretzels, candy and cinnamon rolls.

Peterson has yet to offer anything to eat in return from Indianapolis which isn’t surprising. When you live in a city that boasts a famous sandwich joint known as “Illinois Street Food,” there isn’t much you can say or do to erase the ignominy.

Chicago sports fans have learned to savor these moments of success. And for Bears fans especially, who have been able to dance a victory dance only once in the last 44 years, this year’s incarnation of destiny’s heroes is particularly sweet because of its unexpectedness. No one in town really thought The Beloveds would make it all the way to Miami back in August when the season started. But here they are. And as much as the locals have gone over the edge of sanity and decorum in showing their pride in the team and the city, all of this is but a pittance compared to what would happen if the Bears actually win on Sunday.

The shoulders of this city wouldn’t be big enough to handle the weight of unadulterated joy which would pour forth and spillover into the streets if that were to happen.


LiMack in the comments reminds me that the Field Museum placed Brian Urlacher’s #54 jersey on one of the dinasours on display. I wonder if it was put on the T-Rex Sue?

The largest T-Rex ever found intact, Sue was a cause celebre in the scientific community due to the unusual circumstances surrounding her discovery. A seven year court battle that brought up issues of academic science vs. commercial fossile hunters as well as federal vs. private ownership of land made Sue’s journey to the Field Museum an epic trek indeed.

The size of Sue is beyond belief. She’s 42 feet long and an astonishing 13 feet high at the hip. It is unclear how T-Rex got around but if she were to have settled on her back legs, it is estimated that her head could have been 25 feet from the ground. Only Gigantasoraus, a South American therapod was a bigger meat eater.

Background on the case can be found here.

By: Rick Moran at 8:01 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)

CATEGORY: Iran, War on Terror

Following up my post from Sunday where I linked Bill Roggio’s piece on the possibility of the Karbala attack that killed 5 Americans being an operation carried out by the Qods Force of Iranian Revolutionary Guards, it appears that the Pentagon is indeed taking a closer look to see if the Iranian footprint can be detected:

The Pentagon is investigating whether a recent attack on a military compound in Karbala was carried out by Iranians or Iranian-trained operatives, two officials from separate U.S. government agencies said.

“People are looking at it seriously,” one of the officials said.

That official added the Iranian connection was a leading theory in the investigation into the January 20 attack that killed five soldiers.

The second official said: “We believe it’s possible the executors of the attack were Iranian or Iranian-trained.”

Five U.S. soldiers were abducted and killed in the sophisticated attack by men wearing U.S.-style uniforms, according to U.S. military reports.

Both officials stressed the Iranian-involvement theory is a preliminary view, and there is no final conclusion. They agreed this possibility is being looked at because of the sophistication of the attack and the level of coordination.

“This was beyond what we have seen militias or foreign fighters do,” the second official said.

The investigation has led some officials to conclude the attack was an “inside job”—that people inside the compound helped the attackers enter unstopped.

One of the commenters from my Sunday piece offered some interesting speculation; that the attack was carried out by former Iraqi Special Ops members. It makes sense since what the Pentagon is looking at is the level of training and planning that went into the operation. And while not indicative of militia or insurgent participation due to the operation’s sophistication, it might point the finger at units in the old Revolutionary Guard who were among Saddam’s most effective troops.

After some investigation, I had to conclude that this is not likely. We haven’t seen many operations that showed the kind of intensive training and discipline that would be the hallmark of Special Forces. In fact, the insurgents and militias are so ill trained and undisciplined that whenever they stand toe to toe with our boys, we win easily. Unless one speculates that this is among the first operations carried out by a Special Ops force that has been in hiding for nearly 4 years, it just isn’t likely that Saddam era commandos were involved in the Karbala attack.

The possibility of a traitor operating inside the compound would partly answer one question I had when I first read of the attack; how could the enemy penetrate our security? But for these guys to have talked their way past a couple of checkpoints is still a mystery. Unless security was just so lax that the cruised through based on the color of their uniforms. If that were the case, I hope some heads are rolling in that command.

But what of Iran? I speculated on Sunday, based on reports I linked to from Bill’s site, that it may have been a hostage situation gone bad. The enemy seized our soldiers and took off toward the Iranian border with them. After acting suspiciously at a checkpoint, Iraqi troops gave pursuit. It was during the chase that the Americans were apparently executed by their captors. And there was a report that 4 suspects had been arrested, although we haven’t heard anything since then about their nationalities or whether they were even involved.

Time’s Robert Baer speculates that the motive may have been revenge:

The speculation that Karbala was an IRGC operation may have as much to do with Iraqis’ respect for IRGC capacity for revenge as it does with the truth. Nevertheless, we should count on the IRGC gearing up for a fight. And we shouldn’t underestimate its capacities. Aside from arming the opposition, the IRGC is capable of doing serious damage to our logistics lines. I called up an American contractor in Baghdad who runs convoys from Kuwait every day and asked him just how much damage.”Let me put it this way,”he said.”In Basra today the currency is the Iranian toman, not the Iraqi dinar.”He said his convoys now are forced to pay a 40% surcharge to Shi’a militias and Iraqi police in the south, many of whom are affiliated with IRGC.

Mindful of the spreading chaos in Iraq, President Bush has promised not to take the war into Iran. But it won’t matter to the IRGC. There is nothing the IRGC likes better than to fight a proxy war in another country.

This also makes sense. The Qods Force has a clandestine arm that has been involved in several assassinations of Iranian dissidents in Europe and the Middle East. Our buddy President Ahmadinejad cut his bones as a senior commander in the Force and it has been charged but never proven that he participated in the assassination of Iranian Kurdish leader Abdorrahman Qassemlou in Vienna in 1989. I have no doubt that Ahmadinejad sees our raid on the “consulate” in Irbil and the taking and holding of 5 Qods Force members as a personal affront and a national humiliation. It would make sense that he would send some of his old friends into Karbala to avenge this blow to Iranian honor.

On a related note, it appears that the Bush Administration will not reveal specifics of Iranian involvement in the violence in Iraq after all. The press conference that was scheduled for today which would have supplied chapter and verse of Iranian assistance to the militias and the insurgents has been postponed:

A plan by the Bush administration to release detailed and possibly damning specific evidence linking the Iranian government to efforts to destabilize Iraq have been put on hold, U.S. officials told FOX News.

Officials had said a “dossier” against Iran compiled by the U.S. likely would be made public at a press conference this week in Baghdad, and that the evidence would contain specifics including shipping documents, serial numbers, maps and other evidence which officials say would irrefutably link Iran to weapons shipments to Iraq.

Now, U.S. military officials say the decision to go public with the findings has been put on hold for several reasons, including concerns over the reaction from Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — as well as inevitable follow-up questions that would be raised over what the U.S. should do about it.

This stinks of State Department meddling. Their concern is that there is a possibility Ahmadinejad is on the ropes in Iran thanks to his spectacularly incompetent rule and the restlessness of some of his supporters and any serious charges made regarding Iranian complicity in the violence in Iraq will only strengthen the President and unite the Iranians behind him.

I will admit to not knowing enough about internal Iranian politics to enable me to make an informed judgement as to whether that is true or false but I know enough to believe that reports of President Ahamdinejad’s demise could be greatly exaggerated. He’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Most of these reports about unrest regarding his rule are coming from predictable sources – ex-Presidents Ayatollah Ali Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami. Rafsanjani’s lists did very well in local elections last month and Khatami has been a font of criticism of Ahmadinejad’s foreign policy for a long time. The only person Ahmadinejad has to keep happy is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Only the Big Tuna could engineer his ouster in the Iranian Majlis.

This from an Iranian insider:

“I don’t think Ahmadinejad will leave the presidency before his mandate expires but I am also convinced he will not succeed in winning a second term,” added Saharkhiz. “Many factions and personalities who supported Ahmadinejad’s candidature at the 2005 presidential elections have already abandoned him and don’t spare criticism, even harsh and direct, of the president and his government.”

One other possibility for the delay in releasing the evidence of Iranian perfidy in Iraq may be that they want to complete the investigation into what happened in Karbala. The problem there is that could take weeks. And I assumed that one reason the Administration wanted to get this information out there was to stiffen some Congressional spines about our involvement in Iraq. With Iran contributing to the deaths of Americans and Iraqis, it makes pacifying the country even more of an imperative.

This situation with Iranian meddling in Iraq has grown intolerable. Despite cries from some Iraqi quarters to stop the round up of Iranians, as long as Maliki supports it (and perhaps even if he doesn’t) we should continue to aggressively pursue them.

By: Rick Moran at 11:12 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)


Perhaps a better headline for this post should have been: Is there anything to be done about Iran?

But since I am an inveterate warmonger and fire breathing neo-con – at least according to some of my more unbalanced critics – the idea that there actually is something to be done militarily about Iran appeals to my militaristic soul.

Unfortunately, warring with the Persians would not solve any of our problems in Iraq and would probably even make things worse in the Middle East. The thought of not only fighting an insurgency against Sunni Islamists, al-Qaeda terrorists, and unreconstructed Baathists but adding to the mix several tens of thousands of enraged Shias joining the revolt against our occupation would make any troop increase in Iraq a futile exercise. And like it or not, Iran is now a regional power in the Middle East – an inevitable outgrowth of their own growing aggressiveness over the past decade and not as a result of anything the US has done in Iraq – and an attack on Iran would have unforeseen and unintended consequences for the region.

Since I firmly believe this to be the case, allow me to let my softer, feminine side dominate this discussion. Who knows. Maybe they’ll let me join the “Glenn Greenwald Fan Club” or perhaps even invite me to a shindig sponsored by Code Pink.

In truth, we are in a bind when it comes to doing anything about Iran. I reject the notion that one course or another proposed so far would “solve” anything. “Diplomatic overtures” made to the insular, treacherous, and fanatical mullahs who currently are in control of Iran would only reveal our weakness and, in the end prove futile. This is because Iran has absolutely no reason to talk to us. When negotiating, it is usually a prerequisite that both sides could benefit by coming to some kind of agreement – unless you’re a liberal or a denizen of Foggy Bottom. Then negotiating simply for the sake of talking becomes a goal in and of itself.

In the case of negotiating with Iran, there is nothing the US can concede consistent with our national interest while the issues we want resolved with the mullahs – a halt to nuclear enrichment and their assistance in stabilizing Iraq – are both non starters with the regime. Those who advocate negotiations to resolve these matters are delusional dreamers. It is much more likely that any bi-lateral talks we undertake with Iran will end up in delay, stalemate, and total failure. Iran will build their bomb and come to dominate Iraq no matter how long we negotiate or what we give up in return for any vague promises of cooperation by the mullahs.

We can’t bomb them. We can’t talk to them. Can we contain them?

As unsatisfactorily a course of action it may appear to be on the surface, containment would seem to be the only viable option open to the United States consistent with our interests in the region. For this, we have history and tradition on our side – elements that for once can work for us in the Middle East instead of against us. The fact is, Arab states have a laundry list of grievances against the Iranians going back hundreds of years not to mention the fear of Shia nationalism that the mullahs have unleashed in Iraq, Lebanon, and among the Shia minorities in other Arab states. The major powers in the region – Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia – would welcome our assistance in trying to block Iranian ambitions to dominate the Middle East with their nuclear weapons and unsavory brand of Shia hegemony.

Would we have to arm those countries with nuclear weapons or allow them to develop their own nuclear program to counter the Iranian threat? Not necessarily. Extending America’s nuclear umbrella to include protecting our friends in the region from Iranian nuclear blackmail would be considered a radical escalation but, at the same time, better than the alternative of going to war. The question would be whether nations like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and the Gulf States would welcome such a guarantee of their sovereignty. And at the moment, that would appear to be unlikely. Our slow, painful egress from Iraq is not instilling much confidence in our friends regarding American steadfastness or staying power.

More likely, we could work to upgrade the conventional militaries of our Arab friends. This will not sit well with the Israelis but they will probably acquiesce without too much grumbling. They should realize that our efforts to stymie the Iranians would benefit their strategic position as well. And most of the Arab states at risk would welcome our relaxing the stringent rules against exporting some of our more advanced weapons systems.

But of overarching importance would be to get the Europeans on board with any containment effort. It isn’t a question of sanctions although more stringent penalties meted out by the United Nations would be helpful. By having our NATO allies signing on to a policy of containment as they did during the cold war, the west would be presenting a united front to the Iranians. This would probably not convince them to halt enrichment or deter them from meddling in Lebanon or Iraq. But it would definitely affect their calculations if they attempted to interfere in other states where Shia minorities are growing increasingly restless – largely at Iranian instigation but also as a result of a rise in Shia pride and Shia nationalism.

This is an historical movement that has been rising since even before the Iranian revolution and many of the states affected, especially in the Gulf region, are already dealing with Shia aspirations in the political sphere in one way or another. Change comes slowly but change is coming. And the last thing countries like Yemen, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia need is Iran flagging the latent mistrust and feelings of oppression felt by Shias all across the Middle East.

I realize how unsatisfactory a policy containing the Iranian menace is seen by many of my friends on the right. But when the alternatives are unacceptable or would cause more problems than they solve, there are times when only bad choices present themselves and we must choose the least awful among them.


What about fomenting revolution in Iran?

This, unfortunately, is also a non starter at this point. As in Russia during the reign of communists, the Iranians have brutally suppressed and eliminated democratic organizations and individuals with the potential to lead them. Any effort to supplant the mullahs would take many long years of carefully laying the groundwork for democratic groups to gain any ground at all. With the stranglehold on elections the mullahs enjoy (they say who runs for office not to mention their practicing fraud, intimidation, and outright stealing of elections), any peaceful transformation of Iranian society is a long term project with an uncertain outcome.

How about funding an insurgency? I suppose if we want to support groups already fighting the regime like the MEK (Mujahedin-e Khalq), we could take them off the State Department list of terrorist organizations and give them money and arms. But the question is what kind of leaders would be thrown up by backing such groups? Our efforts in eastern Europe succeeded because we supported a democratic opposition that, in the end, was in favor of a peaceful transition of power. Needless to say, it worked beyond anyone’s expectation although it took a quarter of a century to bear fruit.

I don’t think it would take that long in Iran but I do believe it will happen as a result of a combination of forces – death of the old guard, rise of material expectations that the mullahs can’t meet, and an opening of Iran to new ideas – all of which could take a decade or more.

By all means we should be supporting freedom in Iran. But to expect results anytime soon is unrealistic.

By: Rick Moran at 8:10 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (14)

The COLOSSUS OF RHODEY linked with Watcher's Council results
Rhymes With Right linked with Watcher's Council Results
Watcher of Weasels linked with The Council Has Spoken!
Watcher of Weasels linked with Submitted for Your Approval
The Thunder Run linked with Web Reconnaissance for 01/31/2007

One of the things I love about writing these 24 recaps is finding literary and historical parallels to the plot twists, especially those that mirror classical themes that have been used for many hundreds even thousands of years in western culture. Of course, the writers don’t consciously use the same plot devices used by Sophocles or Shakespeare. But the reason they don’t have to think about it is because many of the conflicts, the moral choices confronted by the characters, and even the characters themselves are so ingrained into our oral and literary traditions that it becomes second nature for any writer – even one who writes for a weekly TV drama – to use the threads of history and literature supplied by the masters.

Take last night’s episode, for instance. For some reason, the effort of Philip Bauer to save his son Graem from jail reminded me of Arthur Miller’s first successful Broadway play All My Sons. Miller himself used themes as old as drama itself; retribution, purification, and responsibility to your fellow man, themes he would explore even more boldly with his next play, the American classic Death of a Salesman.

But in All My Sons, Miller tells the story of a father whose overweening greed causes the company he runs to ship defective airplane parts to the army during World War II that results in the death of 21 pilots. The father convinces himself that what he did was right because he was building the business for his son and that he had a responsibility to the future of the family – even though he lied about his true involvement in the matter and covered up the fact that he had actually signed off on the shipment of the parts that he knew were going to get young men killed.

Returning home from the war, the son is unaware that his father let his business partner take the fall for what actually was his decision and he believes him when he says that he had no knowledge of the defective parts. As the play unfolds, we discover that the other son, a pilot who died during the war, actually committed suicide when he found out that his father was the one responsible for killing the 21 pilots. And the fiancee of the son who returned from the war (a powerful “messenger” character found in plays and literature from the Greeks through Chaucer) has the truth of what happened in the form of a letter from the dead son that, once revealed, causes an emotional upheaval that has the father finally being able to admit to himself that he is responsible for the deaths of the pilots.

The father talking about his dead son and the 21 pilots who perished as a result of his greed and pride:

“Sure, he was my son. But I think to him they were all my sons. And I guess they were, I guess they were.”

The universality of these themes is what attracts us to drama in the first place. Yes we like to watch things blowing up and we love to experience the tension that builds as the clock ticks and Jack races to save the country. But on a deeper level, what engages our emotions are the classical themes that have made audiences think and react for more than 2,000 years.

Philip Bauer was faced with a dilemma (or so he thought); save his son Graem from prison by covering up his “incompetence.” Most of us have already guessed that Graem is involved in this plot up to his neck but Philip can’t even imagine the evil that Graem has perpetrated on the country and his own family by facilitating the sale of nukes to a terrorist as well as his efforts to kill his own brother. In this respect, Philip’s ignorance is reminiscent of the son who returned from the war convinced that his father was innocent. And while Graem doesn’t have the conscience or the moral fiber (we think) to face up and admit to himself how evil has actions have been, it is clear that there will come a time of reckoning where Jack confronts his brother not only for his involvement in this terrorist act but also for his sins committed last year as well.

Ironic convergence as Philip realizes too late he has a bad seed for a son, recognizing a singular responsibility to mankind, and what is shaping up to be a tragic and complex denouement to the relationship between Jack and his father all call to mind the best that drama has to offer. It’s why we watch the show and get so emotionally involved in the characters. And it is what keeps us coming back week after week to experience the universal themes that the show explores, always with a silent nod to the masters whose imprint on our culture and traditions can never be erased.


President Palmer continues his rather earnest and empty speech to the nation, upsetting Tom to no end because he thinks that the President isn’t facing reality. By reality, of course, Lennox means a Muslim round up and loosing Big Brother measures on American citizens.

Once again, we are treated to a dialogue on civil liberties and this time, the writers make absolutely no attempt to disguise their contempt for those who advocate an aggressive security posture:

TOM: The Constitution is wonderful, Karen, but back in the days of the Founding Fathers, the weapon at hand was a single shot musket. It took a half a minute to load and fire. Fayed just killed 12,000 people in less time without even taking aim. I love the Constitution. But I won’t be ducking behind it when the next nuke goes off.

KAREN: I’m a realist too, Tom. And I am willing to do what it takes to protect the country.

TOM: No, you’re not.

KAREN: But I’m looking a little farther down the road. These warrantless arrests and detention centers will cause irreparable damage to this country.

For the record, I would like to point out that here, as in every other civil liberties argument on the show so far, Karen has not offered one alternative action above and beyond what we assume would be normal peacetime procedures for law enforcement for either trying to track or catch the terrorists who are operating in our midst. All we get from her are platitudes and high falutin calls to honor the Constitution.

This raises some interesting questions that the show – and indeed the country itself – has failed to discuss. Are there any measures the civil liberties absolutists would endorse beyond what law enforcement is currently vouchsafed by law? If no “Patriot Act,” what then? Business as usual and a “so sorry” to the families of victims who might still be alive if measures were taken to protect the citizenry?

Obviously, Lennox’s draconian ideas about security are so broadly drawn, so cartoonish, as to be useless in this debate. But the question remains unanswered by those so vociferous in their opposition to anything and everything the government has done since 9/11 to make us safer: What would you do, if anything, to protect the people of the United States from getting killed by terrorists?

Lennox, meanwhile, has had it with Karen and plots her downfall.

At CTU, Nadia discovers that Homeland Security has flagged her because she is of Middle Eastern descent. In what I thought was a rather realistic conversation, Bill reminds Nadia that he told her at the outset that because of her background, she would be subject to unfair measures. He promises to do something about it after the crisis has passed.

Jack is really starting to party down with brother Graem, keeping a plastic bag over his dear brother’s face for nearly 6 minutes. It doesn’t surprise us that Graem is a wuss, that any physical discomfort or the threat of torture will make him spill the beans. When Jack threatens to give Graem more of the baggie treatment, the lickspittle breaks down and tells all.

Apparently, the company contracted with the Russians to decommission some small nukes and Graem didn’t vet one of the contractors thoroughly enough. The contractor – Mr. McCarthy, tooling around LA with his dizzy blond girlfriend looking for a scientist who can build a trigger for the other nukes – absconded with some of the nukes and sold them to Fayed. Jack’s father is staking out McCarthy’s office to apparently get the contractor to hide any involvement by Graem and the company in the stolen nuke caper. Anyway, that’s his story and he’s sticking to it. We know it’s a lie and that Graem knew full well that the nukes would end up in Fayed’s hands. What we don’t know yet is why. Is Graem just a greedy, amoral, slimeball or does he have another agenda at work?

Jack immediately calls CTU despite Graem’s protests that he’ll go to jail if it comes out that he was negligent. But Jack doesn’t tell Chloe (or Bill who calls later) that his father is trying to fix it so that Graem stays out of jail and that both men knew the nukes were stolen for 24 hours prior to the blast in Valencia. Disgusted, Jack takes Graem to McCarthy’s office to see if he can pick up any leads while telling Chloe to send two TAC teams to the area.

Meanwhile, McCarthy is having a devil of a time trying to find another scientist who can build a trigger that will set off the remaining nukes. To make matters worse, his stupid girlfriend is bored and wants to go to Vegas. Is she really that dumb or, as we are led to believe, does she only care about the money? And why does she remind me of a much older Kim Bauer? (Don’t go there.)

At the detention center, Walid continues to play secret agent under the admiring and not so watchful eyes of the FBI. His girlfriend, the President’s sister Sandra, is having a cow. She realizes the danger he is in but the FBI is adamant about using the businessman as an undercover operative in order to get information from what they believe is a terrorist cell in the detention center.

Back at CTU, Milo confronts Bill about how slow Nadia’s work output has gotten. Bill tells Milo about Nadia, who has been here since she was 2 years old, being flagged for her Middle Eastern origins. Of course Milo knows exactly what to do; he covers for Nadia with Morris (who has a pitch perfect sense of sarcasm and irony about everything) and then logs on to the computer using his own screen name and password so that Nadia doesn’t have to deal with the restrictions.

You know what this means, don’t you? If there is a mole at CTU this season, Nadia will almost certainly fill the bill. She’s perfect because 1) We like her; 2) She’s gorgeous; and 3) She’s such an obvious choice for the mole that we dismiss any chance of her being a traitor.

How’s that for logic?

When Bill calls Karen to get Nadia’s clearance reauthorized, Karen is shocked that a Muslim working in such a sensitive position would be flagged like this. She calls such security measures “The paranoid delusions of Tom Lennox” which very well might be true but seems a little harsh given what’s been happening recently. The mushroom cloud over Valencia can still be glimpsed if you look out the window.

And to make Lennox even more the villain, he has found a way to pressure Karen into resigning. Apparently when Bill was head of the Seattle office of CTU, they rounded up some of the usual Muslim suspects and detained them briefly before letting them go for lack of evidence. The problem for Bill is that Fayed was one of the detainees. The problem for Karen is that when she was at Homeland Security, she evidently made the file that contained that information disappear.

Lennox is a devious lout but he has a point of sorts. Can you imagine in the real world if the Washington Post got a hold of that information? Realizing that, Karen reluctantly agrees to resign.

The President is mightily displeased at Karen’s decision and tries to talk her out of it, saying that he needs opposing points of view. Karen responds that the President is his own best counsel. “You know what to do,” she tells him. She requests reassignment to CTU and the President agrees, approving her for military transport which means that we’ll see Karen again in a couple of hours.

At the detention center, Walid discovers that the inmates have been able to track what’s going on outside the fence because of a smuggled cell phone. Tasked by the FBI to steal the phone, Walid pulls a pretty nifty trick, feigning illness while falling against the inmate with the phone and taking it out of his pocket.

The idea that the FBI missed the phone in the first place is pretty farfetched. But where would Walid have developed his pick pocketing technique? Must be something they teach at Harvard Business School.

The Feds tell Walid to call a special number that allows Chloe to work some of her geek magic and download all the numbers called (and perhaps called into) the phone. This was the easy part. Now Walid has to return the phone to the owner before he discovers it’s gone. This apparently was something they didn’t teach at Harvard because as the seconds tick by and Chloe tries to decipher the encoded information, Walid doesn’t even attempt to return the item.

What’s worse, we discover that the phone has been used as a browser that accessed a radical jihadist website where the information about the additional nukes was in the open for all to see. Too busy spying on innocent Americans, the NSA, the FBI, the CIA, and the rest of our vaunted intelligence community missed the message that an inmate at a federal detention center knew exactly where to look.

But the real bad news is that we are informed that the men that Walid is spying on are not dedicated terrorists but simply, as Chloe so politically correctly informs us, “spectators” and, by inference, shouldn’t even be locked up.

Okay, I surrender. It is not a crime to read about killing a lot of Americans. It is not even a crime to talk about killing a lot of Americans. But what do we do with people who have demonstrated an interest in this sort of thing? According to the civil liberties absolutists, we can’t even keep track of them without getting a warrant. And no judge in America would issue one under those circumstances. Hence, potential terrorists are allowed to operate with impunity. Is this the price we pay for freedom? If those potential terrorists have 4 suitcase nukes ready to blow, I guess so. Better that tens of thousands of Americans die than people who have demonstrated an interest in facilitating that act be watched carefully.

This is an argument that has been glossed over by the civil liberties absolutists. They can never quite bring themselves to come out and state the obvious; it is better that thousands of people die or even that the US as we know it is destroyed rather than stretch the Constitution to keep track of people who may or may not be innocent but share an interest in seeing that happen.

In the end, Walid pays for his inability to sneak the phone back to the inmate and he is attacked and brutally beaten by detainees before the FBI can intervene.

Jack makes it to McCarthy’s office with Graem in tow and starts to search for clues. He discovers McCarthy has shredded a number of files in the past 24 hours which is suspicious but he fails to uncover any useful information. Just then, Jack hears someone entering the outer office. Handcuffing Graem so that he can’t escape, Jack investigates only to get cold cocked by one of the intruders. It is here that Jack’s father Philip (played by the impressive James Cromwell) enters the scene.

Although they haven’t seen each other in 9 years, Jack and his father skip the small talk and wade right into the issue at hand; namely, McCarthy, the nukes, and why he didn’t report them stolen the moment he found out. Philip’s explanation is plausible. He didn’t want Graem to go to jail, a sentiment Graem shares enthusiastically.

When Jack tells Philip that he’s going to call CTU to get the investigation going, his father pleads with him to hold off, only relenting when he sees how determined Jack is to get to the bottom of things:

PHILLIP: We’re talking about prison, Jack. He’s your brother.

JACK:Graem knew what he was doing was wrong. He was responsible for the nukes. He should have been more careful. And the second he knew they were stolen he should have reported it.

GRAEM: Oh you always do what you should Jack. What about when Dad needed you and you disappeared?

PHILIP: C’mon, Jack. Give us a chance to clean this up.

JACK: Dad, there are four more bombs out there. I cannot – I will not be responsible for thousands and thousands of lives just to protect the family.

GRAEM: Wrong. And I think your dead wife would agree.

JACK: (Lunging for his brother’s throat) Why you Son of a…

At this point, Philip relents and tells Jack to call CTU. And in a chilling transformation that reveals just how much of an amoral scumbag Graem truly is, the security men that came in with Philip, after a signal from Graem, suddenly pull guns on both the father and the brother.

McCarthy meanwhile discovers the name of someone who can build the nuclear triggers. And unless I was hearing things, he got the name of the scientist from one of Graem’s men. This means that Philip is probably their man and will be forced to accede to the terrorists demands to help them with the nukes or watch Jack die before his eyes.

Being led away, Philip sees the car that had the CTU TAC team full of bullet holes, the two men inside dead. He realizes this is Graem’s doing and asks in a plaintive voice “Good God! What have you done?” Graem’s chilling response was “They forced my hand. Call me when its done.”

And we are left hanging, wondering exactly what “it” means and whether Jack and Philip are headed for an emotional crisis. His father was willing to save his son Graem from jail. Will he be willing to save his other son who abandoned the family so many years ago?


The Grim Reaper took a brief respite from his vacation, just to keep his hand in, I’m sure. Two CTU agents taken out by Graem’s thugs.


Jack: 3

Show: 351


Chloe better start getting more face time or this feature will cease to be relevant. In lieu of anything Chloe uttered, I thought Graem’s zinger directed at Jack about his dead beloved wife was particularly cruel.

By: Rick Moran at 10:17 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (20)

CATEGORY: War on Terror

I pity David Bell. And, in a way, I envy him. To be so oblivious to the threat posed by organizations like al-Qaeda and the ever burgeoning list of imitators and wannabes involved in international terrorism takes a special sort of myopia, a blissful blindness that lays a blanket of serenity over those who are arrogant enough or delusional enough to indulge in such fantasies.

Bell’s column in today’s Los Angeles Times raises an interesting point: Is the threat of terrorism an existential one? But answering in the negative, Bell proves himself shortsighted, shallow, and in the end, dead wrong.

The provocative headline of his piece – “Was 9/11 Really that Bad?” - is not very original. Several eminent historians have already tackled the subject and with far more depth and intelligence than Bell devoted to this regurgitation of leftist cant about the War on Terror.

First, let’s set up a great big strawman, shall we?

IMAGINE THAT on 9/11, six hours after the assault on the twin towers and the Pentagon, terrorists had carried out a second wave of attacks on the United States, taking an additional 3,000 lives. Imagine that six hours after that, there had been yet another wave. Now imagine that the attacks had continued, every six hours, for another four years, until nearly 20 million Americans were dead. This is roughly what the Soviet Union suffered during World War II, and contemplating these numbers may help put in perspective what the United States has so far experienced during the war against terrorism.

It also raises several questions. Has the American reaction to the attacks in fact been a massive overreaction? Is the widespread belief that 9/11 plunged us into one of the deadliest struggles of our time simply wrong? If we did overreact, why did we do so? Does history provide any insight?

Certainly, if we look at nothing but our enemies’ objectives, it is hard to see any indication of an overreaction. The people who attacked us in 2001 are indeed hate-filled fanatics who would like nothing better than to destroy this country. But desire is not the same thing as capacity, and although Islamist extremists can certainly do huge amounts of harm around the world, it is quite different to suggest that they can threaten the existence of the United States.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen the old “20 million dead Soviets can’t be wrong” meme coming from the left. I actually sort of missed it. When last we left those 20 million dead Soviets, they were being used to assure us that the Russians would never attack America or Western Europe or anybody for that matter because no country suffered more as a result of war. This was about the time that Andropov was trying to convince himself that a nuclear first strike on America was necessary because Reagan was a nut. And we heard the meme repeated ad naseum all during the Soviet’s campaign to split the Europeans from the United States by threatening all sorts of nasty consequences if NATO deployed Pershing II missiles.

The Soviet Union lost 20 million people in World War II because they chose to help Adolf Hitler start the war in the first place. Stalin made a conscious decision (and an immoral secret protocol with Germany that partitioned Poland and divided Europe into “spheres of influence”) to abandon their treaty obligations to France and allow Hitler a free hand in western Europe.

Now we have 20 million dead Soviets being used to tell us that we haven’t suffered enough in the War on Terror to justify our reaction, that indeed, we don’t know what real suffering is. Bell is trying to tell us that the 20 million lost in Stalin’s war of choice should be, if not a benchmark, then certainly a guide to how we should be approaching terrorism. Evidently, the measly 3,000 Americans lost on 9/11 just doesn’t cut it among the “proportional response” crowd.

I could be flippant and ask the Professor to wait a few years until the nightmare of terrorists armed with nuclear and biological weapons becomes a reality but that’s the point of our “overreaction” isn’t it? I guarantee it will be easy for the Bell’s of the world to say, after the first nuke destroys an American city, that the terrorists are not an existential threat, that in the grand scheme of things, what’s one little city when compared to getting the rest of the world upset with us and going into places like Iraq to bust up governments who aid and abet people who want to kill as many of us as possible – something the professor readily acknowledges?

Certainly, if we look at nothing but our enemies’ objectives, it is hard to see any indication of an overreaction. The people who attacked us in 2001 are indeed hate-filled fanatics who would like nothing better than to destroy this country. But desire is not the same thing as capacity, and although Islamist extremists can certainly do huge amounts of harm around the world, it is quite different to suggest that they can threaten the existence of the United States.

Yet a great many Americans, particularly on the right, have failed to make this distinction. For them, the “Islamo-fascist” enemy has inherited not just Adolf Hitler’s implacable hatreds but his capacity to destroy. The conservative author Norman Podhoretz has gone so far as to say that we are fighting World War IV (No. III being the Cold War).

But it is no disrespect to the victims of 9/11, or to the men and women of our armed forces, to say that, by the standards of past wars, the war against terrorism has so far inflicted a very small human cost on the United States. As an instance of mass murder, the attacks were unspeakable, but they still pale in comparison with any number of military assaults on civilian targets of the recent past, from Hiroshima on down.

The “standards of past wars” is an idiotic yardstick to use. What possible “standard” can we point to from any war in our past that would bear any resemblance whatsoever to our situation today? We are fighting extra-state actors who flit from continent to continent, aided and abetted by nations who themselves have sworn to destroy us. What in our past has prepared us to deal with this scenario?

And to say that the terrorists don’t have the capacity to destroy us may be correct – today. But any number of proliferation experts, academics, military and intelligence officials have informed us that it is not a question of if we are going to be hit by a nuclear attack but when. And the time frame most often given is sometime in the next decade.

Would we be “overreacting” if we took the action we are taking now – including the invasion of Iraq – after a couple of our cities are destroyed? This is the essence of our strategy – pre-emption. What good does it do to take the aggressive posture we have now after a couple of hundred thousand American are incinerated? Or perhaps Bell doesn’t believe that the effort we are putting forth to combat terrorism is worth it under any circumstances?

I suspect the latter. And this is because his idea of what an “existential” threat might be is so narrow as to be useless. If 10 nuclear bombs detonated on American soil, there would still be a landmass between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and mapmakers would still probably refer to it as “America.”

But what exactly would “America” look like? Nothing you or I would recognize I assure you. In that sense, al-Qaeda and their ilk are existential threats to the very idea of America – something more precious than any territory and more valuable than any building or artifact.

Besides, says Bell, we’re fighting people who live in caves and are ignorant savages. Well, not exactly. But what’s the point of informing us that the terrorist’s current arsenal includes “guns, knives, and conventional explosives?”

Of course, the 9/11 attacks also conjured up the possibility of far deadlier attacks to come. But then, we were hardly ignorant of these threats before, as a glance at just about any thriller from the 1990s will testify. And despite the even more nightmarish fantasies of the post-9/11 era (e.g. the TV show “24’s” nuclear attack on Los Angeles), Islamist terrorists have not come close to deploying weapons other than knives, guns and conventional explosives. A war it may be, but does it really deserve comparison to World War II and its 50 million dead? Not every adversary is an apocalyptic threat.

I am very happy that Bell is so sure that al-Qaeda hasn’t “come close” to deploying nuclear or biological weapons. A definition of “close” might be appreciated because all signs point to the terrorists getting their hands on these weapons in the very near future – if they haven’t already.. And of course, after they’ve deployed them, the professor will have the satisfaction of knowing that there will be precious few people who will know or care very much that he was so spectacularly wrong.

Is it “overreacting” to try and prevent terrorists from deploying these weapons in the first place? Is it “overreacting” to attempt to break up their networks, smash their infrastructure, deny them funds, and, when necessary, go after the nations that fund them, assist them, support them, and wish them well?

If ever there was an example of the chasm that has opened up between those like Bell who, for all intents and purposes wish to wait for the hammer to fall before we react and those who would do whatever is necessary to prevent it in the first place, this article is it. Bell’s arguments couldn’t be clearer. We are big enough to absorb blows like 9/11 without “overreacting.” Just because al-Qaeda hasn’t launched a WMD attack. they don’t pose an “existential threat” to the United States.

Bell and his ilk will deny that they wish to “wait until we are attacked” before responding. But their solution – treat the terrorists as vicious criminals – has been tried already. All during the 1990’s we captured precious few terrorists, broke up even fewer networks, and al-Qaeda grew into the threat that they are today. Repeating a failed policy for the sake of not “overreacting” is idiocy. You either believe there is a threat or you don’t. And if you do, then you bend every effort to destroy that threat. Bell and his ilk want to manage the threat. If given the opportunity, the professor and his ilk will manage us into disaster:

During the hopeful early years of the 20th century, journalist Norman Angell’s huge bestseller, “The Great Illusion,” argued that wars had become too expensive to fight. Then came the unspeakable horrors of World War I. And the end of the Cold War, which seemed to promise the worldwide triumph of peace and democracy in a more stable unipolar world, has been followed by the wars in the Balkans, the Persian Gulf War and the present global upheaval. In each of these conflicts, the United States has justified the use of force by labeling its foe a new Hitler, not only in evil intentions but in potential capacity.

Yet as the comparison with the Soviet experience should remind us, the war against terrorism has not yet been much of a war at all, let alone a war to end all wars. It is a messy, difficult, long-term struggle against exceptionally dangerous criminals who actually like nothing better than being put on the same level of historical importance as Hitler — can you imagine a better recruiting tool? To fight them effectively, we need coolness, resolve and stamina. But we also need to overcome long habit and remind ourselves that not every enemy is in fact a threat to our existence.

Angell’s thesis was that war was futile because both victor and vanquished would be much worse off economically than if hostilities had not broken out. Essentially, the cost benefit rationale for war had disappeared in the fire and smoke of the industrial revolution. Ironically, what made modern war possible also basically made it obsolete. Of course, that didn’t stop the European powers from savagely killing each other twice during the first half of the century. Whether Angell was right or wrong hardly mattered in the sense that his analysis was fatally flawed because he believed that his kind of logic actually mattered in the long run.

Bell’s fatally flawed analysis begins with the premise that 9/11 wasn’t that bad and that our reaction to it ’ “overreaction” as Bell calls it – is the result of our failure to apply Angell-like cost benefit analyses to what our policy should be. One wonders how many dead it would take before Bell thought that we were “under reacting.”

By: Rick Moran at 4:10 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (26)

Soccer Dad linked with Council speak 02/02/2007
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The Saloon dot net linked with 9/11: Just a real bad day
CATEGORY: War on Terror

When I first read about the attack on our men in Karbala, the details seemed rather incredible. The enemy, speaking English and dressed in American uniforms, attacked a group of soldiers holding a meeting with local leaders on reconstruction issues.

Further deepening the mystery was the fact that initial reports by the military had 5 of our men killed on site with another three wounded. But somehow, the AP ferreted out the real story. The military has now confirmed that the 5 Americans were led away in handcuffs and executed a short distance away.

Bill Roggio has some information that, if true, alters the way we should be looking at the war and raises troubling questions about its possible widening:

The American Forces Information Service provides the details of the attack in Karbala. Based on the sophisticated nature of the raid, as well as the response, or cryptic non-responses, from multiple military and intelligence sources, this raid appears to have been directed and executed by the Qods Force branch of the Iranian Republican Guard Corps. My sources agreed this is far to sophisticated an operation for the Mahdi Army or Badr Corps, while al-Qaeda in Iraq would have a difficult time mounting such an operation in the Shia south. “The Karbala Government Center raid the other day was a little too professional for JAM [Jaish al-Mahdi, or the Mahdi Army],” according to a military source.

This raid required specific intelligence, in depth training for the agents to pass as American troops, resources to provide for weapons, vehicles, uniforms, identification, radios and other items needed to successfully carry out the mission. Hezbollah’s Imad Mugniyah executed a similar attack against Israeli forces on the Lebanese border, which initiated the Hezbollah-Israeli war during the summer of 2006.

The Qods Force is the foreign action arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. These are the most fanatical of the fanatical believers in the Iranian revolution and are highly motivated and trained. They’ve carried out assassinations in Europe and the Middle East of Iranian dissidents living abroad as well as assisting Hizbullah in Lebanon for many years.

Here’s the AFIS report Bill was referring to:

At about 5 p.m. that day, a convoy consisting of at least five sport utility vehicles entered the Karbala compound and about 12 armed militants attacked the American troops with rifle fire and hand grenades, officials said.

One soldier was killed and three others wounded by a hand grenade thrown into the center’s main office. Other explosions within the compound destroyed three Humvees.

The attackers withdrew with four captured U.S. soldiers and drove out of the Karbala province into the neighboring Babil province. Iraqi police began trailing the assailants after they drew suspicion at a checkpoint.

Three soldiers were found dead and one fatally wounded, along with five abandoned vehicles, near the town of Mahawil. Two were found handcuffed together in the back of one of the vehicles. The other two were found nearby on the ground. One soldier was found alive but died en route to a nearby hospital. All suffered from gunshot wounds.

Also recovered at the site were U.S. Army-type combat uniforms, boots, radios and a non-U.S. made rifle, officials said.

Bill believes the attackers were making a bee line for the Iranian border, hoping to hold our men as hostages to be exchanged for the Qods Force members we’re holding after our raid at Ibril. If so, the execution style murders were carried out because the Iranians feared capture (not that it makes any difference in the end).

With all the trouble that Ahmadinejad appears to be in with the elites in Iran, this botched operation probably doesn’t help him. If the Iranian President has in fact committed the Qods Force to action against Americans in any substantial way, this would represent a escalation – one that the President has matched with his order to kill or capture Iranian agents in Iraq.

Michelle Malkin’s intel source confirms that “it has all the signs of Iranian Special Forces.” Malkin also reports that 4 suspects have been arrested in the attack. No word on their nationality.

This situation bears watching.

By: Rick Moran at 3:44 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (10)

The Thunder Run linked with Web Reconnaissance for 01/29/2007
CATEGORY: Politics

I was too young for the May Day protest against the Viet Nam War held in Washington, D.C. in 1971. My friends and I talked about going for weeks prior to the event, seeing ourselves as something as a cross between Che Guevara and Abbie Hoffman. We even talked seriously about ditching school, running away for a few days (our parents were dead set against any of us going), and joining the massive demonstration.

Alas, it was a pipe dream. We were just stupid kids, scared to death about being drafted and believing the anti-war propaganda about the military, the government, and the United States. We opposed the war for very personal reasons; we didn’t want to die in what we were being told was a war of conquest being fought by evil capitalists against the heroic Vietnamese agricultural reformers.

Those not alive at the time cannot fathom the depth of feeling engendered by the anti-war movement. It was magical, powerful, uplifting, and joyous. We thought we were changing the world. We thought we were ushering in a new era of democracy.

What we didn’t know was that the gimlet eyed radicals who were really in charge of the anti-war movement could have cared less about us, about the United States, or about the war for that matter. They wanted to use the anti-war movement to sweep the old guard from power and install like minded socialists in government.

The May Day protest in Washington, D.C. sought to shut down the government. Some 50,000 hard core demonstrators would block the streets and intersections while putting up human barricades in front of federal offices. How exactly this would stop the war was kind of fuzzy. No matter. Nixon was ready with the army and National Guard and in the largest mass arrest in US history, clogged the jails of Washington with 10,000 kids.

Where are the clogged jails today? As I watch the demonstration on the mall today (much smaller than those in the past) I am thinking of the massive gulf between the self absorbed hodge podge of anti-globalist, pro-feminist, anti-capitalist, pro-abortion anti-war fruitcakes cheering on speakers lobbying for Palestinians, Katrina aid, and other causes not related to the war and the committed, determined bunch of kids who put their hides on the line, filling up the jails of dozens of cities, risking the billy clubs and tear gas of the police to stop what they saw as an unjust war.

The netnuts are fond of calling those of us who support the mission in Iraq chickenhawks. What do you call someone who sits on their ass in front of a keyboard, railing against the President, claiming that the United States is falling into a dictatorship, and writing about how awful this war is and yet refuses to practice the kinds of civil disobedience that their fathers and mothers used to actually bring the Viet Nam war to an end?

I call them what they are; rank cowards. There should be a million people on the mall today. Instead, there might be 50,000. Today’s antiwar left talks big but cowers in the corner. I have often written about how unserious the left is about what they believe. The reason is on the mall today. If they really thought that the United States was on the verge of becoming a dictatorship are you seriously trying to tell me that any patriotic American wouldn’t do everything in their power to prevent it rather than mouth idiotic platitudes and self serving bromides?

I know what I would do if I actually believed the United States was in danger of slipping into some kind of authoritarian, anti-Constitutional nightmare. And it wouldn’t be sitting at this keyboard trying to come up with cleverest way to skewer my political opponent. And I know I wouldn’t be alone either. The fact is, the left is not blessed with any special insights into what evil George is trying to do to the Constitution. They are a small, pitiful minority of paranoid, self aggrandizing mountebanks who are courageous when it comes to calling people names but abject cowards when it comes to actually standing up for their beliefs and putting iron behind their words of change.

Where are all the people chaining themselves to the gates of military bases? Where are the thousands of people blocking military convoys? A couple of kids throw rocks at a military recruiting office but where are all the protestors? For God’s sake, there are more people who protest in front of abortion clinics every day than protest in front of military recruiting offices.

The fact is, the anti-war movement is a mile long and an inch deep. If there really was a massive movement to stop the war in Iraq, it would manifest itself in people carrying out some of the actions I’ve outlined above. But there is no anti-war groundswell. The American people are tired of the war, tired of the incompetence and failure and wish to see an end to the partisan wrangling over it. But war weariness does not translate into the kind of action that would stop the war dead in its tracks and bring the troops home.

To the anti-war crowd I say get off your asses and stand up for your convictions. If you seriously believe American democracy is in danger, don’t just sit like a bump on a log and pontificate about it; get up on you hind legs and fight. As it stands now, you’re all just a bunch of intellectual exhibitionists with as much commitment to ending the war and saving democracy as my pet cat Aramas.

And at least Aramas has the redeeming characteristic of being pleasant to be around.

By: Rick Moran at 1:09 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (44)

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Varifrank linked with rick moran has a question for you leftists out there
CATEGORY: Ethics, Politics

My brother Terry (who just started a new blog) has an interesting post up today about Mitt Romney and religion. Much has been written about Romney’s Mormonism and I suppose much more will be written before all is said and done. Terry takes a little different approach to the subject:

Nevertheless, voters choose candidates for all kinds of reasons, some legitimate, some not. And sometimes, faith matters. For instance, if a candidate openly declared, “I am an atheist; God is a fairy tale invented to comfort children frightened of the dark”—I don’t think he or she would get elected in America. Ever. I think we’ll have a fat, gay Muslim president before we have an atheist one.

That’s because at some level we learn about people through their religion—or lack of it. A candidate’s faith is contextual—it fills out a public profile with the outlines of the most private of our commitments. And it is here—in the quest to understand what kind of man Mitt Romney, presidential candidate, is—that his Mormonism seems to matter to some.

Indeed, not only does Romney’s religion seem to draw criticism – even from some Christians – but some of the arguments used to question the former Massachusetts governor about his fidelity to the Constitution are eerily reminiscent of those used when Representative Keith Ellison was set to take his oath using the Koran.

Jacob Weisberg:

One may object that all religious beliefs are irrational—what’s the difference between Smith’s “seer stone” and the virgin birth or the parting of the Red Sea? But Mormonism is different because it is based on such a transparent and recent fraud. It’s Scientology plus 125 years. Perhaps Christianity and Judaism are merely more venerable and poetic versions of the same. But a few eons makes a big difference. The world’s greater religions have had time to splinter, moderate, and turn their myths into metaphor. The Church of Latter-day Saints is expanding rapidly and liberalizing in various ways, but it remains fundamentally an orthodox creed with no visible reform wing.

Beliefs that are “different” or hard to understand engender fear. I have frankly been amazed at the number of “Islamic scholars” who have emerged in the blogosphere over the last few years who, at the drop of a hat (and with a breathtaking casualness that bespeaks a shallowness of thought or just plain ignorance), will be more than happy to tell you that Islam is a religion of liars; that because of one line or another of text they’ve taken out of context from the Koran, there is proof that we can never trust Muslims, that Allah instructs them to lie to infidels in order to achieve worldwide conquest by Islam.

I have no doubt that the fanatics, the fundamentalists, the “Let’s Bring Back The Caliphate” crowd can justify anything by taking lines of revealed truth from the Koran and applying it to their jihad. A cursory glance at our own history reveals some dark truths about the way the Bible was used in similar fashion. Excerpts from the Bible have been used to justify slavery, war, capitol punishment (and anti-death penalty tracts), colonialism, forced conversions, and a host of other evils that any rational and loving God would never have intended.

The belief that Romney would be any less true to the Constitution as President because of his faith is a legitimate question. But how about questioning specific beliefs that may seem to some as outrageous or dangerous?

But there is a deeper argument about Mormonism and the presidency, and it deals with the contemporary authority of prophecy and revelation. As I understand it, Mormons believe we live in an age of prophecy—articulated in the pronouncements of the leaders of their church—and that these authentic revelations of God’s will are aimed at reforming Christianity and the world in preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (which will be in Missouri—a tenet that makes a lot of people giggle. But if you’d told the Romans God was about to manifest himself on earth in Bethlehem, they’d have giggled, too.)

The issue for some (Damon Linker laid it out in The New Republic) is that if a person truly believes the utterances of church leaders are revelations carrying the force of prophecy—then they are binding, and binding on every aspect of life. Would a President Romney be bound by prophetic Mormon teaching on issues from abortion and stem-cell research to the Middle East? Is the question any different for a Mormon like Romney than it is for a Methodist like George W. Bush or a Catholic like John F. Kennedy?

The answer to Terry’s question can be found in history. In the most famous modern speech on religion and politics, candidate John F. Kennedy spoke before the ultra conservative Ministerial Association of Greater Houston in order to lay to rest once and for all the idea that a Roman Catholic couldn’t be President.

It was a brilliant speech. Kennedy challenged people to vote for him in order to prove that they were not bigots, a brilliant political ploy. And, he defined the role that religion should play in public life:

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish—where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches, or any other ecclesiastical source—where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials—and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

Kennedy is referring, of course, to the notion still prevalent at that time that a Catholic President would be in the pocket of the pope – a fear directed toward Catholics that had been with the nation since the earliest of colonial times. In one afternoon, Kennedy swept away 300 years of history and replaced it with challenge for tolerance.

Will Romney be forced into a similar declaration as a result of Mormon tradition and beliefs? Given the ink already devoted to this subject, my guess is that he will have to do so sooner rather than later. One thing is certain, he can’t keep ducking the issue. People would believe he has something to hide if he continues to refer to his beliefs as “private.”

What does it say about the United States that here, in the 21st century, we are still grappling with issues of religion and politics? Freedom has a price. And sometimes the price exacted isn’t fair or equitable but simply necessary. Romney will realize this and eventually address the issue. How he does so will determine the way people judge him as a man and a candidate.

By: Rick Moran at 5:25 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)

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Students take cover behind a makeshift concrete barrier in Beirut yesterday during clashes at Beirut University.

Neither side planned it. Neither side wanted it. But in their darkest nightmares, both sides must have realized that the potential for the violence to get out of hand and acquire a life of its own must have been there all along.

Yesterday in Beirut, the brinkmanship that Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah has been practicing for almost two months bore unexpected fruit. Priding himself on making only carefully planned and tightly controlled moves in his dangerous chess match against Prime Minister Siniora’s government, his followers took matters into their own hands yesterday and in a burst of violence not seen in many years, battled pro government forces around the Beirut University campus. The significance of Thursday’s clashes is that it marks the first time that a confrontation occurred between the factions that didn’t have the overt blessing of the Hizbullah leader.

In the past two months, Nasrallah has staged two massive demonstrations, tried to shut down government offices using the time honored tactic of sit ins, and finally resorted on Tuesday to a general strike – shutting down roads and bringing the country to a virtual standstill. Violence associated with these carefully planned moves was both accidental and unwanted. Even Tuesday’s butcher’s bill of 3 dead and 130 injured came as shock to the opposition forces and may have caused them to back off in order to let things cool down.

But things didn’t cool down. Yesterday’s mayhem that has left 4 dead and 169 wounded was not planned. And it erupted between Sunni and Shia youths; the same people who would be facing off in any potential civil war:

Thursday’s clashes in Beirut showed just how quickly any spark can turn into a wildfire.

Students said it began with a scuffle in the cafeteria of Beirut Arab University between Sunni Muslims and supporters of the Shiite Hezbollah. As Sunnis in the surrounding Tarik el-Jadideh district moved in, Hezbollah activists called in reinforcements.

Hezbollah activists with walkie-talkies were seen coordinating as a ragtag convoy of hundreds of vigilantes raced to the campus. Gangs – many wearing blue and red construction hard hats and wielding clubs made from sticks and even chair legs – poured into the area and battled Sunni students and riot police and soldiers.

Hezbollah backers claimed Sunni gunmen fired from apartment balconies near the school, wounding several people. The claim could not be independently confirmed.

Thick black smoke rose over the campus and the neighborhood on the southern edge of Beirut as rioters set fire to vehicles, tires and trash. Bands of youths clashed with stones and clubs in running street battles as the army tried to close off streets with tanks and armored vehicles. Troops fired tear gas and warning shots into the air.

“We are afraid about the future of the country. We are afraid about civil war,” said Mohammed Abdul-Sater, a 21-year-old Shiite student.

The “Sunni gunmen” were arrested later. They were identified by security forces as a Syrian and a Lebanese.

It is not likely that Syrian President Bashir Assad planned the violence. But most analysts have little doubt that he is ready to take advantage of any clashes that erupt and attempt to widen the conflict into a full blown civil war. Would a civil war lead to a re-introduction of Syrian troops into Lebanon? Assad would dearly love it although the US, the French, and most of the Arab world might have something to say about it.

Note also the highly organized response by Hizbullah. Do they have some kind of “rapid reaction force” available for just such eventualities? It would seem so. Of course, the Sunnis don’t have anything comparable which would put them at a huge disadvantage if things begin to escalate. Also, the Sunnis who poured in from the nearby Tarik el-Jadideh district brought sticks and stones to a gunfight – not a good sign. Next time, the firepower will probably be more equal.

One hopeful sign was the performance of the army. During Tuesday’s violence, they appeared to stay on the periphery, even assisting the opposition in their efforts to shut down the country. But yesterday’s clashes took a heavy toll on the security forces as they suffered 17 wounded.

There are conflicting reports of a Saudi-Iranian initiative to end the crisis by changing the make up of the cabinet and giving the opposition a voice in discussions regarding the International Tribunal that will try the murderers of ex-Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. In fact, according to MEMRI, this appeared to be a done deal a week ago:

The March 14 Forces agreed to the draft agreement, as did Iran, as mentioned. However, Nasrallah delayed answering. Finally, on January 18, during an interview on Hizbullah’s Al-Manar TV channel, Nasrallah rejected the draft because it did not include General Michel Aoun’s demand for early parliamentary elections.

The next day, Saudi Arabia called Iran to find out what the holdup was over the agreement. The answer it received was that senior Iranian officials still viewed the draft agreement positively, and they intended to send Larijani to Syria on the coming Monday, January 21, in order to obtain Syria’s agreement. The Saudis were also told that Larijani was in touch with Hizbullah as well.

On January 22, 2007, Larijani went to Syria and met with Syrian officials and then with a Hizbullah delegation there. Sources following the contacts said that Larijani was heavily criticized during the talks in Damascus for accepting the inclusion of the international court in the Saudi draft agreement. The talks ended with Syria’s rejection of the draft agreement.

The scuttling of the agreement by Assad is to be expected. Simply put, once the International Tribunal sits and begins to present evidence of high level Syrian complicity – perhaps the highest – in the assassinations and bombings that have shaken Lebanon over the past two years, the Assad regime will become an international pariah and perhaps even fall to an internal coup. And as I mentioned before, Assad feels it is in his interest to foment civil war in Lebanon so that he can re-occupy and once again, milk what he considers the Syrian province for everything he can.

Would Nasrallah go ahead and take a deal without the backing of Syria? Iran is pushing the agreement because the last thing they want is for Nasrallah to be seen as the cause of Shia on Sunni bloodletting. It flies in the face of their larger strategic goal of uniting the Muslim world against the US and the west. In this instance, Syria and Iran have competing interests in Lebanon and Nasrallah is caught in the middle.

And Nasrallah has his own agenda as well. He has a fractious coalition to tend including the necessity of keeping the extremely troublesome Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun happy – something that is becoming more difficult as time passes. Aoun wants early parliamentary elections because he thinks it will give him a stronger base when he runs for President next year. He may be dreaming. The Christian community is badly split over his desertion to the opposition and his list will get precious few votes from Sunnis and Shias.

Talks between the Saudis and Iranians were renewed on Wednesday and picked up steam yesterday as a result of the violence. There are once again conflicting reports about whether a deal has been ironed out between the two regional powers:

The secretary general of the Saudi National Security Council, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, held talks with Iranian counterpart Ali Larijani in Tehran on “the critical situation in Lebanon,” the television said.

The two men, whose talks came a day after three people were killed in Lebanon in clashes between government and opposition supporters, “emphasized the necessity of finding a solution agreed to by all Lebanese groups.”

But the Saudi foreign minister said Thursday Saudi Arabia is not negotiating with Iran to try to broker an end to the political crisis in Lebanon, but the two countries have exchanged messages about Muslim cooperation.

Asked about the reports, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said: “There is no initiative really.”

And Nasrallah has made it clear that he considers any initiative from outside Lebanon to be unwelcome:

In a speech yesterday, January 24, 2007, Hizbullah leader Nasrallah said, referring to the Iran-Saudi contacts: “Allah will bless all those who help Lebanon, but every agreement between two countries or two governments does not bind the Lebanese, because the Lebanese must seek their own interests and not the interests of Saudi Arabia and Iran.”

It seems to me that Nasrallah basically has two options at this point. He can embrace the horror and continue down the path he has chosen – a path that he must realize by now can only end in sectarian conflict. Or he can sit down with Siniora and hammer out a compromise that he can live with.

As for the latter, he is getting plenty of cover from his own allies. Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri of the Amal party, Hizbullah’s major partner in the anti-government coalition has called for all parties to negotiate. And Siniora has constantly issued pleas for Nasrallah to come to the table and find a way to untie the knot of civil war that seems to be tightening every day that Hizbullah is in the streets.

But after making grandiose claims about bringing down the government, can Nasrallah afford to back down? The answer to that question will determine if Lebanon sinks into the nightmare of civil war.

His options narrowing, his people perhaps getting beyond his control, resistance stiffening among the opposition parties, and his main benefactors in Iran and Syria split over what is the best course for the future, Nasrallah is in a bind of his own making. If he plays the statesmen, Lebanon will probably settle back into an uneasy peace. But if he decides to play the fiery revolutionary leader, it is very likely that in the not too distant future, the streets of Beirut and Tyre and Tripoli will once again run red with the blood of innocents and combatants alike and Lebanon will sink to its knees in agony.


Jim Hoft has some good photos and some troubling information:

Blacksmiths of Lebanon has news (Via Naharnet) that police… “defused a rocket that was directed at the Moustaqbal newspaper in Beirut, shortly before it was set to launch. “Luckily they discovered it. It would have resulted in a massacre. The newspaper is packed by journalists at this time of the evening,” Editor Nassir al-Assad told Naharnet by telephone.”

This sounds like meddling by Syria. I can’t believe that Nasrallah would be dumb enough to target the press. In fact, Syria has been behind a series of assassinations of Lebanese journalists over the last two years including the death of An Nahar’s Gebran Tueni, grandson of the founding publisher and an anti-Syrian member of Parliament.


Robert Mayer also points out that Nasrallah is in a bind. He also believes that Nasrallah is retreating as a result of Tuesday’s violence.

By: Rick Moran at 7:34 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)


The votes are in from this week’s Watchers Council and the winner in the Council category was “MLK Day—A Singular Holiday” by Rhymes with Right. Finishing second was Andrew Olmsted for “The Beauty of “Fairness”.”

Coming in first in the non Council category was “A Framework for Thinking About Iraq Strategy” by Small Wars Journal.

We say farewell to Andrew Olmsted who has been called up to serve our country. Good luck to Andrew and thanks for your service. An excellent writer and thinker who I’m sure we’ll be hearing more of in the future.

If you’d like to participate in the weekly Watchers Council vote, go here and follow instructions.

By: Rick Moran at 8:51 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)