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Saturday, September 06, 2003

Peacekeepers in Name Only 

The U.N. might not be the peace keeping force they are purported to be:
SOME CRITICS fear that a bulky, unwieldy U.N. force, divided by language and culture and dependent on the United States for equipment, supplies, intelligence and transportation, would be more hindrance than help and could even drag the Iraqi operation down into a bloody stalemate.

“If it looks like war, then it does not look like the United Nations,” said Kenneth Allard, a retired Army officer and professor of military history at Georgetown University.

Allard was dismayed that the administration had reached a point where it had no recourse but the United Nations. “I look on this as a very clumsy piece of American statecraft,” he said.

It was the United Nations that was kicked around by insurgents in Somalia a decade ago, with a U.N. combat force pinned down at the Mogadishu airport until American Marines arrived. And it was a U.N. peacekeeping force in Bosnia that in 1995 was overrun by rampaging Serb troops who took some peacekeepers hostage, then stormed down the road into Srebrenica — which was under official U.N. protection — and massacred some 8,000 Muslims.

U.N. forces often come from desperately poor nations like Bangladesh and Guatemala, which earn hard currency for “renting out” their soldiers. And often the troops show up with no gear — not even underwear, in the case of some Guatemalans assigned to peacekeeping duties in Haiti in 1994.

U.S. soldiers have enough to do in Iraq rebuilding infrastructure and dealing with isolated terror incidents. They do not need to add "babysit and supply untrained and unequipped U.N. troops" to their job description. Add jurisdiction and language barriers to the mix and this quickly becomes a recipe for disaster. As recently as last May, the value of U.N. intervention was demonstrated in the Democratic Republic of Congo:
Dead bodies litter Bunia's empty streets. From some the blood still drips from machete slashes, spear thrusts and bullet wounds. Others are two weeks old and stinking, half-eaten by the packs of dogs flopping lazily about the once-prosperous north-eastern capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

There are women's bodies scattered in Bunia's main market place; a baby's body on its main road; two priests' bodies inside one church. Last week, a burning corpse was tossed on to the main UN compound's lawn, to show 700 Uruguayan peacekeepers what they were missing while they cowered under fire behind its razor-wire perimeter, unauthorized to intervene in the latest massacre of Congolese civilians.

Is it possible to comprehend what was happening in this situation? The U.N. troops took refuge in their compound while civilians were massacred. The reason? They did not have authorization to intervene. What exactly did they have authorization for? It matters not what country the troops are from - the key issue is the body from which the troops derive their authorization.

The 191 member nations of the U.N. find it difficult to make any decisions, let alone difficult ones. It probably took months of debate to agree on the imposing baby blue color for their helmets. (Is it supposed to be camouflage that renders you invisible against a cloudless sky?) The organization somehow agreed to send troops to Congo but could not consent to authorizing military action. It is difficult to believe that troops would be sent but given orders to do absolutely nothing. There is no need to point out what a waste of U.N. funds (25% of which is provided by the United States) this "action" was.

If U.N. troops do come to Iraq, their command and control must come from the U.S. and the U.K. These liberating countries know what the current situation is and what needs to be done. They have a mission and the authorization to carry it out. Hope has started to emerge in the people of Iraq, but that will disappear quickly if it depends upon peacekeepers with a vague mission determined by a 191 member council. The U.S. must always remember that several U.N. member states are nations which manufacture and export terror. If those countries "assist" by determining policy and by sending troops, then all the work that has been done to date will probably have been in vain.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Telling Time 

This is a way cool clock! (Hat-tip to Volokh Conspiracy)

Republican Backbone 

Some remarkable displays of intestinal fortitude are taking place this afternoon in Austin, Texas (per the Houston Chronicle):
AUSTIN -- State Sen. John Whitmire plans to hold a news conference today in a Senate room he is barred from using until he pays $57,000 in fines levied against him by Republican senators.

Whitmire, D-Houston, broke ranks with fellow Democratic senators earlier this week by announcing he was quitting a Senate boycott. He said he would return to Austin from Albuquerque, N.M., in an effort to negotiate a deal to end a stalemate in the congressional redistricting battle with Republicans.

Whitmire's staff announced the news conference without booking the Lieutenant Governor's Press Conference Room.

But Senate spokesman Mark Miner said that unless he pays his fines, Whitmire will be told he cannot use the room when he shows up.

'The press conference room is not available,' Miner said.

Senate Republicans passed a resolution last month issuing fines and sanctions against 11 Democrats who fled the state July 28 to break the Senate quorum and kill a Republican congressional redistricting plan.

The resolution specifically banned the missing Democrats from booking news conference rooms until after they had paid their fines for deadlocking the second special session.

'No reservations for conference rooms, press conference rooms or meeting rooms will be allowed,' according to a letter Senate Secretary Patsy Spaw sent to the boycotting senators Aug. 15 after the Senate vote.

This is a very refreshing sight, especially in light of Miguel Estrada withdrawing his nomination just yesterday. Time to get out the batting helmets - they (Perry, Dewhurst and Miner) are playing hardball in Austin.

Abbas rejects use of force 

On Thursday, prime minister Abbas rejected the use of force (per South Africa's News24.com):
Ramallah, West Bank - Palestinian prime minister Mahmud Abbas ruled out Thursday resorting to force against hardline groups to stop them launching attacks on Israel as Hamas said it had resumed talks with his government.

'We do not deal with the opposition in a militaristic manner but through dialogue,' Abbas told a key meeting of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

On Thursday, Israel (who had just completed years of unsuccessful negotiation with their opposition through dialogue) used force and got results - Hamas Commander Killed in Raid (per Swiss Politics.org):
NABLUS, West Bank (Reuters) - Israeli commandos has killed a West Bank commander of the militant group Hamas in a raid that could deal a blow to reformist Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas's battle for political survival.

An Israeli soldier was also killed and four wounded in the operation in the city of Nablus, which ended when soldiers blew up an apartment building where Mohammad al-Hanbali had been holed up, making 28 families homeless.

It is possible to visualize Reuters licking their lips as they anticipate international condemnation against Israel for the destruction of an innocent apartment building. It is assumed that they merely forgot to mention the fact several years of bombings by the palestinians have left many Israeli homes family-less.

UPDATE: Check out this picture from a palestinian demonstration (courtesy of Yahoo News). Re-enacting bus and pizza bombings where cililians were both targeted and killed tells everything about their methods and purposes.

The Council Has Spoken 

The Watcher's Council has met and has voted on the posts of the week:

   Winning Council Entry:
   California's Air by Alpha Patriot

   Winning Non-Council Entry:
   That Vision Thing by One Hand Clapping

Another week of fantastic entries and difficult voting choices. If you find any posts you think should be considered, please let myself or another council member know.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Obesity Lawsuit Dismissed 

The obesity lawsuit against McDonalds has been thrown out. Details are here at CNNMoney.com. Sweet justice from a justice named Sweet.

Thursday Review 

Here are a few interesting posts on a variety of subjects from a variety of places:
   Death to the Hyphen from One Hand Clapping
   $14,625 from Aaron's Rantblog
   Tale of the Gun from The Spoons Experience
   Liberals for the Status Quo from joannejacobs.com
   A poor workman blames his tools from Patio Pundit
   Don't Try This At Home - Or Anywhere Else from Give War A Chance

Mink with the Munchies 

Sultan area farmers (Washington State) are having to deal with more than just the weather and feed prices. Ecoterrorists released (stole) 10,000 domestic mink into the wild from a nearby farm and now ducks, chickens and even cats are starting to disappear. Per this article in the Seattle Times, there may be long-term ecological damage because of this action:
State biologists warn that the situation could likely get worse. If a few of the farm-raised mink survive the winter, they could breed with each other or with wild mink native to the area.

If that happens, expect a decline in local populations of small mammals, waterfowl, birds and farm-raised ducks and chickens, said Ruth Milner, a district biologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The mink were released Monday morning from the Roesler Brothers Fur Farm when someone cut through a fence and opened numerous cages. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF), a group classified as a domestic terror organization by the FBI, has claimed responsibility in an e-mail to the media.

This was a brilliant idea. Save these domesticated mink by releasing them into the wild to be run-over and killed by predators. Granted, some will survive due to the sheer number of mink released (ten thousand!), at least until the easy prey like the tame ducks and chickens are gone. And if some of these escapees manage to survive, then the ecological balance has been turned on its head for the whole area. Not to mention the fact that these terrorists (that is what they are) have probably destroyed one farmer's livelihood and possibly that of several others.
(Hat-tip to Drowning at 2 Feet Sea Level)

Estrada Withdraws 

In today's Wall Street Journal Online (subscription required), this article states that appellate court nominee Miquel Estrada is withdrawing his nomination today:
At 41 years old, Mr. Estrada couldn't keep his legal career in suspended nomination forever. "The time has come to return my full attention to the practice of law, and to regain the ability to make long-term plans for my family," the Honduran immigrant will tell President Bush today, in a letter we obtained from a source other than the author.

His withdrawal should embarrass Republicans who have been outwitted on judgeships by Ted Kennedy and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who are orchestrating the first filibusters of appellate-court nominations in American history. Democrats have paid no political price for raising the "advice and consent" standard for Senate confirmation to 60 votes from a simple majority.

I attribute this to a strategy error. I think the Democrats took a calculated risk by filibustering judicial nominees. Why did the Republicans choose the strategy of allowing a passive filibuster when they had several other options at their disposal? I believe they felt this was the least risky option. They had hoped to continue to make political hay by showing how the nominees were being obstructed from a fair vote by the Democrats. This approach also did not risk the possibility of a very visible defeat the way forcing a true filibuster or trying a rule change could.

What they did not consider was the toll this tactic was taking on the nominees themselves. The 'least risky' approach ended up resulting in a very visible and costly defeat. Will there be any bright side to this result? Only if it puts a little backbone into the Senate Republicans and spurs them to action on the remaining nominees. (If they need a case study on how to fight, they should take a look at the current Texas Redistricting battle.)

I do wish the Honorable Miguel Estrada well, and appreciate him hanging in there for a long 28 months. I hope that the remaining judicial nominees can receive their 'consent' quickly, before they too are forced to follow in Estrada's path.

UPDATE: This finally hit the news wire at about 8 am C.S.T. USA Today has an article here, for those who do not have WSJ online subscriptions.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Letter from Baghdad 

Another must read letter out of Baghdad. This one is from Ken Joseph Jr., who went to Baghdad before the war as a peace activist. He escaped from his minders and met with the people there. After speaking with Iraqis and seeing first-hand what Baghdad was really like, he realized that war was not the problem but rather the solution and admitted that he was wrong.

Here is a portion of his recent letter (per the Washington Times):

Despite the recent bombings, Baghdad looks dramatically different. The stores are full of supplies. The streets are crowded with people and cars. The buses are working and police are on the streets, directing traffic.

At night the streets are full of pedestrians, many families with children. I am at a loss to reconcile what we see on the ground with what is being reported.

The "regular people" are much better off than they were. Security has improved with Iraqi police everywhere, telephones are starting to work, electricity, while off and on, is relatively stable, the stores are full of food, and, little by little, people are getting jobs back.

Pensions have been paid on time. The schools are working and people for the first time have hope and a future.

When I was here before the war what was most awful for people was that they had no future -- nothing to look forward to. For us who have never experienced that situation, it is difficult to understand, but it is akin to being in prison without the possibility of parole.

They would look at me and say, "Sure we have food, a place to live, a job. But can you understand what it is to live with no tomorrow? It is like living in prison."

Now -- for the first time in 35 years -- they have a hope and a future. What most impressed me was to see Iraqis really hustling. They are thinking of starting companies and importing goods.

Again, this is required reading. Click the link above and read the letter in its entirety.
(Hat-tip to On the Third Hand)

And Then There Were Ten... 

One of the 11 Texas Senators in exile has returned home (per the El Paso Times).
Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, the longest-serving senator, slipped back to his hometown during the Labor Day weekend despite telling colleagues that he would visit New Orleans. He went back to Albuquerque briefly Monday before taking a flight to Houston.

'After being in my district for five days, I have concluded my constituents are opposed to redistricting, but they also believe the fight should be on the Senate floor,' Whitmire said before heading back to Texas.

Whitmire complained that Democrats lacked 'an exit plan.'

His return increased pressure for Democrats to end their 38-day standoff in Albuquerque.

It will take just one of the 11 boycotting Democrats to return to the Legislature to create a quorum necessary for the Senate to return to business.

If Governor Perry does call a third special session, the addition of Whitmire does mean the senate will have the required quorum to meet and deal with redistricting. The response of his fellow exiles was frustration:
Democrats couldn't budge Whitmire from his decision to leave Albuquerque, El Paso Senator Eliot Shapleigh said. Future relationships with Whitmire will be different "from the one that existed yesterday," Shapleigh said.

"He has indicated he desires to go home. All of us want to go home. But for us, representing our people's future is more important," Shapleigh said.

The people of Texas are still trying to figure out how their elected officials can represent them and their future from a hotel in a neighboring state.

In a radio interview, Whitmire said something to the effect of 'There is a point where staying in New Mexico becomes unproductive.' It is pretty obvious that the unproductivity started when their chartered airplane first crossed the state line.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

One Hand Clapping 

One Hand Clapping has a fascinating history lesson as he examines this statement by Wesley Clark:
In a Newsweek article about Clark's presidential potential, the general is quoted as saying of the Iraq campaign and aftermath,

   'You can't win without a vision, and that means working with allies.'

Why? I would like to read Gen. Clark's explanation of why without allies, there is no vision.

The history alone makes it a must read, but he also throws in what is alarming about Clark being Commander-in-Chief.

Magazine or Bible? 

Bibles targeted at certain groups have been around for years. There are Bibles targeted at men, women, children, leaders, students and kids. Thomas Nelson's latest offering targets Teen Girls in a unique way. Revolve is a complete New Testament (NCV - New Century Version) but in a magazine format (392 pages). It also includes plenty of extras: Q & A sections, 12 month calendar, issue articles, basics of Christianity articles, quizzes, beauty secrets, relationship articles and devotional reading plans.

In the Detroit Free Press, David Crumm describes giving a copy to two teenage girls for a week. Here are their responses:

'At first, I was really skeptical,' Ashley said as she gave me her final report Monday. 'But, then, I got a really good vibe. It's got the Bible in there, but it's also got all this great stuff on the sides of the pages just like a magazine: Q and As, advice boxes, top-10 lists. And I really liked these Bible Bios on women in the Bible.

'Then, I showed it to my friends, and they started whipping through the sections. Then, they asked me where they could pick it up, too. So, it's definitely cool.'

Ashley's friend Nancy agreed. For her first and second years in high school, Nancy attended Rochester Adams High, where she said once in a while people treated her like a geek because of her faith. This fall, Nancy is joining her friend Ashley at Oakland Christian School in Auburn Hills where Bibles are not only accepted -- they're required.

Nancy said she wishes she'd had Revolve last year at Adams. 'You wouldn't look completely ridiculous pulling this out at lunch. It's not like some big, black Holy Bible you're pulling out. It's a magazine. A lot of people read magazines.'

It is certain that many will immediately point this out as a godless marketing attempt. Others will see it as an attempt to water down the gospel or integrate the world into the church. It is the opposite of that - an attempt to move the Bible and its truth into a world that desparately needs it. If the package does not contradict the content, it is a valid expression of the truth it contains. The online reviews at Amazon ( here ) indicate that this approach is connecting with its target audience.

FBI Agent Fined 

Strange things happen in Las Vegas all the time, but this story from the Las Vegas Sun gets extra points for (possibly alcohol induced) creativity:
Police reports indicate that Hanson, who was in Las Vegas to attend an accounting seminar, was caught on surveillance cameras firing his .45-caliber handgun into the walk-in cooler. No one was inside at the time, although there was a lobster.

Hanson was charged only with a misdemeanor because of the late-night time of the incident, and the fact that the freezer was in a back area with no one inside, District Attorney David Roger said.

'The only victim in that case was a lobster, and Nevada statutes don't provide for attempted murder of a lobster,' Roger said.

The amount of his fine? Only slightly more than the cost of a nice lobster dinner - $105.00. (Ok, he did have to pay $12,517 for damages to the cooler.)