Nuclear Weapons Out Of Al-Qaeda’s Reach?

The Washington Post starts a three-part series today on the threat of nuclear terrorism which concludes that the threat of a chemical or biological attack is more likely. Unless al-Qaeda can get high-level assistance from Russian or Pakistani nuclear forces in detonating the devices, nuclear weapons appear to be outside their capability.
Experts have concluded that AQ does not have the capacity to manufacture its own nuclear devices, which means that they would have to steal or purchase one. However, setting off a nuclear bomb requires a high level of expertise, as the weapons have safeguards built into them to avoid such a scenario from playing out:

Newer Russian weapons, for example, are equipped with heat- and time-sensitive locking systems, known as permissive action links, that experts say would be extremely difficult to defeat without help from insiders.
“You’d have to run it through a specific sequence of events, including changes in temperature, pressure and environmental conditions before the weapon would allow itself to be armed, for the fuses to fall into place and then for it to allow itself to be fired,” said Charles D. Ferguson, science and technology fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “You don’t get it off the shelf, enter a code and have it go off.”
The strategy would require help from facility guards, employees with knowledge of the security and arming features of the weapons, not to mention access to a launching system.

Even the older ordnance has its challenges:

“There is a whole generation of weapons designed for artillery shells, manufactured in the 1950s, that aren’t going to have sophisticated locking devices,” said Laura Holgate, who ran nonproliferation programs at the Pentagon and the Energy Department from 1995 to 2001. “But it is a tougher task to take a weapon created by a country, even the 1950s version, a tougher job for a group of even highly qualified Chechen terrorists to make it go boom.”

Transportation also presents difficulties, although the Post may oversell the point here. Plutonium, which Russian weaponry uses, emits a higher rate of radiation and therefore theoretically would be easier to catch at the secure ports through which they must transit. However, this also leaves out the possibility that AQ could have lower-level infiltration in Russian border security organizations that would negate the safety barrier. After all, the Russians have their own Islamist problem and the borders that would give AQ the best access are part of the Russian areas of unrest.
Dafna Linzer reviews a host of other obstacles to terrorist development of a viable nuclear threat, all of which sound comforting notes. Chief among them is a lack of a stable environment in which to build the weapon, but Linzer leaves until last the reason why AQ has been deprived of such a necessity:

Al Qaeda has been on the run since the United States deprived it of a haven in Afghanistan, making it more difficult for the group to operate on such an ambitious scale.

The war on terror also deprived AQ of three other routes to nuclear capability that Linzer fails to mention in this first installment. First, the alliance with Pervez Musharraf exposed the Khan proliferation network, a resource that would have assisted AQ in both development and detonation, and possibly even delivered fissile material. Khan had no compunction against trading with Islamist zealots, as his connection with the Iranian regime clearly shows. Our removal of Saddam kept the Iraqis’ core nuclear research out of AQ hands; in fact, it delivered it to the Americans. Saddam’s capture convinced Moammar Gaddafi to rid himself of his nuclear-weapons program (as well as chemical and biological WMD) rather than share it with lunatic terrorists.
In short, our forward strategy of engagement against terrorists has kept them on the run and shut down the networks which could have created resources for terrible attacks that would have dwarfed 9/11. Too bad the Post chooses to downplay that and instead credit the idiocy of the terrorists for our safety.

Nick Coleman Goes Insane

Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Nick Coleman went off his meds today, or on some new ones, in writing a smear job on Power Line, who he sees as his archnemesis these days. Without bothering to do any research whatsoever, Coleman accuses the “lads” of being unaccountable sellouts and worse:

The lads behind Powerline are a bank vice president named Scott Johnson and a lawyer named John Hinderaker. If you read Powerline, you know them better by their fantasy names, Big Trunk (that’s Johnson) and Hind Rocket (Hinderaker). I will leave it to the appropriate professionals to determine what they are compensating for, but they have received enormous attention from the despised Mainstream Media and deserve more.

Oh ho, a penis reference from Coleman! What a great way to express his superior intellect and standards, seeing that he is a newspaperman:

I work for a dopey old newspaper committed to covering the news fairly while Powerline doesn’t make boring commitments.

I guess “covering the news fairly” includes making thinly-veiled wisecracks about penis length in Minneapolis’ “mainstream” newspaper. But Coleman, after all, “knows stuff” that we don’t. Why, he even fixed it so that a Republican (gasp!) could get elected governor:

In 1990, I reported that this newspaper’s endorsement of DFL Gov. Rudy Perpich was decided by then-publisher and Perpich crony Roger Parkinson. He had quashed the decision of the newspaper’s editorial board, which had voted in favor of the Republican challenger, Arne Carlson.
The truth got out, the Republican won and the public was served.

He goes on to accuse the guys at Power Line of taking money without disclosure from various interests which Coleman never bothers to identify. He can’t, because it’s untrue, as John explains in his amusing reply to Coleman’s rant. In fact, all Coleman had to do to find this out was either to read what they had written, or simply pick up the phone and call them. Their phone numbers are available through their website, and certainly their e-mail address gets prominent display on their site.
In his undisguised hatred and fear of being held accountable for his mediocrity and bias, Coleman demonstrates why news sources like the Strib left themselves open for a counterreaction from bloggers. He not only failed to check out his assertions, he made them so ridiculous that they beg for the pinprick that this windbag so richly deserves.
Since he wants to tell true stories, let me tell one that explains a bit more about his approach to criticism. Not long ago, Coleman mixed it up over a column he wrote about a lack of books at a local school with a couple of our associates, Mitch Berg and Craig Westover. Since we all have our own radio show here in town, Mitch invited Coleman to join us on air with Westover to debate the issue. Instead of accepting our offer or even offering a professional refusal, Coleman left Mitch a barely coherent rant on his voice mail, demanding that Mitch post the “twelve shittiest things [Mitch] ever wrote about my kids” and payment of $1000 dollars to the school before Coleman would appear. (For the record, the only thing Mitch ever wrote about his kids was that they attend the same school system that Mitch’s kids attend, something Coleman could have determined had he bothered to research the issue.)
I didn’t know that the Strib demands $1000 for interviews, nor did I realize that they pay for interviews, but apparently that’s the journalistic standard at the Strib these days. After all, Mitch contacted him in his capacity as a representative of the paper which employs Coleman; what else are we to think? When Mitch refused to pay for the interview, Nick Coleman sent a threatening e-mail proposing to “expose” us as cowards — and then wrote a ridiculous column that referred to Westover as “Captain Fishsticks”.
Namecalling, extortion, and threats — that’s the standards that Nick Coleman apparently wants to defend in his latest column. And Nick wonders why blogs like Power Line exist?
UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers! You should make sure to read Mitch Berg’s more in-depth response. King Banaian also notes how cool it is that Coleman essentially has to ride our coattails now.

Vatican’s Anti-Israel’s Bias Slips Out

The Vatican embarrasses itself today in its newspaper, mistakenly scolding Israel for not offering aid to Sri Lanka when in fact the anti-Semites in the island nation refused entry to the Israeli aid delegation. In the language they used to issue their judgment on the only nation in Southwest Asia that allows Christians unfettered religious freedom, the Vatican revealed a bias that calls into question John Paul II’s famous outreach to Jews:

The Vatican newspaper has denounced what it called a decision by the IDF to deny emergency help to disaster victims in Sri Lanka.
Calling for “a radical and dramatic change of perspective” among people “too often preoccupied with making war,” L’Osservatore Romano singled out Israeli military leaders for declining a request for emergency medical help.
Contrary to the Vatican report, an Israeli plane carrying 80 tons of food and medical supplies worth $100,000 was set to depart for Sri Lanka Wednesday morning. At the request of the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry, a team of some 150 Israeli medical and security personnel aborted their planned trip to the island nation Tuesday night.

Oops! I guess the Vatican doesn’t take its mission to provide the Truth to the world too seriously these days. The blogosphere had the Sri Lanka/Israel story hours ago, another short-sighted and pointless example of Islamic anti-Semitism that hurts themselves more than it could ever hurt the Jews bearing the aid the Sri Lankans need. Instead of spending a few minutes getting their story straight, the Vatican mouthpiece wasted little time jumping to a conclusion that has to force Catholics around the world to question the Vatican’s true attitude towards Israel and Jews.
Question 1: Why did an official Catholic newspaper fail to research the issue before issuing an opinion?
Question 2: Why did L’Osservatore Romano automatically blame the Jews?
Question 3: Who wrote that editorial, and at what level was it approved?
The Vatican has generated a lot of publicity during John Paul II’s reign out of their outreach to Israel and the worldwide Jewish community. This incident appears to betray a completely different attitude towards them in the upper echelons of the Catholic Church. When leaders within Christ’s Church take the side of tyrants and terrorists and turn on the one small oasis in a desert of oppression for Christians, we Catholics have to wonder where the Vatican is leading us.

Washington Post Starts New Bush Meme, Trots Out Stinginess For An Encore

The Washington Post runs to the rescue of Jan Egeland by both reinforcing the UN undersecretary’s assertions of American stinginess and creating a new smear against George Bush, this time for not exploiting the deaths of 60,000 people for his own political gain:

The Bush administration more than doubled its financial commitment yesterday to provide relief to nations suffering from the Indian Ocean tsunami, amid complaints that the vacationing President Bush has been insensitive to a humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions. …
Although U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland yesterday withdrew his earlier comment, domestic criticism of Bush continued to rise. Skeptics said the initial aid sums — as well as Bush’s decision at first to remain cloistered on his Texas ranch for the Christmas holiday rather than speak in person about the tragedy — showed scant appreciation for the magnitude of suffering and for the rescue and rebuilding work facing such nations as Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and Indonesia.
After a day of repeated inquiries from reporters about his public absence, Bush late yesterday afternoon announced plans to hold a National Security Council meeting by teleconference to discuss several issues, including the tsunami, followed by a short public statement.

The Post’s John F. Harris notes approvingly that Bush’s camera grab puts him in the same class as Gerhardt Schroeder and other world leaders. Harris also reports on another figure in Europe that beat Bush to the television cameras: Bill Clinton, who got wide press coverage for issuing an insipid statement in Britain about the importance of coordinating the international response to the disaster.
We will hear more of this in the days ahead, how Bush cares more for his vacation than the suffering of the Asian victims of the tsunami, and so on. Harris reports on whispers in the political and international communities that the aid package put forth and Bush’s absence shows his arrogance and disdain for the human tragedy. Leslie Gelb from the Council on Foreign Relations gets a quote telling Post readers that Bush had to “show people that this matters to [him], that [he] cares.”
Of course Bush has to act to assist the governments suffering from the tragedy, but how does getting on TV and acting weepy — Bill Clinton’s specialty — help them in any material way? Bush put his energy into getting the largest aid package of any nation deployed ($35 million and growing). He redirected a carrier group to the Indian Ocean (USS Lincoln), and he sent the USS Bonhomme Richard and 5,000 sailors to Sri Lanka (via Instapundit). Post readers should ask themselves what helps tsunami victims more — self-serving TV appearances or thousands of helping hands arriving on the scene, not to mention the cash?
The worst part of this article is Harris’ endorsement of the stinginess meme that even Egeland had abandoned by this afternoon:

Among the world’s two dozen wealthiest countries, the United States often is among the lowest in donors per capita for official development assistance worldwide, even though the totals are larger. According to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development of 30 wealthy nations, the United States gives the least — at 0.14 percent of its gross national product, compared with Norway, which gives the most at 0.92 percent.

Harris deliberately uses the narrow definition of assistance, that given directly by governments. As many bloggers have already noted, that definition hardly tells the full story. Americans donate more money privately and volunteer more hours than anyone else in the world. The American economic structure that allows people to retain most of their own earnings also allows them to make much more effective use of donor money and time. (However, I note with some satisfaction that Norway only donates 0.92% of its GNP. Egeland sneeringly referred to those Western countries that keep 99% of what they make; I guess his native country belings in the same class.)
While the Post has its own issues with bias, I hold them in much higher regard than the New York Times because it usually manages to get its facts straight. This article seriously challenges my generally positive opinion of the Washington Post.

Yushchenko Wants A Blockade While Yanukovych Xeroxes Voters

Viktor Yushchenko has called on his populist movement to blockade a cabinet meeting called by a defiant Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, refusing to accept defeat in Ukraine’s presidential run-off. Meanwhile, the protests that Yanukovych presented to the election commission look suspiciously alike, according to officials:

Viktor Yushchenko, fresh from his victory in Ukraine’s disputed presidential race, called on his supporters Tuesday to blockade the Cabinet of Ministers building to prevent his opponent from holding a government session.
Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, the Kremlin favorite who has come under increasing pressure to concede defeat to Yushchenko, returned to work Tuesday after taking a vacation to campaign ahead of last Sunday’s vote.

Ukrainian prime ministers do not leave office until replaced by the President. So far, Leonid Kuchma has not released Yanukovych from his duties and shows no particular rush to do so. That allows Yanukovych to conduct government business despite his loss at the polls. Yanukovych could conceivably continue to run Kuchma’s government until Yushchenko gets sworn in and fires him.
Of course, Yanukovych hopes that his challenges to the runoff will result in either a reversed decision or at least another runoff. He has yet to file an official challenge, but Yanukovych has pointed to a number of complaints that the CEC has received to justify his objections. However, election officials have had to contend with a strong sense of deja vu when reviewing them:

Yanukovych’s team has yet to file an appeal, and the Central Election Commission’s Davydovych said that many of the complaints they had received, purportedly from individual voters, were “printed on the same computer, with the same text, the same envelopes.”
“This is on the conscience of those who do that,” Davydovych said.

Yanukovych obviously lacks the subtlety to get away with voter fraud. He would have better spent his time in Seattle rather than Kyiv.

Minnesota Media Both Tacky And Clueless

A business complex exploded in nearby Ramsey today, killing at least two people and critically injuring a third. A gas buildup apparently caused the blast, which destroyed the building:

A gas leak was believed to have set off the explosion about 9:45 a.m., leveling the single-story structure along Hwy. 10 in the city of Ramsey, said Capt. Bob Aldrich of the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office.
However, Aldrich said more investigation was needed to confirm the cause. Investigators planned to talk to a man who had pulled up to the building just as it exploded. The man’s car was damaged, but he was said to be uninjured.

The explosion will require more investigation, but the odor of natural gas at the scene makes firefighters pretty confident that a gas leak is the culprit.
However, that’s not why I’m posting about this. Our local media swarmed over the site, quite literally, as a CQ reader e-mailed me earlier this afternoon:

As you have undoubtedly heard about by now, a small business building in Ramsey on highway 10 exploded today, killing at least 2 with possibly others still missing. As an emergency services volunteer in Hennepin County, I was put on standby and had my scanner running so I could listen to the rescue and recovery operation. I also tuned into the local media coverage of the incident while I waited to see if my services would be needed.
A little while after dogs were brought in to assist in the search, rescue crews appeared to have located something. The news media observed that tarps were being raised and one station admitted it was probably because of their presence overhead (one station tried to suggest other possible reasons for the tarps initially but the tarp path to the ambulance left little doubt as to the tarp’s function). While recognizing the tarps were in place to provide privacy and dignity to the remains being removed from the blast site, no effort was made by the news media to actually provide privacy that was being sought.
On my radio, I heard a request being made by the fire command to have all news media choppers clear the air and provide a 5 mile radius around the scene. The Anoka County dispatcher contacted each news organization and relayed the request.
Nobody moved.
The fire commander, clearly irritated, asked that the FAA be contacted and that the radius should be expanded to 10 miles.
Nobody moved.
At one point the fire commander said all the helicopters, except channel 11 [the local NBC affiliate — CE] had backed off but then ended his transmission by saying another helicopter was moving into the area again. Even as the helicopters were backing off, news crews on the ground using towers on their news vans zoomed in on the ambulance looking for any angle that would sneak past the privacy guards in place.

Remember this when the media spouts off about supporting local responders in the war on terror instead of military action. The fire captain wanted the area cleared to maintain at least a few moments of dignity for the victims of the blast, and the various Twin Cities news organizations treated it like a Hollywood wedding. The truth is that the media only gives a damn about local responders when it suits their political purposes; otherwise, the media routinely ignore them. Everyone involved in this should be ashamed of themselves.

A Cost Of $5000 Per Vote

Ohio has officially finished the recount demanded by the Green and Libertarian parties and encouraged by the Democrats and the Kerry campaign. The result? President Bush’s lead diminished … by 300 votes:

Election officials finished the presidential recount in Ohio on Tuesday, with the final tally shaving about 300 votes off President Bush’s six-figure margin of victory in the state that gave him a second term.
The recount shows Bush winning Ohio by 118,457 votes over John Kerry, according to unofficial results provided to The Associated Press by the 88 counties. Lucas County, home to Toledo, was the last to finish counting.
The state had earlier declared Bush the winner by 118,775 votes and plans to adjust its totals to reflect the recount later this week.

That certainly proved a productive use of Ohio’s resources. The Secretary of State estimated that Ohio’s taxpayers will eat about $1.5 million for the complete recount, far outpacing the $113,000 the Greens and Libertarians paid for the effort. When that money isn’t available for more voting machines or a few workers get laid off because of the budget crunch, perhaps Buckeye State voters will remember that this useless bill was brought to them by the Democrats and fringe parties.
I’ve heard of vote-buying before, but $5000 a throw seems a bit steep, even for free-spending Democrats.
UPDATE: Dorian at Alarming News (guesting for Karol Sheinin) notes the AP headline bias that commenter TG Harris also noted.

Tsunami Toll Now Above 55,000, Expected To Rise “Sharply”

The death toll from the Asian tsunamis has risen sharply today as aid agencies now say that 55,000 deaths have been confirmed — and that number is expected to get a lot larger soon:

Logistical problems hampered a massive humanitarian relief operation along Asia’s devastated shores as the death toll from a huge earthquake and killer tidal waves surged past 55,000.
With the scale of the catastrophe rapidly unfolding, the confirmed number of dead in 10 countries shot up to 55,175, with Indonesia’s Aceh province accounting for half of those killed, or 27,174. In Sri Lanka, 17,640 are dead.
The fear that outbreaks of disease could unleash a second wave of tragedy on a region struggling to cope with the first also loomed large with decomposing bodies and sewerage contaminating water sources.

Short of war, the world has not seen such an immediate catastrophe as the Indian Ocean nations are tragically experiencing now. An entire generation has died for some communities, and disease threatens to wipe out what’s left. Aid needs to get to the survivors, and fast.
Western nations plan to meet the call, with the US pledging $15 million to start. That met with some disapproval yesterday, as the UN’s emergency relief coordinator called America “stingy”:

“The United States, at the president’s direction, will be a leading partner in one of the most significant relief, rescue and recovery challenges that the world has ever known,” said White House deputy press secretary Trent Duffy.
But U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland suggested that the United States and other Western nations were being “stingy” with relief funds, saying there would be more available if taxes were raised.
“It is beyond me why are we so stingy, really,” the Norwegian-born U.N. official told reporters. “Christmastime should remind many Western countries at least, [of] how rich we have become.”
“There are several donors who are less generous than before in a growing world economy,” he said, adding that politicians in the United States and Europe “believe that they are really burdening the taxpayers too much, and the taxpayers want to give less. It’s not true. They want to give more.”

This is a typical European response, where people who want to “give more” do so by confiscating other people’s money. In fact, Americans are among the least-stingy people in the world — once you count private donations. As McQ at QandO noted yesterday, America gives far more in private donations and volunteer efforts than their European counterparts. In fact, Americans donate seven times more per household than Germans and put in six times the amount of volunteer work.
How despicable that Jan Egeland uses the deaths of at least 55,000 people to pursue his political ambitions. The UN undersecretary should already know these figures. He should also understand that when governments don’t steal everything they can from their citizens, the citizens can be trusted to do the right thing with their money. Egeland’s sneering Eurocentrism symbolizes everything that is wrong with the UN: politics over people, ideology over humanity. Egeland provides yet another reason for the US to stop paying UN salaries until they clean house at Turtle Bay.
UPDATE: Oops! Egeland must have gotten a memo from above, because he’s backtracking as fast as he can:

The international response to a catastrophic tsunami in Asia has been quick and generous, a senior U.N. official said on Tuesday, playing down his earlier comments that wealthy nations were stingy. …
Egeland told reporters on Tuesday: “I’ve been misinterpreted when I yesterday said that I believed that rich countries in general can be more generous.”

How, exactly, can one misinterpret the word “stingy”? CNN also reports on Egeland’s retreat.

Protestors At Pentagon Aim To Destroy Morale

I received an e-mail from an active-duty officer currently posted at the Pentagon, decrying the stupidity of the moonbats that congregate outside the entrances to the facility to protest the war. Usually, the protests involve a handful of disorganized and mostly quiet people. This morning’s protest, however, got ugly very fast:

Captain Ed–
I’m a lieutenant colonel currently assigned to the Pentagon. The area around our Metro entrance is a popular location for moonbat protests; there’s a nice lady who stands out there maybe once a week with a sign. Occasionally, there are others. Of course their signs accuse us Pentagon types of genocide, etc., but imbued in their citizenship is the right to be cluelessly ignorant. Those of us in queue to enter the building are instructed not to react. It’s hard to comply, but the policy prevents escalation.
This morning, it took every ounce of professionalism not to react. For today, the moonbats were highly organized…about 50 of them. Two were arrested for getting out of line during just the 2 minutes I was out there. They had all the typical moonbat signs…”No Blood For Oil” and “Remember Fallujah” (this one held by a nice 70 year old lady…I do remember, ma’am, how the local residents strung up our contractors). The largest poster trumpeted a “There Are No Innocent Bystanders” theme.
I wish I had photos.
I’ve about had it with these intellectual midgets who don’t understand we’re at war. I wish I could compel each to read Hugh Hewitt’s book “If It’s Not Close…” as it explains our very real struggle in terms even a moonbat might comprehend. The constrast between this morning’s protestors and the service of our troops in country could not be more stark. Even if the protestors were correct (and they’re not), they’re protesting the wrong building…we execute the President’s orders. No more, no less. Go march in front of the White House, please.
Having said that, it’s their right to protest. Bring it on. But I’m wondering if among your readers is someone in the D.C. area who could organize and execute a PEACEFUL pro-military demonstration at the Pentagon Metro entrance? You have no idea how much it would help morale.

I don’t agree with my reader’s assessment of the protest as some sort of mistake that wound up at the wrong building. I believe that the protestors intend on undermining morale among the fighting corps of this nation, weakening our military resolve to carry out the orders of the duly elected government which it serves. The protests aim at men and women like my reader (who asked me to withhold his name, for obvious reasons) to destroy their sense of purpose and duty. They want good and honorable people to leave military service so that the great evil they see — American power — crumbles, leaving us at the mercy of those who will destroy us.
For those who live in the DC area, I ask that some effort be made to counter the effects of these demoralizers. It won’t take much. Men and women like this reader know that they have support, but when they don’t see overt expressions of it once in a while and have to come to work every day to this nonsense, it grinds down the spirit. Certainly we have some patriots in the area who can organize a loose effort to simply stand at the entrance and thank those who protect us from our enemies?
UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers! I want to point you to the About Me page to explain my nickname, as the post and (very kind) referral from Instapundit may leave people with the wrong impression.

Osama Demands Boycott, Sunnis Respond: Coincidence?

On the day that Osama bin Laden issued a call for Muslims to boycott the upcoming Iraqi elections, the country’s largest Sunni party pulled out of the elections, claiming that they should be delayed by six months or more:

The largest political party representing Iraq’s Sunni Muslim minority announced Monday that it would drop out of the Jan. 30 election, dealing a fresh blow to the vote’s credibility on the same day the top Shiite Muslim candidate survived a car bombing.
The withdrawal of the Iraqi Islamic Party, combined with the assassination attempt on cleric Abdul Aziz Hakim, heightened concerns that the parliamentary election may produce a lopsided result, further alienating Sunni areas where the armed insurgency is growing.

The withdrawal of the Islamic Party may cause a loss of some credibility amongst the Sunni in Iraq, but the Sunni as a group hardly have supported the concept of democracy in the first place. Their withdrawal only surprises the Western media, and even that I suspect is overblown. The Sunni face an unprecedented loss of domination over the Kurds and the Shi’a in Iraq and don’t like it one bit. Their only strategy is to boycott the elections and claim their illegitimacy later as a grudge to be nursed.
The boycott announcement also comes at an interesting moment, just when Osama issues a fatwa of sorts warning Muslims that those who participate will become infidels:

In calling on Iraqis to boycott the election, the speaker praised Abu Musab Zarqawi as an “amir,” or prince of the al Qaeda organization in Iraq, who is leading the fight against “the Americans and [Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad] Allawi’s renegade government.”
“The groups affiliated with him are good,” the speaker says. “We were pleased with their daring operations.” Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born Palestinian, has asserted responsibility for many of the suicide bombings and beheadings in Iraq over the past year and in October publicly pledged his fealty to bin Laden.

So Osama says “boycott,” and the Sunni Islamic Party jumps. No one should be terribly surprised over this, as the Sunni Ba’athists have cast their lot with the Wahhabist al-Qaeda “amir” Zarqawi, who has conducted a bloody and barbaric campaign against Iraqis who have the temerity to desire self-determination and freedom.
The Saddam remnants want a return to Sunni domination, and their easy association with AQ, Osama, and Zarqawi shows what Iraq would become if they succeed. Their refusal to participate in elections therefore does not break my heart in any significant way. Those Sunnis who believe in freedom will make their way to the ballot box.
This does, however, reinforce the wisdom of the proposed federal system in Iraq, which the Shi’ite leader Ali al-Sistani opposes. A federal system will allow the Kurds to govern themselves in peace without undue interference in the Arabic tensions in southern and central Iraq. (Kurds, as they will not hesitate to remind you, are not Arabs.) Assuming that the Sunni eventually participate, they will have their own political stronghold in Baghdad and the rest of central Iraq, while the Shi’a will have their power base in Basra. It allows all factions to have their own space while keeping the country united at the top. Just as in America, these competing demands will put a lot of pressure on the federal government to allow as much autonomy as possible — but the structure can withstand that and eventually allow the tensions to be expressed at a table rather than at the point of a gun, or with the appearance of a suicide bomber.
To get there, we have to have elections, and we have to make Iraqis confident in their existence. Delaying elections only feeds the conspiracy theorists and fatalists who refuse to believe in democracy and the rule of law. Regardless of Sunni participation, the elections must proceed.