INCITE
Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Friday, December 31, 2004

 
Happy New Year!
Written by: Beck

Regularly scheduled ranting to resume presently.


Tuesday, December 28, 2004

 
Deja Vu Down
Written by: Brent Brophy

Umm...

An estimated 10,000 people were in need of emergency aid in the remote northeast of Somalia, the African country worst hit by the quake and resulting tidal waves, U.N. officials said on Tuesday.


I seem to recall that the last time anybody tried to help Somalia, things didn't go very well. Why would anyone want to go to Africa to get robbed and killed, when you can get robbed and killed in Britian where getting robbed killed won't get you labelled as a racist?

Goe, thinks the UN should go away.


 
My favorite word
Written by: Beck

Defenestrate.

Love it.


Monday, December 27, 2004

 
Ukraine gets the job done
Written by: Beck

Yushchenko is claiming victory in Ukraine, and it looks like everything will come off relatively smoothly. No civil war, no splitting the nation into two countries, and no Russian invasion. What are the odds?


Friday, December 24, 2004

 
Merry Christmas
Written by: Beck

And happy etc., etc., to those of you who don't celebrate Christmas. I myself am headed to the parents' place. See ya round!


 
Your UN Contribution at Work III
Written by: Beck

Congratulations! You just paid for the rape of a 10 year old girl!

Allow me to explain. There's a very interesting article in the London Times on the ongoing sex-with-little-girls-in-the-Congo-by-UN-personnel scandal. We learn quite a few interesting things. For instance, we learn that the 11,500 person "peace keeping" contingent, apart from completely failing to keep the peace, is behaving like a bunch of drunken frat boys in Tijuana. I've written earlier on the magnitude of the abuse of women and children, and how there are reports of girls as young as ten being raped and abused.

Next, we learn that this isn't exactly new. As long as two and a half years ago, UN personnel's atrocious behavior was known to the world--but went virtually entirely unreported.
In July 2002 the rebel commander Major-General Jean Pierre Ondekane, who subsequently became Minister of Defence in a postwar transitional government, told a top UN official that all that Monuc (the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo) would be remembered for in Kisangani was "for running after little girls."
Third, we learn that the annual budget of the UN mission in the Congo is a whopping $746.1 million. Finally, we learn that the cost of having sex with a young Congolese girl typically ranges from $1-$3. In one instance, a couple Russian pilots were paying girls with jars of mayonnaise and jam, then sending back pictures to friends back home.

So let's crunch some numbers. Let's say you're a successful worker and make $100,000 and that you pay an effective tax rate of 35%. That's $35,000/year you pay in personal income taxes to the IRS. We'll go ahead and forget, for the moment, the corporate taxes paid on the fruits of your labors at work. If you make more or less money and/or pay a higher or lower effective tax rate, you can figure this out for yourself by simply multiplying the final number I'm working towards by the percentage of $35,000 that you personally pay in taxes.

According to this spreadsheet at the IRS website, total IRS tax revenues for 2003 were $1,969.648 billion. Your personal contribution then comes to about 0.000002% of total US tax receipts.

The US contributes $7 billion to the UN budget--roughly a quarter of the UN budget (I've had a hell of a time finding specific UN budget figures. More on that some other day). Using that one quarter figure, the United States' share of the Congo mission comes to $186.525 million. Your 0.000002% share of that is a whopping $3.31. That's enough to pay for sex with a Congolese girl three times! Your tax dollars at work.

You know what I'd like to know? Where's the outrage? A few dozen men in an American prison in Iraq--who were there because they'd had the poor judgment to associate with terrorists--were subjected to rank humiliation. To this day, someone who reads as much online as I do can't go a week without seeing that famous picture. You know the one. With the guy wearing the hood standing on a crate, hands extended Christ-like and electrodes dangling from his finger tips.

Well something far worse has been going on far longer, and nothing has changed. It's still going on. And every American tax payer is contributing to it. So I ask again, where's the fucking outrage? Where?

Let me make this abundantly clear, as I am wont to do. You work hard to make money. You then pay part of that to the US government, who in turn spends it on the United Nations so that men in the Congo can rape 12 year olds.

Supporting Kofi Annan isn't just bad policy, it's immoral. Continued involvement in the United Nations isn't just counter to American interests, it's immoral. And the next time I hear someone who whines about how Abu Ghraib has cost American legitimacy yet who remains silent about the United Nations, I'm going to vomit. Right in their face.

(Hat tip: Captain's Quarters)


 
In defense of the Electoral College
Written by: Beck

Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Moon) and Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Bat) have announced plans to push a constitutional amendment in 2005 to abolish the electoral college, instead replacing it by a straight popular-vote system. I think this is a serious mistake. My reasons are simple and straightforward--this is neither rocket science, nor some nefarious scheme to monopolize the presidency for the Republican party.

The electoral college forces candidates to spread their efforts geographically. Feinstein argues the opposite--that it induces candidates to focus on a few battleground states. This mischaracterizes events and relies too heavily on the unusually close examples of the past two elections.

In a straight popular vote, it behooves candidates to concentrate their efforts in the most popular states and areas. With an Electoral College, once a state is in the bag, it behooves candidates to move on to the next area. Winning 60% of a state is no better than winning 55%.

The Electoral College also forces candidates to be more moderate. The need to appeal to a broader geographic range of people by definition means a broader range of interests must be appealed to. It's not enough to appeal to just, for instance, urban voters. A candidate must also appeal to farmers, blue collar laborers, Hispanic immigrants, the elderly... the list goes on. The only way to successfully appeal to such a broad range of people is via studied moderation. John Kerry lost precisely because he failed to achieve that broad, moderate appeal.

Were there no Electoral College, Kerry's approach would become the norm. It would be advantageous for candidates to move to the extremes; the result would be a much greater polarization of politics than currently exists. People liked to call this election the most divisive ever (which, come on folks, have you heard of the Civil War?). In truth, the candidates weren't far apart on most issues. Even with Iraq, Kerry acknowledged the need to see things through to the end now that we're there, and at times expressed support for the initial invasion (this stance, obviously, was subject to periodic nuance modification depending on the latest polling data).

Under a popular vote regime, the candidates would be more likely to look like Howard Dean and Pat Buchanan than what we actually had in 2004. Furthermore, had the most recent election been held with a popular vote regime, Bush would have spent all his time in Texas, Florida, and other concentrated red-state populations while Kerry spent all his time jetting between New York and California. Rather than incenting candidates to spread their effort, they'd be better off ratcheting their popular vote share in their respective core support regions from 65% to 70%.

What's more, the argument that the Electoral College prompted candidates to focus all their efforts on a couple states in 2004 is fallacious. To quote Captain's Quarters (which agrees with me, though takes a different approach by arguing that a popular vote would disproportionately favor Democrats--thus why they support the notion so ardently):
What Feinstein and Lofgren resent was the absence of the presidential candidates in California, which never gave much indication of any chance for George Bush to win. Despite the pair's assertions that only a handful of states got any attention, though, the two candidates spent the last few days of the campaign moving through a dozen states or more each, from high-population states such as Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania to smaller states such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico, and others. Even if they didn't visit any one particular state, voters across the country could hardly miss the moment-to-moment coverage in the networks, cable outlets, Internet wire services, and blogs.
The Electoral College is a good thing, regardless of whether you're a Republican or a Democrat. A popular vote would just constitute another step in the destruction of the federal system.


Thursday, December 23, 2004

 
Headline of the day award
Written by: Beck

UN plan for Darfur 'not working'

Which brings me to an article at Tech Central Station from earlier in the week--brought back to my attention by the Mystery Achiever. The article highlights a theme I've tried to emphasize in the past: the problem with the Untied Nations (and the United States' continued involvement therein) goes much deeper than Kofi Annan's leadership, mismanaged crisis around the world, or oil-for-food style corruption.

The UN's problems are a fundamental part of its structure. They're hard wired in to the very manner in which the UN was created & operates.
The UN is plagued by both systemic corruption and a fundamental structural flaw; it makes no distinctions between governments which represent their people and governments which use the instruments of state power to repress and exploit their people. But the real problem with the UN is even deeper. The real problem is that democratic governments have joined non-democratic governments in a forum whose primary goal is the expansion of government authority.

The United Nations is the pre-eminent trade association for people involved in the business of government power. Actually, it is more focused than that. The United Nations is the trade association for the world's executive branches -- the place where executive branches come together to promote their individual interests to one another, and to promote the expansion of executive authority in general.
Say what you will about the intended "mission" of the United Nations; it exists to promote the power of the state over the freedom of the individual. Worldwide.


 
Counter-Rumsfeld Fire
Written by: Brent Brophy

The Belmont Club posted an article about a widely linked story. Their article was also widely linked, as they argued against the crippling effect of the current rules of engagement. Mainly, that the Iraqi's are targeting our hospitals while we hold our soldiers to near-saintly standard. While reading their article (the original article is well-worth reading if you haven't already), this jumped out at me.

In the middle of the mayhem the first mortar round hit about 100 to 200 meters away. Everyone started shouting to get the wounded into the hospital which is solid concrete and much safer than being in the open. Soon, the next mortar hit quite a bit closer than the first as they "walked" their rounds toward their intended target...us.


I've complained before about the fucked up nature of "transformation", which seems to involve transforming the military from a fighting force into a bunch of pork projects. One of the things I didn't bring up then that bothers me about "transformation" is the hollywoodishness of it. Any aspect of military life that is unlikely to make for a good action film is being cut from the military. All of the technology and experience developed over centuries of warfighting is being chucked out to favor whatever looks cool.

If you disagree, feel free to tell me why there wasn't any counterbattery fire.

Goe, thinks Rumsfeld is afraid a terrorist might get hurt.


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

 
Putin blinks?
Written by: Beck

Russian President Vladimir Putin has gone to great lengths to back Ukrainian kleptocratic candidate Viktor Yanukovych against challenger Viktor Yushchenko. Got all that?

Putin hasn't hesitated to butt heads with pro-Yushchenko forces in Western Europe and North America, and he's spent quite a bit of political capital trying to do everything in his power to bring about a Yanukovych victory.

With the December 26 Supreme Court ordered re-vote coming, everything suggests that Yushchenko should win easily, barring massive fraud or a military coup. What everyone's worried about is that last bit, and the likeliness of that to happen is directly related to the likelihood that Putin decides to provide political cover. That's why this relatively innocuous article is so significant.
But in a conciliatory gesture, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has strongly backed Ukraine's prime minister, said Tuesday that he could work with an administration headed by Yushchenko, a former prime minister and head of the Central Bank.

"We have worked with him already and the cooperation was not bad," Putin said during a visit to Germany. "If he wins, I don't see any problems."
In other words, it's wide open in Ukraine, and Putin has been forced to back down from a highly unpopular position in a nation which he considers to be entirely within Russia's sphere of influence.


 
Hayek Shrugged
Written by: Beck

The United Kingdom has taken a small step giant leap down the road towards totalitarianism today. They've passed legislation calling for the creation of a national ID card system. Before any Americans begin likening this to systems we have here, you have to realize the scope of information to be tied to the national ID system. The cards are to be linked via a massive, nation-wide database, to biometric data (e.g. fingerprints) and any other information the state wishes to collect. There are already cameras on every street in Britain; now, nothing you do will be free from government notice.

The situation is so fearsome that Samizdata's editor Perry de Havilland has announced that he's giving up the fight for liberty within the borders of the UK. He's planning to move to New Hampshire (state motto: Live Free or Die), and to carry on the fight from there. Go read his exceedingly depressing For me, Britain died today post. An excerpt:
Although I knew this day was coming, it is profoundly depressing nevertheless. It is now the law that ID cards will be imposed by force in Britain, with the support of the Leaders of the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. They have won and as far as I am concerned, the guttering flame of the culture of liberty in Britain just blew out.

I do not expect a truly repressive state to be implemented for many years yet (hopefully), but the infrastructure of tyranny is now well and truly in place, all of which came to pass with a soundtrack of a faint bleating sound of an indifferent public in the background. You might as well flip a coin to figure out which party will usher it in but a authoritarian panoptic state is coming. If this is what the majority of British people want, then may they get exactly what they deserve, but I am out of here. For those of you who will be happy to see me go, trust me, the feeling is mutual.
Let that serve as a reminder to everyone: if you do not fight to defend your freedom, you will not be free.


 
AnnanCorp
Written by: Brent Brophy

The United Nations may have found a purpose in Darfur.

A: Ho ho ho and a bottle of rum

Q: What is President Clinton's Christmas list.

Goe, against suicide bombing the mess tents.


 
Merry Christmas Kofi
Written by: Beck

The New York Times' headline says it all: At Year-End News Conference, Annan is Hopeful. Well, that makes one of us. Annan made a late year bid for the understatement of the year award, but missed Time's deadline for "Best Of" considerations.
Secretary General Kofi Annan said today that allegations of corruption in the oil-for-food program had "cast a shadow" over the United Nations and made 2004 an especially troubled year for the international organization...
The Times does Annan a disservice with that relatively straightforward intro to the article. They make it up to Annan with paragraph two, which I quote in full. Really. Unedited. I swear.
"No doubt that this has been a particularly difficult year, and I am relieved that this annus horribilus is coming to an end," he said, using the Latin words for "horrible year" that were last memorably invoked by Queen Elizabeth II in 1992 to describe the year in which Windsor Castle was partially destroyed by fire, royal marriages were exposed as collapsing and the purpose of the British monarchy was called into question.
You cannot even begin to imagine the difficulty I have in avoiding any of the dozens of obvious puns which come to mind in response to the "annus horribilus." Kofi owes me one for this unrivaled show of restraint.

Annan again restated his intent to stay with the UN through the regularly schedule end to his Secretary Generalship in 2006. Which isn't especially notable. He went on to stress that both he and the United States recognize the importance of the US - UN relationship. Which isn't especially notable either--though I take issue with his suggestion that the UN is as important to the US as the US is to the UN. No, what I find interesting in this article is the following:
He did depart from his refusal to discuss details to comment on a charge from his son Kojo, 29, a former employee of a company that had oil-for-food contracts, that the accusations against him, his father and the United Nations amounted to a "witchhunt."

"I don't agree with that," he said, without elaboration.
You may have to reread that to see what's going on. Kofi is disagreeing with Kojo's "witchhunt" characterization of the Oil-for-Food investigations. Could this mean Kofi is prepared to sell out his son in order to keep his spot at the helm of the UN? Time will tell.

For more thoughts and analysis on Annan's year-end speech, see Captain's Quarters, which joins me in his criticism of the UN.


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

 
The Complete United Nations Posts
Written by: Beck

A reader (Drethlin) suggested I should collect all of my United Nations/Kofi Annan related posts in one place, and I think that's a fantastic idea. I'll continue to periodically update this post as I write more on the UN, and post a permalink to it atop the greatest hits section of the INCITE sidebar.

April 10:
Kofi Annan Resignation Watch -- Knocking the dust off edition

March 24:
Laurence nails it

March 22:
Just when you thought things couldn't get any more farcical

March 17:
I just can't resist a good slap at the United Nations

March 14:
Meet John Bolton

March 12:
I call shenanigans

March 7:
United Nations Bingo

March 6:
More United Nations bashing

February 17:
Talk about a sieve

February 16:
Your UN Contribution at Work VI

February 9:
BREAKING: New United Nations Scandal

February 8:
Window dressing

February 7:
Steyn on Darfur and the UN

February 6:
Endemic
The common sense fairy gives the UN a miss
Oil-for-Food news

February 4:
Great news in Oil-for-Food

January 30:
Kojo Annan admits to involvement in Oil-for-Food corruption

January 28:
Ceasefire holding

January 25:
Need some anti-Kofi spray

January 21:
Parasites

January 19:
Being brief

January 17:
What's in a (sub) headline

January 15:
There's hope for this nation of mine

January 6:
Bloody hell
Weapons inspections do not work

January 5:
The Culture Cult claims a few more victims
Words of wisdom

January 3:
Your UN Contribution at Work V

January 2:
Your UN Contribution at Work IV

December 24:
Your UN Contribution at Work III

December 23:
Headline of the day award

December 22:
Merry Christmas Kofi

December 21:
Irrational exuberance

December 20:
A call for Kofi Annan to resign from a liberal multilateralist
Your UN Contribution at Work II

December 19:
Your UN Contribution at Work

December 18:
Kofi Annan Resignation Watch -- Insult Added to Injury edition

December 17:
Kofi Annan Resignation Watch -- Piling On Embarrassment edition

December 10:
Kofi Annan Resignation Watch Day... ah, screw it

December 9:
Kofi Annan Resignation Watch Day 3

December 8:
Kofi Annan Resignation Watch Day 2
Back to work!

December 7:
Kofi Annan Resignation Watch
Things I wish I had thought of first

December 6:
And I thought I had problems with the UN

December 5:
The Security Council Veto Power, or Got Nuke?
United Nations & Ukraine [insert synonym for "update" here]

December 4:
UN Humor

November 26:
United Nations Delenda Est
The newest organized crime family: Annan

November 30:
Link dump

November 22:
So many dead horses, so little time

November 21:
Now is the time when we dance

October 24:
Day of mourning

June 21:
UKIP in America

May 5:
Divine Right of Kings and UN Mandates


 
Tracking Iraq & more
Written by: Beck

A new blog (founded by, among others, the Commissar of the Politburo Diktat) has been created to track developments in Iraqi politics and the upcoming elections. It's run by a lot of smart people, and definitely worth the look if that's a subject which holds any interest for you, so go have a look at the aptly named Iraq Elections Blog.

In other new blog news, Sudan Watch is dedicated to tracking developments in, you guessed it, Sudan. There's a striking depth of coverage there, including a news item from today which I was unaware of--Britain has called a meeting of the Security Council to discuss taking immediate action with regard to the continued degeneration of the situation in Darfur.

Finally, I just discovered Mystery Achievement (or rather, they discovered me). I've gotta like any blog that has nearly as much commentary on the United Nations as this one. One of my favorite examples.

You'll find all three of these blogs in various locations on the INCITE sidebar.


 
Irrational exuberance
Written by: Beck

One thing I'm seldom--if ever--accused of is possession of a surplus of optimism. But I'm beginning to feel just a tinge of it with regard to the United Nations. Yeah, yeah, of all the things to actually be optimistic about, this is probably the single least likely candidate. But read on.

First of all, I was reading a post over at Protein Wisdom highlighting this excellent article over at the Weekly Standard. I'll go ahead and excerpt from the article briefly--not because it's central to my main point; rather, because it merits quotation.
Those who think (or hope) that the U.N. will fade into irrelevance fail to consider the enormous and very valuable benefits the Charter confers on aggressive outlaw states. The most important of these is the elimination of what lawyers call "self-help" enforcement: the right to enforce one's rights unilaterally. Before the Charter came into existence, your violation of a treaty triggered my right to enforce the terms of the treaty by force. Today I need the Security Council's permission. This encourages violators to do as they please and hide behind the Charter, knowing that law-abiding states will face an unpleasant choice between legitimacy and security.

The problem's roots go deeper than many U.N. critics realize: The United Nations is in a sense systematically destroying international law. In his magisterial 1950 commentary on the U.N. Charter, the Austrian-American jurist Hans Kelsen wrote, "To the extent a Member is deprived of its right of self-help, enforcement action of the Organization must actually take place, otherwise the Organization constitutes, instead of an improvement, a dangerous deterioration in the content of general international law." The reason is simple: A rule that carries no penalty for violations does not rise to the level of law and is at best merely a voluntary norm.

Consider the International Atomic Energy Agency's disastrous Iran policy. Here the Annan panel report makes among the most intelligent of all its recommendations: It adopts President Bush's far-reaching proposals for reform of the nonproliferation regime. The panel recognizes that enrichment and reprocessing capabilities constitute a threat, even though they may technically be legal under the nonproliferation treaty.
Back to my main point--my sudden discover of a measure of optimism--reading Jeff's post triggered an idea in my head which I promptly jotted down in the post's comments section. Rereading that today, I decided it was important & relevant enough to reprint here. And yes, I did just spend six paragraphs to say, "I'm going to reprint something I wrote elsewhere." Anyway, here's what I had to say (in all its unedited glory--enjoy the subject-verb agreement errors, tense changes, and general rambling):
Having just done two anti-UN posts myself, then seeing this one, a heart-warming thought popped into my head: anti-UN sentiment has reached critical mass.

I see it everywhere now. When it was just Instapundit taking the UNSCAM details as they emerged and running with it, well, it got a broad audience, but it still had the feel of a lone voice in the woods. Even with plenty of other blogs linking to Reynolds's work on the subject, it remained one man's private crusade.

Now, you can't miss the feeling in the air. There has been a change. Editorials are popping up everywhere. Pundits and officials from the other side of the isle have become openly critical of an institution once regarded as a Sacred Cow of the Left.

I think the end of the election was the key event. For one thing, Bush's victory constituted an endorsement of US policy of invading Iraq--a policy increasingly at odds with the noises coming out of the UN and Kofi Annan. More importantly though, it denied the blogosphere--which this election really began to flex its muscle and become conscious of its influence and power--of its main discussion topic. The occasional Ohio/Washington recount story, voting fraud story, and "What's wrong with the Democratic Party?" story still popped up, but they lack the spirit (and the volume) of months past. The excitement that existed on the right during RatherGate and on the left with the debut of Fahrenheit 9/11 just wasn't there anymore. There was a vacuum.

The UN filled it.

I know it sounds a touch on the ludicrously optimistic side, but I really think this movement could have long term impact. It could be the resignation of Kofi Annan (which won't be enough for me, but which will quiet down much of the anti-UN criticism and bog down the discussion in blather about "reform"). It could be the formation of a Democratic Nations Caucus within the UN. It could even be--though I'm not betting on it--the USA's withdrawal from the UN.

Either that, or I picked a hell of a week to quit smoking crack.
Am I being too optimistic? Perhaps. But I think there's a decent chance that I'm right.


Monday, December 20, 2004

 
A call for Kofi Annan to resign from a liberal multilateralist
Written by: Beck

Kofi Annan apologists and United Nations defenders have gone to great lengths to characterize the current anger directed towards them as the product of right wing opportunists and ultra-conservative attack squads. By associating anti-UN sentiments with the Rush Limbaugh right they hope to insinuate that their critics are unsophisticated, unserious, card-carrying members of the tin-foil hat brigade.

The reality of the situation, of course, is that criticism of Annan and the United Nations are far more wide spread and cover a far broader range of the political spectrum. While not all critics are calling for American withdrawal from the UN or expulsion of the UN from New York, calls for reform and fresh leadership enjoy wide ranging support.

As such, I feel compelled to draw attention to this article from the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal, as it was written by a self-declared "liberal multilateralist" who has done on-the-ground investigation into the genocides in Serbia and Rwanda--operations which were both under the control of--surprise--Kofi Annan.
A debate currently rages about whether Kofi Annan enjoys the moral authority to lead the United Nations because the Oil for Food scandal happened under his command. That debate is 10 years too late and addresses the wrong subject. The salient indictment of Mr. Annan's leadership is lethal cowardice, not corruption; the evidence is genocide, not oil.

[...] But it isn't just the stench of death I remember so vividly; the odor of betrayal also hung heavily in the Rwandan air. This was not a genocide in which the U.N. failed to intervene; most of the U.N.'s armed troops evacuated after the first two weeks of massacres, abandoning vulnerable civilians to their fate, which included, literally, the worst things in the world a human being can do to another human being.

It did not have to happen. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, the U.N.'s force commander in Rwanda, sent Mr. Annan a series of desperate faxes including one warning that Hutu militias "could kill up to 1,000" Tutsis "in 20 minutes" and others pleading for authority to protect vulnerable civilians. But at the crucial moment, Mr. Annan ordered his general to stand down and to vigorously protect, not genocide victims, assembled in their numbers waiting to die, but the U.N.'s image of "impartiality."

[...] Rwandans still seethe. Last month I went to a tiny, remote village, deep in the central Rwandan hills to meet Charles Kagenza, a famous Tutsi survivor who hid in the bell tower of a church full of Tutsis that was bulldozed to the ground, burying victims alive. When I told him I worked for the U.N. 10 years ago, just after the war, he looked me straight in the eye, with his one remaining good eye, and shot back, "What are you doing here? You had the capacity to save us but you abandoned us."

[...] Some 3,300 miles directly north from Kigali is the town of Srebrenica, a grim, shell-pocked village on the border of Republika Srpska and Serbia. A few kilometers down a decrepit road is a sprawling abandoned battery factory. Ten years ago, thousands of Muslim civilians concentrated here seeking shelter at a U.N. base. But Serb militias separated the men and boys from their women and put them on buses. Armed Blue Helmeted U.N. Peacekeepers--tasked under Mr. Annan's leadership to protect Srebrenica's civilians in this U.N.-declared "Safe Area"--watched passively. The women of Srebrenica never saw their men again.

Across the street lies a new cemetery and memorial for the 8,000 fallen men of Srebrenica. The remains of most of Safe Area Srebrenica's men have not yet been identified through DNA, but 1,300 have, and they rest in fresh mounds of earth on one end of the mostly empty graveyard. A long desolate green field waits to bury the rest of the remains.

[...] One of the women of Srebrenica whom these men left behind entered the graveyard while I was there. Ashen white face and gold teeth framed in a traditional black Bosniac headscarf, she moved from tombstone to tombstone bowed in prayer. She told me her name was Magbula and she lost six of her men here, husband, sons and brothers. The whole family had gathered across the street at the battery factory, assuming the U.N. soldiers there would protect them, she said. Her men were put on a bus at the gate of the factory and she never saw them again.

"Do you think the U.N. was at fault?" I asked. Not the soldiers, she said, but the leaders. "If they had done their job, and were responsible, this would not have happened." I asked if she'd heard about the current controversy over Mr. Annan's leadership. Yes she had. So I asked if she thought he should resign. It was not oil that fueled her angry answer, but genocide: "Yes," she said, waving her hand, "all the U.N. leaders. They could have reacted if they wanted to. If the U.N. goes somewhere now, how can the people there believe or trust that the U.N. will save them?"
Kofi Annan is a morally bankrupt technocrat interested only in the preservation of his own power and the enrichment of his cronies. The United Nations has a difficult enough time claiming any sort of moral authority as it is thanks to the domination of the General Assembly by dictators; certainly, it will never be able to claim any sort of moral authority so long as Annan remains in charge.


 
Your UN Contribution at Work II
Written by: Beck

From the LA Times:
One evening four months ago, a soft-spoken 18-year-old named Aziza was selling bananas in the market here when some U.N. peacekeepers summoned her to their car. Aziza went over thinking they wanted to buy fruit, but was persuaded to engage in a different kind of transaction.

"They offered me love," she said, in the colloquial French spoken in this former Belgian colony. And they offered her money--just $5, but more than she would make in a month at the market. "It was done in the car, in the dark," she said. "I didn't have the strength to refuse."

[...]

Certainly some, even many, U.N. peacekeepers and civilian officers in this war-plagued region were. Aziza's story and at least 150 other reports of sexual abuse in Congo have come to light in recent months, shocking an institution that considers itself an agency of mercy.

The shock has inspired action on an overhaul of the U.N.'s 16 peacekeeping missions around the world. In Congo, home to the largest operation--with about 11,000 soldiers and 1,200 civilians--the allegations point to nearly all of the major peacekeeping contingents. But they also involve senior civilian officials, including a top security officer, a chief on the U.N. special envoy's staff and an internal oversight investigator.

[...]

The charges range from rape to exploitation--sex for a bottle of water or a military ration--to "relationships" or solicitations that are marked by a severe imbalance in power. One case, involving a French U.N. staffer who took digital pictures of underage girls, has caused concern that it could become "the U.N.'s Abu Ghraib" if the photos get out.

[...]

Among the cases reported in Bukavu is that of a 13-year-old girl who was raped by an African cook who worked at the peacekeepers' base. Her family threw her out when she became pregnant and she and her baby are shunned by the community.

In another, an 18-year-old girl said that she and her little brother were walking down the road when three South American peacekeepers dragged her into the shadows of nearby trees and all three raped her.

Yet another woman described how she agreed to go home with an Asian engineer but when they got there, she was gang-raped so brutally by a group of his buddies that a condom lodged inside her and had to be medically extracted.

[...]

In Cambodia in 1993, when confronted with complaints about sexual abuse of underage girls, the mission's chief, Yasushi Akashi, replied, "Boys will be boys." In 2001, U.N. police officers in Serbia's Kosovo province set up brothels and trafficked Eastern European women to work in them.

The abuse of power is not exclusive to peacekeepers: In West Africa two years ago, local U.N. relief workers were caught demanding sexual favors in return for aid.

[...]

[Jean-Marie Guehenno, undersecretary-general for peacekeeping] refused to discuss specific countries, but other sources said the most allegations in Congo have centered on Uruguayans, Moroccans and South Africans, in numbers that reflect the proportion of each nation's troops. Soldiers from Pakistan, Tunisia and Nepal are also implicated.

The best-behaved appear to be the Indians and the Bangladeshis. Fifty nations are part of the U.N. mission in Congo; it appears that there are no Americans among the accused.

[...]

In Bunia, a town in the northeast, near the Uganda border, the victims of nearby fighting made easy targets for sexual predators. The women's showers and latrines were near a security checkpoint, and soon a queasy commerce began between the soldiers and girls as young as 12, so desperate that they would trade sex for a banana or a piece of cake.

"The girls were climbing the barbed wire fence, meeting with soldiers," said Matteo Frattini, a UNICEF official based in Bunia. "From there, everything exploded." More than 70 of the 150 allegations around the country are from Bunia.

The sexual perversion of a French U.N. worker in Goma, another eastern town, shocked the U.N. hierarchy, but gave it a clear case to turn into an example.

The Frenchman paid his maid to procure very young girls for him and took digital photos of them in sex acts. According to local and U.N. officials, a clergyman sent his own 12-year-old daughter and her friend to entrap the Frenchman, then tried to blackmail him for $5,000. The local police seized the Frenchman's camera, and joined the blackmail effort. When he refused to pay, they gave the pictures to his boss.

[...]

In Bukavu, the U.N. gender advisor [gender advisor??? --ed] said that dealing with sexual abuse was the human rights officer's job. The human rights officer said she dealt with rape only if it was a war crime.

"If a peacekeeper rapes a girl, that is not a human rights issue," she said. "But if a Congolese soldier rapes a girl, that is a human rights issue."
The United States pays $7 billion--your tax money--to the United Nations each year, roughly a quarter of the United Nations total budget.

Let me make this abundantly clear. You work hard to make money. The government takes some of that money. Then they give some of what they took to the United Nations. Then you get this in return for your money:
The next time Aziza met with the peacekeepers, two of them insisted on having sex with her simultaneously. They beat her when she refused to do the things they showed her on pornographic videos. Her mother found out what had happened when Aziza had to go to the hospital with an infection and threw her out. Desperate, she went back to the foreigners several more times.

"I don't know whether they are normal or not," said Aziza, who did not want to use her full name out of shame. "I wonder whether all white people are like that."
(Hat tip: GlennReynolds.com)


 
Because Frank Zamboni died on my birthday...
Written by: Beck

I felt obligated to link to this tidbit from Star Tribune.
A Duluth hockey arena was destroyed and at least two people suffered minor injuries Sunday night after a Zamboni ice-resurfacing machine exploded during a broomball game, starting a major fire and sending players and spectators fleeing.
You know, "Exploding Zambonis" would make a great name for a rock band. Someone needs to be sure to notify American troops in Iraq to be on the lookout for any suspicious looking people driving a Zamboni up to a roadblock or security check-point.

Hell, I didn't even know the things could explode. The ensuing fire burned down the entire stadium. A few people were injured, evidently none of them seriously. No one was killed.

Oh yeah: and what in hell is broomball?


 
I believe this is what's known as a "backlash."
Written by: Beck

Some of you might recall my call to boycott Target a few weeks back in reaction to the news that they had banned Salvation Army bell ringers from their stores this Christmas. I'm far from the only blogger to call for people to put pressure on Target. Hugh Hewitt has been sticking doggedly with the story. Now he links an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution showing that Target is indeed suffering this Christmas--while other retailers are thriving.
America's Research Group, a shopping-behavior tracker and marketing firm in Charleston, S.C., phoned 800 households nationwide and determined that Target was the only major retailer with fewer customers last weekend compared with the same holiday-shopping weekend in 2003.

The survey indicated 55 percent of U.S. consumers visited stores over the weekend, with 12 percent patronizing Target. A year ago, 43 percent went shopping, and 30 percent of those shoppers included Target in their rounds.

"That's a significant decline," said ARG Chairman Britt Beemer, who noted 16 interviewees offered without prompting that they avoided Target. "There is getting to be a significant amount of backlash."
Had this whole story occurred five years ago, it would have been a non-issue. Once the mainstream press had spent its day or two covering the issue, it would have vanished into the ether, never to be heard from again. The persistent work of bloggers like Hewitt, however, has kept the story alive & brought it to a wide audience.

Corporations, from their marketing departments to their board rooms, need to take heed and pay attention to this phenomenon. The times, they are a changin'.

(Hat tip: GOPbloggers)


Sunday, December 19, 2004

 
Your UN Contribution at Work
Written by: Beck

Pardon me while I ramble for a bit.

This morning I noticed a trackback to one of my posts and followed it back. David Anderson had written a couple sentences on my Kofi Annan obsession. His point was that Annan isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and I needed to get over it already.

He didn't put it that way--he was entirely polite about it. He's also 100% right. So I began trying to come up with some new ideas. I definitely needed a fresh approach to my UN assault now that the Bush administration has said some nice words about Annan. Not to mention that Annan has flatly announced that he ain't goin' anywhere.

Around that same time, a coworker had just come in from a breakfast run. It's hard to beat greasy hash browns and a bacon, egg, & cheese biscuit for breakfast when you've had hardly any sleep and are feeling the effects of a long night of beer consumption.

So anyway, I hit on the idea to start highlighting the fact that the UN isn't just a corrupt wasteful den of thieves (also known as bureaucrats) who thrive on supporting dictators and spouting anti-American rhetoric. It's a corrupt wasteful den of thieves, etc., etc., who are doing it all by spending your money.

So to kick things off, I decided to find a good photo to illustrate what's going on in various places in Africa while the UN sits around issuing stern warnings.

Over at MSNBC I found a slideshow of photos from Darfur. Pay dirt, thought I, as I reached for the hash browns. So I fired up the slideshow, hit play, and then I saw this picture:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us


And suddenly I wasn't so hungry anymore.

The United States pays $7 billion--your tax money--to the United Nations each year, roughly a quarter of the United Nations total budget.

Let me make this abundantly clear. You work hard to make money. The government takes some of that money. Then they give some of what they took to the United Nations. Then you get this:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us


If you'd like to watch the slideshow yourself, you'll get to see pictures of some dead children too.

Clashes continue in Darfur.
[African Union] mediators at peace talks being held in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, gave Sudan and rebel delegates a 24-hour ultimatum Friday to stop fighting by 6 p.m. Saturday or face possible referral to the U.N. Security Council.
That's right. The Sudanese government faces possible referral to the Security Council. I'm sure the Sudanese government is scared. I wonder what this guy thinks:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us


From a Reuters article today:
The United Nations is expected to release a report on violence in Darfur before the end of January that will probably include names of suspected perpetrators. The report would also evaluate whether genocide has taken place in Darfur, Sudan's western region.

But unless the 15-member Security Council refers the issue to the Hague-based court, there are few alternatives for action, with Russia and China opposing targeted sanctions.
Gee whiz. A report will be issued. Before the end of January. This has been going on since April, incidentally. The report will even evaluate whether genocide has taken place. I'm sure that'll make a difference. Nothing like an evaluating report to rectify, for instance, this:

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It's estimated that 70,000 people have died since April. 2 million have been displaced.


 
Your daily reminder...
Written by: Beck

...that there are some fucked up people in this world.


 
George Bush: man of the year
Written by: Beck

First I don't win the Best Conservative Blog award at Wizbang's Weblog Awards, then Time Magazine passes me over in favor of the president for man of the year. Rough week.

CNN.com has the breaking news banner up, no article yet.

Update: CNN article here. Notable:
This year the magazine named the conservative "Power Line" as its first "Blog of the Year." Kelly said blogs, Web sites that often mix news, gossip and opinion, are "here to stay."
Guess it's about time I added Power Line to the blogroll.

Update: Is it my imagination, or does this picture look like it's actually a 50/50 morph of Bush with Ted Kennedy?

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I guess it's just my imagination.


Saturday, December 18, 2004

 
Kofi Annan Resignation Watch -- Insult Added to Injury edition
Written by: Beck

Move America Forward, a non-profit group dedicated to getting the US out of the UN has collected 50,000 signatures on a petition to boot the UN from American shores.
The 50,000 signatures have been collected in just two weeks time and the rate of new signatures is growing exponentially.

"This explosive response is even better than we saw for the Recall Gray Davis effort," said Howard Kaloogian, one of the activists behind both campaigns. "The Oil-for-Arms money-laundering scandal has made the United Nations program the largest source financing terror in the world. Americans overwhelmingly agree, the U.S. must not knowingly harbor a terrorist-financing organization, neither should we contribute financially."
The group also plans on launching a series of TV ads. Can you even imagine anyone buying a 60 second spot on national TV for this cause a decade ago?

During the Reagan years, and later during the early Clinton years, the US had sharp confrontations with the UN, withholding or threatening to withhold America's annual contribution unless there was serious reform. Even then, however, there wasn't a significant mainstream movement to get the United States to pull out. It's only now that the magnitude of the United Nations' combined impotence and corruption has finally come into the glaring light of day.

In a rather different vein, The Onion has a few things to say about the United Nations it would appear.
ABUJA, NIGERIA—At a celebratory press conference Monday, President Olusegun Obasanjo announced that Nigeria's troubled but oil-rich city of Warri has been chosen to host the 2008 Genocides.

[...] Annan said he first noticed the full genocidal potential of soon-to-be embattled Nigeria in September, when the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force threatened to shut down oil production.

"With so many poor and powerless people involved in messy, years-old conflicts, the situation is likely to be ignored long enough for things to get really ugly," Annan said. "And, of course, the slow-to-move, ineffectual UN will do everything it can to help shepherd Nigeria into a combined religious, political, and economic disaster of horrific proportions."
Get your tickets now while they're still cheap!

Update: Protein Wisdom puts the icing on the cake dressing on the... salad. Yeah. That's the ticket. Remember Tariq Aziz? He's gonna sing like a canary baby. (Try not to choke on the article author's bias).
U.S. officials say Aziz already has implicated the French and others, claiming payoffs were made with the understanding that recipients would support Iraq on key matters before the U.N.

"He pointed to specific individuals in Russia and France, in the United States — that received favorable treatment," says David Kay.

Now, sources tell NBC News that Aziz has indicated he's finally ready to talk about alleged bribes to U.N. officials. U.N. investigators refuse to comment.
You know, I had a hunch Aziz would be the one to break. Now it's just time to see how high up it goes.


Friday, December 17, 2004

 
Too good to be true
Written by: Beck

From CNN:
The White House is telling federal agencies to expect lean budgets next year, with congressional aides and lobbyists saying President Bush appears ready to propose freezing or even slightly cutting overall domestic spending.

Targeted would be all annually approved programs except for defense and domestic security.
My inner libertarian is tap dancing right now. Tap dancing.


 
Kofi Annan Resignation Watch -- Piling On Embarrassment edition
Written by: Beck

"It's like Swiss cheese," the security source told Reuters.
Shocking. The UN's European headquarters is riddled with audio bugs. Money quote up front:
"If we had the technical means and staff for thorough searches, I'm certain we would find one microphone after another. The United Nations in New York and Vienna are the same," said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
That's right. They found a bug, they assume there's plenty more, but they, um, lack the, er, hmm... we give these people $7 billion/year why again?

At least the room wasn't being used for anything important.
Swiss television TSR said the device was found behind wooden panels in the elegant Salon Francais, used by ministers from major powers in September 2003 during private talks on Iraq following the U.S. invasion and occupation.

[...] Several delegations, including one headed by then French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, used the Salon Francais during the September 2003 talks.

[...] The room was also used last January during talks on global hunger attended by Annan, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and French President Jacques Chirac.

It was also used when Annan met Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and Cameroon President Paul Biya to discuss the disputed Bakassi Peninsula.

It is adjacent to the hall where the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament holds weekly negotiations and is used by ministers who address the 66-member forum and often hold separate bilateral meetings.
Like I said, nothing important.

(Hat tip: Protein Wisdom)


 
Cue the circus music
Written by: Beck

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Four orange whips!


Trust me on something: when "Saddam sees lawyer for first time" constitutes a front-page headline, the actual trial is going to be a massive circus. Massive.

The media has been quietly gearing up for this ever since the invasion of Iraq. Saddam goes on trial--just imagine the potential. He'll say outrageous stuff, lawyers on both sides will say outrageous stuff, the judge will say outrageous stuff, and the punditocracy will hold an international hyperbole & metaphor abuse contest.

No one will come out of this looking good I'm predicting. Basically, imagine the O.J., Kobe, and Scott Peterson trials all rolled into one. Then toss a psychopathic megalomaniacal genocidal deposed delusional dictator into the mix. Fun for the whole family!


Thursday, December 16, 2004

 
Here comes the judge...
Written by: Beck

The first of the Iraqi war crimes trials are set to get rolling. First up to bad: Chemical Ali.
War crimes proceedings against members of Saddam Hussein's former regime could begin as early as next week, a well-informed observer told CNN.

An Iraqi investigative judge will hold pre-trial investigative hearings, to question the accused and determine if trials were warranted, the source said.

Hassan al-Majid -- also known as "Chemical Ali" -- and another Iraqi military commander were expected to have the first hearings.

The hearings will be confidential, and the suspects will have rights similar to those in U.S. courts, including the right to counsel and the right to remain silent.
Not necessarily huge news, but it's nice to hear something out of Iraq that doesn't involve improvised explosive devices or beheadings.

That, and I once somehow earned the nickname, "Chemical Beck." Actually, this entire post was just an excuse to mention the nickname.

Someone even had a shirt made.


 
Kofi Annan Resignation Watch -- Helpful Tips
Written by: Beck

If you're at all like me, I know you've been agonizing over the question: is Kofi Annan actually a plate of fettucine alfredo? Fortunately, Jeff Goldstein is there with the answers. Kofi Annan: definitely not a plate of fettucine alfredo.

In other news, how have I not discovered Iowahawk before today? At least I seem to have discovered him on a relatively propitious occasion: he's celebrating his one year blogiversary. So go have a look around. Time to update the blogroll (Scrappleface will just have to wait 'til next year I suppose).


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

 
Note to self:
Written by: Beck

Keep out of Kuwait.

You know. To be on the safe side.

Update: Ditto for Greek busses. For the children.


Sunday, December 12, 2004

 
Appel and Beebe
Written by: Brent Brophy

Rather than add to the already too big post where I brought them up, I'm writing a new one.

Appel and Beebe were two army shrinks who studied combat fatigue around the end of the second world war. Their study showed that every soldier will be incapacitated by the stress of battle, most being hit before they hit 90 "combat days". A combat day was not a calendar day, and under the way they defined "combat days" each ran around 3-5 calendar days, depending on theater. Things could be done to slow, mellow, and recover from it, but it was something that was going to hit every soldier. Rotating units back for rest, refit, and reinforcement kept units from constantly accruing "combat days". Soldiers who were fresh to combat tended to have a better recovery rate, with more of them being able to return to combat and sooner. Experienced soldiers were usually unable to return to combat, and had to be replaced.

So what does this have to do with Rumsfeld being an idiot?

We're also losing soldiers due to enlistment expirations. This is pretty normal, as soldiers not being deployed anywhere will normally be released (a declaration of war would have changed this, extending all enlistments to the duration of the war plus sixth months). Recruitment is running at about normal levels, capable of offsetting attrition in our armed forces.

Dead and wounded haven't been astronimically high, which means that normal recruitment will help replace those soldiers as well. The problem comes with the stress of battle rendering soldiers unable to fight. This, like the battlefield casualties, won't just be hitting soldiers doing just one enlistment, but will hit officers and career soldiers as well. Rotating units will help reduce the stress levels, but even disciplined soldiers will be hit eventually. This means that senios nco's and officers, people that have already spent a decade or more in uniform, will start becoming undeployable in larger and larger numbers.

In short, our soldiers have a shelf-life. Like milk, they last a certain period of time while sitting around keeping cool until they hit their retirement age. Each time they're pulled out and used in real combat situations, the greater the chance they'll "sour" early. With milk this isn't a real problem as you can always pop down to the grocery store and get more, but grocery stores don't carry first sergeants, S-3's, or any of the military specialities that take a very long time to train. Promoting people up to fill in the holes isn't much of a long-term solution, as the people being promoted have most likely already been deployed and have lost some of their own shelf-life.

The current rotations mean that most soldiers can be expected to make it through two or three rotations, three years deployed, which is a lot longer than the 200-240 days that was the threshold for many soldiers of the second world war. During that war, we had a draft to constantly provide fresh troops and replacement leaders were chosen from among them so that any hole could be filled. We don't have a draft now, and after three years in Afghanistan and half that time in Iraq, we don't know how long we're going to be rotating troops through combat areas. Once we've stabilized either of those two fronts, winning the war means we'll have to open new ones, stamping out terrorist sanctuaries in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.

Rumsfeld's current plan has us fighting this war for another few decades. We can't keep rotating our soldiers indefinately, and that means exceeding current recruitment goals. Reenlistments won't be enough, returning soldiers may be highly motivated but time and battle will wear them down. If you think that's a depressing point of view, I haven't even brought up the implications of dumping so many broken bodies and minds on the practically useless Department of Veterans Affairs, an organization that couldn't keep up with peacetime operations.

Something else I've been meaning to bring up.

Rumsfeld and many others talk often of our soldiers being highly trained. I mentioned in the other post that many of them are highly trained in things they're not doing while deployed. A key part of the training is the time put into it. Things are done over and over until the soldiers can do whatever the training covers at a level the army wants. Yes, our soldiers are well trained, but every day spent deployed is a day not spent training. Our army may be well-honed, but it's not Ginsu, and the more time units spend doing what they haven't trained for, the edge they've gotten from their training will fade away.

Goe, saying rumsfeld is an idiot.


Friday, December 10, 2004

 
Panasonic Power
Written by: Brent Brophy

an electric car powered by two AA batteries.

Goe, wonders if it comes with an ac adapter and a long cord.


 
Moyers
Written by: Brent Brophy

retiring

"I'm going out telling the story that I think is the biggest story of our time: how the right-wing media has become a partisan propaganda arm of the Republican National Committee," says Moyers. "We have an ideological press that's interested in the election of Republicans, and a mainstream press that's interested in the bottom line.


Which explains why CBS aired bullshit stories trying to smear Bush how? It's odd anyways, since Moyers worked for President Johnson, a Democrat, for Moyers to complain that the press is a bunch of right-wing stooges.

He's a citizen-journalist


Unlike all those pesky Latvian journalists.

For that, his absence after the Dec. 17 "Now" will be all the more keenly felt: Moyers' interest has always been the American people.


Primarily complaining that they're too stupid to realize how the "we hate bush" mantra of the media is proof that it's too republican and that people aren't listening to democrats enough? DNC spin has been the bulk of moyers "media" career.

He says of Condoleeze Rice

dreadfully misjudged the terrorist threat leading up to 9/11, and then misled America and the world about the case for invading Iraq


Yes, because the democrats did so much to stop terrorism by blowing up a factory in the sudan and hanging out in windowless corridors.

It was the sort of report unlikely to be found on most newscasts, and even less likely to endear a reporter to the powers-that-be, on whose good graces the media has grown all too reliant


Again, they seem to have forgotten that all three broadcast networks were going out of their way to run smear campaigns against Bush's re-election. Hardly a sign of the political sycophancy he claims dominates the press.

I'd be doing this if the Democrats were in power


Claim that everything was a republican conspiracy? Yes, that is EXACTLY what Moyers did while democrats were in power.

Goe, lives on Earth, not on whatever planet moyers lives.


 
Belmont Club
Written by: Brent Brophy

The Belmont Club did something particularly odd. They quoted Orwell. This is good, as more people should be familiar with his writings.

Goe, more equal than Beck.


 
2004 Weblog Awards winding down
Written by: Beck

Polls only remain open until the Sunday the 12th, so if you haven't voted yet, it's time to get to work. Furthermore, if you have voted already, it's time to vote again--you're allowed (and encouraged) to cast a vote once every twenty-four hours. We appreciate your support.

And while you're at it, think about voting for Protein Wisdom for best humor blog & ISOU for best Latin blog.


 
Our second closest ally: Japan
Written by: Beck

I think a strong argument can be made that Japan has the most conservative culture of any nation on earth. Yes, their brand of conservatism isn't quite like ours--they hardly think twice about getting an abortion, and religion is more of a hobby for most than a way of life. When it comes to respect for tradition and consideration of oneself as a member of the broader community, I honestly can't think of a country which scores higher. Japan's extremely low crime rate and high worker productivity are a testament to these facts.

What's more, their economy is highly industrial, highly technological, and at the leading edge of modernization. Frankly, the only thing keeping Great Britain in the "Number One Ally" slot is a shared language and history (don't get me wrong--those two factors count for a hell of a lot).

Their position in Asia is also highly strategic--proximity to rogue state North Korea and the ludicrously populous communist China makes partnership & cooperation between the United States & Japan that much more important. As such, you can well imagine the good sign I regarded this bit of news:
Japan's cabinet decided Thursday to extend the Self-Defense Forces' humanitarian assistance operation in Iraq by one year until Dec. 14, 2005.

More than 500 Japanese ground troops are stationed in Iraq's southern city of Samawah, backed up by air and maritime forces in Kuwait. The current one-year mission will expire on Tuesday.
This is even more notable than a first glance might suggest: the Japanese constitution has pacifism hard wired into it, and their troops are banned from engaging in hostile military operations. Their willingness to send troops for peace keeping & rebuilding projects shows a willingness on the part of Japan's leadership to take political major risks to help the United States.


 
Poor decision making by poor decision makers
Written by: Beck

MoveOn.org has decided to absolutely delight me by announcing to Terry McAuliffe & company that the Democratic Party is its bitch.
For years, the party has been led by elite Washington insiders who are closer to corporate lobbyists than they are to the Democratic base," said the e-mail from MoveOn PAC's Eli Pariser. "But we can't afford four more years of leadership by a consulting class of professional election losers."

Under McAuliffe's leadership, the message said, the party coddled the same corporate donors that fund Republicans to bring in money at the expense of vision and integrity.

"In the last year, grass-roots contributors like us gave more than $300 million to the Kerry campaign and the DNC, and proved that the party doesn't need corporate cash to be competitive," the message continued. "Now it's our party: we bought it, we own it, and we're going to take it back."
MoveOn.org has concluded, I have to assume, that Kerry lost the 2004 election because the party was too moderate. Bush and the Republicans, meanwhile, continue to move to the middle in ways (fiscal policy, UN appeasement) that are only likely to bother people (like me) for whom the Democratic party remains an even worse option.

It's not so much that the Republicans are taking over the country. It's that the Democrats are giving the country to the GOP on a silver platter.

(Hat tip: The Corner)


 
Kofi Annan Resignation Watch Day... ah, screw it
Written by: Beck

My spirits were lifted when I saw this article in the LA Times, linked by Instapundit. It's highly critical of the United Nations, and while it's only an opinion piece, it's still quite encouraging to see such an item being covered in what is arguably the nation's most liberal mainstream daily (the mention of the right-wing blogosphere made me smile as well I have to admit).
Imagine if U.S. troops were accused of sexually exploiting children in impoverished nations. Imagine if a U.S. Cabinet secretary were accused of groping a female subordinate, whose complaint was then swatted aside by the president. Imagine if the head of a U.S. government agency and the president's own offspring stood accused of complicity in the biggest embezzlement racket in history.

Those would be pretty big stories, no? Above-the-fold, top-of-the-newscast stories. Yet the United Nations has been mired in all these scandals and until just recently hardly anybody outside the right-wing blogosphere has noticed.

Even now, if you're not an inveterate U.N.-watcher, you probably don't know that Ruud Lubbers, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, was accused of sexually harassing a subordinate, only to have the charges dismissed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan despite an internal investigation that supported the woman's complaint. Or that U.N. peacekeepers have been accused of a variety of sexual offenses involving children for more than a decade, most recently in Congo. Or even that Annan's son, Kojo, and Benon Savan, the head of the U.N. "oil for food" program in Iraq, are said to have benefited financially while Saddam Hussein stole $21 billion.

Where's the outrage? It's easy to find among conservatives, but then they never liked the U.N. to begin with. Why didn't the mainstream media and the Democrats (pardon the redundancy), not to mention various European governments, devote more attention to these scandals? Far from demanding high-level resignations, they are circling the wagons.

The U.N.'s friends are doing their favorite international institution no favors with this knee-jerk defense. Until it cleans up its act, the U.N. can never be as influential as its boosters would like. Even Annan recognizes this. In fact, he seems to specialize in critiques of his own organization.

[...] All of the reformistas' efforts founder on the rocks of apathy and inertia. The reality is that most of the U.N.'s 191-member states, to say nothing of its 49,000 employees, aren't terribly interested in making it work better. They usually have other priorities. Even the Bush administration isn't making much of a stink over the oil-for-food scandal because it needs U.N. support in Iraq and elsewhere.

Many member states don't want to rock the boat because they have cozy deals with the current U.N. regime. A French bank, for instance, was the prime repository of the oil-for-food billions. Others are afraid that a stronger U.N. would interfere in their affairs. Russia doesn't want the U.N. meddling in Chechnya, China doesn't want it in Tibet, India doesn't want it in Kashmir, and so on.
But then I saw in the New York Times that the White House, which had remained amusingly--if maddeningly--coy on the issue of Annan's continued tenure at the UN, thus implying that it was more than just a little unhappy with his performance, finally cratered to pressure and issued a statement in support of Kofi.
"We are expressing confidence in the secretary general and in his continuing in office," Ambassador John C. Danforth said in comments to reporters, who had been alerted throughout the day by the United States mission that Mr. Danforth would be delivering an important message.

Speaking for the White House and the State Department, Mr. Danforth said officials had decided to make a statement because they believed their earlier reluctance to express confidence in Mr. Annan had been misread.

He noted that the United Nations played a role in many areas of concern to the United States, like Iraq [where the UN has spared no effort to hamstring the United States --ed], the Middle East [where the UN has done more to sow division, cause problems, and hamstring the United States than anyone excepting perhaps al Qaeda --ed] and Sudan [are you fucking kidding me? The UN has done squat for the million or so displaced people and the tens of thousands who have been starved and outright slaughtered --ed], and that Washington looked forward to working closely with him "for the time to come." Mr. Annan's term of office ends Dec. 31, 2006, and he has reiterated in recent days that he looked forward to remaining actively in office until then.
Once again, at a moment when a real opportunity to foster change for the better has arisen, this administration has let me down. I've come to expect disappointment from this administration on a routine basis--and they're the ones I voted for.


 
Rumsfeld is an idiot.
Written by: Brent Brophy

He assumes that unhappy soldiers don't know what they're talking about when they ask him about the equipment they've got and he hasn't looked at. then there was this bit.

win the test of wills


Expecting the country that developed the "short attention span" concept to have more "will" than a society that holds grudges for thousands of years, how fucking inane is that? We'd do better if we just killed them.

About the armor.

“You go to war with the Army you have,” Rumsfeld replied, “not the Army you might want or wish to have.”


That's the thing though, the army has been in "transformation" for a while, before we went into Iraq, before the WTC attacks. We have plenty of armor, but we're not sending it. Soldiers are being sent on patrols driving around in HMMWVs. This is one of the many purposes of the HMMWV, but the point of a patrol like that is to look for the enemy, not engage them. That is what we have cavalry units for, and they do not patrol in HMMWVs, but in armored fighting vehicles, such as the Bradley and Abrahms. The units that best trained and equipped to do the missions being performed in Iraq are not the ones being used. This is partly due to the troop rotation requiring other units to fill in, but mostly because of "transformation".

Back in the Second World War, there wasn't a battlefield capacity we didn't have. For hundreds of years, armies consisted of the same basic branches. Cavalry, infantry, artillery, communications, and logistics. In the past hundred we've seen the replacement of traditional cavalry with mechanized armor and the introduction of air power. Guys with tanks spent most of their training time training on how to fight in a tank, not how to fight dismounted or loading supply trucks. Infantrymen were never taught how to work a tank, but spent their time learning to fight dismounted. Each specialized because there are too many soldiering skills for any soldier to be good at all of them, and we wanted a good army to win the war.

When the war ended, things didn't change much. During Korea, it became apparent that the infantry couldn't always keep up with the armor, so we made mechanized infantry. They were taught a blend of skills between armor and infantry, because we wanted them to be good and they couldn't be good at everything. "Train as you'd fight, fight as you've trained." The men and equipment changed, but this was how our army was structured until "transformation".

"Transformation" is the magic word now for the pentagon. Any idea, request, approval or denial can be justified as part of it. But what exactly is it? It's the dissolution of the traditional army structure. While soldiers continue to train in semi-specialized areas, they will not be permitted to fight that way.

Every vehicle, soldier, and gadget requires parts and power. If there's an actual fight, they may have to be replaced. This is why the traditional army structure has a logistics branch. The more complex your army and it's equipment, the bigger the logistics branch is, and the more complex the supply train it runs. Pressure was put on the Pentagon to cut it's logistics costs, so it developed "transformation", which I still haven't really explained.

"Transformation" is the abolition of specialities. Every unit will be expected to function as any other unit in ANY capacity. By keeping the supply train as generic as possible, the logistics train is kept simple, and by keeping the appearance of branches, the Pentagon can claim that it's training standards are the best in the world. The problem is that the soldiers are neither equipped nor trained for what they're actually being asked to do. This isn't an occassional occurence of soldiers being asked to do something in a pinch, but standing army policy. Rather than make more units into cavalry units so that they are trained and equipped for the primary mission in Iraq (driving around waiting to get shot at so they can locate and kill the bastards), the Pentagon has decreed that they are defacto cavalry units even though their equipment and training are not up to the task. Since "transformation" is one of the things Rumsfeld is most proud of, this problem will not be corrected while he is the Secretary of Defense.

Intended Consequences

Everybody saw the pictures of Iraqi prisoners being mistreated at Abu Ghraib. Why was nobody punished for this?

I don't mean that nobody was punished for mistreating prisoners, they were arrested several months BEFORE the pictures were leaked. If they hadn't already been arrested, then it'd be a whistleblower, but they were, so why the leak? The mistreatment caused some problems, but those were being addressed already, the leak created a whole new set of problems and probably cost the lives of american soldiers and marines. The only possible reason for the pictures being leaked when they were was to make us look bad and encourage our enemies. The leaking was done by Rumsfeld's department, and what has he done about it? NOTHING. Rumsfeld's staff is generating propaganda for our enemies and he sees nothing wrong with it at all. He doesn't see anything wrong with anything.

Take the cause of the mini-mutiny a month or two ago. The soldiers involved were punished mildly because the problem was attributed to incompetent local leaders. Some of those leaders were replaced. Why weren't they replaced earlier? Leadership problems don't crop up overnight.

They were kept in place because the Rumsfeld and the DOD think every problem is caused by a few bad soldiers, the ones at the bottom of the pile who haven't risen up the system because they're bad soldiers. They believe that anyone with brass is beyond reproach, that any person in a position to create a plan, idea, or policy is infallible. The general who was in command at Abu Ghraib claimed that nothing was done that violated policy. She was partially correct. It wasn't policy to mistreat prisoners, but it was policy to pretend that nothing was happening. Nobody was told to stop until arrests were made. "Transformation" keeps the soldiers ill-equipped and mis-trained, and poor leadership is giving them no guidance.

A tad more on "Transformation"

Winds of Change falls for the standard pentagon line for "transformation".

Back in the 1980s, the primary mission of the US armed forces was challenging, but straightforward: prepare to repel a Soviet invasion of Western Europe.


Simply put, that's bullshit. The 10th Mountain, our other light infantry divisions, airbone divisions, and special forces would have had little role to play in that. It would have been mostly armor, mechanized infantry, and aircraft. We had them anyways because while a soviet invasion of western europe would have caused the bigger war, it was not the biggest threat. There was nothing wrong with the force structure then. All of the heavier units we had then would be ideally suited for fighting in Iraq (yes, Iraq has cities with urban fighting, but there are cities in western europe too, not a big difference), and the other lighter units would be well-suited to fighting in Afghanistan. All of the needs would be met, and we wouldn't be having stupid debates over how much armor is enough for a HMMWV.

The first two critiques they have of "transformation" are valid.

* The 'tail' of support units found itself exposed to combat as much as – sometimes more than – the 'tooth' of assault forces. Many were units drawn from the reserve force, short on appropriate training and equipment, more vulnerable to casualties from IEDs and guerilla fighters.

* As the campaign turned to occupation, civil affairs, military policy, PSYOP, and other civilian facing functions became vital, and here their concentration in the reserve force became a real problem. Many of the individuals affected had already been activated for duty in Bosnia and other peacekeeping missions, and now were being asked to do one, two, or eventually more rotations to Iraq. Many had signed up with the assumption that their exposure was monthly drills and a call to active duty only in extremis. Those affected did their duty ably, but an ultimate impact on reserve force retention seems inevitable.


The third is not.

The nature of combat and the mix of skills also shifted. On the northern German plains, the focus was on operations. A Soviet tank army on the move is hard to hide. Counterinsurgency in Iraq and elsewhere is about intelligence; finding and fixing the enemy is harder than destroying him. The concentration of intelligence functions in the reserve force again proved a problem, as did the general lack of experience with the Arabic language and culture.


The strategy on the "northern german plains" was to out maneuver the enemy. The point of this was to not be in front of them because they outnumbered us. The front was not to be a solid line, but have a depth of five or so miles. The fowardmost units marked the FEBA (forward edge of battle area) and anybody who got too close to that could expect a fight. This is not counterinsurgency, but to make this work, each small unit had to be able to function in a completely hostile battlefield environment. If you can fight well surrounded by enemies, or unsure of where they are, you can fight well when you know right where the enemy is. The point was to have units on both sides fighting a small unit war in the battle area, something the soviets were not trained to do, so that our training would beat their numbers. This creates a guerilla environment, which is not that far off from what we're facing in Iraq. The battle area is larger, but the tactics of the units in the battle area are exactly the same as they would be fighting back soviet hordes in europe.

and i will add more about Appel and Beebe later, i promise!

Goe, bumping this cause of the comments


Thursday, December 09, 2004

 
Ya know folks...
Written by: Beck

At the bottom of every post, you see where there's a link that says, "Comment?" Well if you click on that, you can leave comments. It's a neat function. Then I can respond. It gets a conversation going. Creates community. Builds bridges to the 21st century. Stuff like that. Technology folks. Rumor has it, it's the wave of the future.


 
Kofi Annan Resignation Watch Day 3
Written by: Beck

You can't have a right-wing jihad against an icon of the international left without the United Nations worshipping set rushing blindly to his defense. The neither obviousness of his failure and guilt nor the magnitude of the offense merit a drop of consideration.

At least that's what I'm forced to conclude after reading Dennis "Chuckles" Kucinich (D-Nuts) and company's letter of support for Annan. And away we go!
We are writing to express our support of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has recently been under attack by some American lawmakers for the U.N's Oil-for-Food program scandal occurring under his watch. Such an attack on the second-term Secretary-General and Nobel Peace laureate is disgraceful and premature. There has been no hint of impropriety on the part of the Secretary-General, who on numerous occasions has proven his honesty and integrity. Furthermore, we specifically reject all calls for his resignation.
I would say rather that the attack on Annan is long overdue rather than premature, and while there has been plenty of "disgraceful" behavior, it hasn't been on the part of those calling for Annan to step aside. And please don't try to feed me that "Nobel Peace laureate" garbage; if anything, that just throws Annan's failure into even starker relief.

No hint of impropriety? Pardon? Need I even dignify this baldly inaccurate statement with a response?
Secretary-General Annan made his intentions for complete transparency unmistakably clear on April 15, 2004 when he said, "Transparency is the only way to deal with allegations [like those surrounding the Oil-for-Food Program], and by far the best way to prevent corruption from happening in the first place. That, I believe, will be one of the main lessons we have to learn from this affair, whatever the outcome of the inquiry."
That was April. There has been no change whatsoever in the complete lack of transparency at the United Nations. Indeed, continued obstruction of the various Congressional committees investigating the allegations surrounding the oil-for-food rip-off continues at a remarkably consistent clip. And I'd like to think there are lessons to be had from this "affair" more significant than "need for transparency. The transparency should have always been there. That it hasn't simply goes to show how rotten the place has become.

We're down to paragraph five now, and you know what that means folks. It's time to blame the United States!
In the wake of heavy criticism against Secretary General Annan, we want to highlight the shared responsibility by the United States for the alleged fraud and abuse that occurred in the Oil-for-Food Program. The responsibility and enforcement capacity for checking unauthorized oil sales was provided to all UN Member States, of which the United States is one, and in the Gulf area, to the multinational Maritime Interception Force (MIF). The role of oversight for all contracts awarded under the Oil-for-Food Program belonged to the Security Council's 661 Committee, of which the U.S. had a representative for the entire duration of the Program. The UN's Office of Internal Oversight undertook regular program audits and the program's escrow account was audited every six months by external auditors.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, because we failed to prevent UN bureaucrats and European kleptocrats from milking the Oil-For-Food program for everything it was worth, the scandal is all our fault. Shame on us! That's sort of like saying a mugging victim is guilty of robbing himself for failing to stop the robber.

Paragraph six, time to play smoke and mirrors!
It should also be noted that the majority of Saddam's stolen revenues came from illicit oil trade deals outside of the Oil-for-Food Program with Jordan, Syria and Turkey. According to the Duelfer Report, nearly 75 percent of Iraq's illicit income during the sanctions period was generated through oil sales to Iraqi's neighbors. According to Senator Carl Levin, senior democrat on the Permanent Subcommittee to investigate the Oil-for-Food scandal, Iraq's ongoing oil sales to its neighbors were no secret. The United States and the other nations in the United Nations knew of them and deliberately let the trade continue, presumably to maintain the support of Iraq's neighboring countries for the sanctions and to attain other foreign policy objectives.
Textbook case of the Wookie Defense. Saddam made money from scam Y therefore scam X ceases to be of any relevance. Look at the monkey! What were we talking about? Damn that Kucinich is a crafty one!
[...] The United States also failed to take any meaningful action to stop Syria's illegal trade with Iraq.
I'm fairly certain the only way we could have stopped Syria's illegal trade with Iraq--what with how they border each other and all--would have been to invade Syria. Thus we can conclude that Kucinich advocates the invasion of Syria. You heard it here first!

(Hat tip: Misha, who's take down on this is both more profane and more amusing than mine)


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

 
Peace in the Middle East
Written by: Beck

Perhaps the folks at Mises are right--the road to peace is paved by free trade. Israel, Egypt, and the United States have signed a rather unique trade agreement.
Under the accord goods from the zones can enter the United States without customs tariffs, provided that 35 percent of the product results from cooperation between Israeli and Egyptian companies, and that Israel's input is a minimum of 8 percent.
As a supporter of free trade in virtually all circumstances (excepting when national security is an issue--I would support protectionism to keep us from losing our aerospace industry for instance), I'll back pretty much any excuse to drop tariffs. If it helps bring about stability in the world's most chaotic region, all the better.

(Hat tip: Armies of Liberation)


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