Has The Gray Lady Found Something About The Bush Doctrine To Love?

The New York Times reports on the Cedar Revolution from Beirut in uncharacteristically pleasant tones, rather than the traditional pessimism (or silence) normally reserved for events that prove George Bush’s policies correct. Of course, the Times neglects to mention — even once — the Iraqi elections that provided the confidence needed to get people out onto the street, but Hassan Fattah does draw comparisons to the Bush-supported Ukrainian demonstrations that collapsed the Russian puppet government there:

Lebanon’s prime minister, Omar Karami, resigned Monday, dissolving the country’s pro-Syrian government and setting the stage for an intense struggle over the relationship between Syria and Lebanon.
The surprise resignation came as the streets of Beirut were filled with tens of thousands of flag-waving protesters and hours after a grueling no-confidence debate in the Lebanese Parliament. Pressure on both the government and Syria has risen steadily since the car-bomb assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri two weeks ago, for which government opponents blame Syria.
The Lebanese opposition has demanded a full investigation of Mr. Hariri’s assassination, the resignation of the government, and an immediate pullout of Syria’s 14,000 troops from Lebanon. Opposition leaders say they have consciously imitated the popular uprising in Ukraine, where demonstrators forced the government to call a new election after accusations of corruption.
Marches over the past two weeks here culminated in a huge demonstration at Martyr’s Square on Monday in open defiance of an Interior Ministry order against the gathering, as the parliamentary session began.
Lebanese soldiers circled much of the city center with barbed wire and barricades on Sunday evening to block the Monday demonstration, but to little avail.

Instead of explaining how the Iraqi elections set the stage for the wave of demands for democratization in the Arab world, the Times instead compares the Cedar Revolution favorably to other protests — American anti-Vietnam War protests of the 1960s. No, really:

In scenes reminiscent of protests in the United States in the 1960’s, protestors rushed to get to the site of the demonstration, just yards away from Mr. Hariri’s grave, and camped through the night, waving Lebanese flags as anthems played on. Many handed flowers to the soldiers and beseeched them to cooperate with them. Despite orders to prevent demonstrators from entering the area, soldiers eventually relented to the flood of largely young protestors on Monday, and the demonstration carried on peacefully.

Yes, that connection appears so obvious to me now! Just as in Lebanon, Americans in the 1960s suffered under an occupation by a foreign government and risked their lives by demonstrating against the fascist occupation of their country. Most readers will discern my sarcasm, but apparently the irony-free denizens of the Paper of Record would truly believe that tripe. Yikes.
However, maybe I shouldn’t quibble. At least they’re covering it, and at least they’re showing some enthusiasm for the movement. Anyway, self-delusion so profound that it accidentally leads to some form of truth happens so rarely that it must be seen to be appreciated.

The Cedar Revolution, In Pictures

The BBC has a few pictures of the Cedar Revolution that started today and continues to this hour, as the demonstrators refuse to leave until pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud resigns and the Syrians completely withdraw from Lebanon. Reports have the crowds now numbering over 200,000 and still growing. Let’s hope they all have flowers and that the security forces remain on the sidelines.

Oscar Viewership Down 2 Million: AP

Despite earlier reports, the viewership of last night’s Oscar telecast attracted significantly less viewers than the year before, with the biggest loss in suburban and rural viewers, David Bauder reports for the AP.

A total of 41.5 million viewers tuned in Sunday to watch “Million Dollar Baby” take the Oscar for best picture. That’s down 2 million from last year’s show, which honored “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” according to Nielsen Media Research.
ABC undoubtedly hoped for better, after preliminary figures released earlier Monday from the top 56 markets were the strongest they were in five years.
The drop in total viewership was an indication that this year’s Oscar ceremony was more popular in the big cities than rural areas, more so than an average Academy Awards, said Larry Hyams, vice president of audience analysis and research for ABC.

ABC and the Academy aimed at younger urban viewers with this year’s broadcast, which led them to hire Chris Rock as emcee of film’s biggest night. My opinion of Rock’s performance has been captured in my live-blog of the event. However, even critics who might have been enamored of Rock’s political rants felt the selection harmed the broadcast, and his abrasive and divisive pre-broadcast comments about people who do and don’t watch the Oscars may have had an effect on the audience’s collective yawn.
I’d like to see the full Nielsen analysis, to find out when people started to tune out. I suspect that Rock lost many people during his opening monologue who simply waited until the end of the broadcast to come back for the final few awards.

Why Now?

In the past two months, we have seen an explosion of momentum in Southwest Asia for political reform and democratization. Despite European warnings that democracy cannot be imposed at gunpoint, two longtime tyrannies (Afghanistan and Iraq) successfully held popular multiparty elections for the first time in their histories, freeing almost 50 million people from two of the most oppressive governments in modern history. Just before that, Ukrainians took to the streets to bring down a puppet government and a sham election that would have perpetuated it, and now we see popular demonstrations for liberty where we would least have expected it — on the streets of Beirut and Cairo. The pro-Syrian puppet Lebanese government has fallen today as a result, while Hosni Mubarak has managed to stay one step ahead by promising multiparty elections later this year for the executive.
After watching nothing but stagnation for decades and an Arab populace that appeared resigned to oppression all along, one has to ask: what changed? Why now? The answer, history will show, will be two men: George Bush and Tony Blair, with John Howard of Australia playing the unsung hero.
For twelve years, the international community sat on its hands while Saddam Hussein, the Assads in Syria, and other tinpot dictators openly oppressed their people and defied international calls for reform. All of that changed for the US after 9/11, when the product of all that simmering rage at political repression took out 3,000 of our citizens who committed the sin of going to work on Tuesday morning. Bush, Blair, and Howard correctly calculated that continuing with so-called realpolitik and cutting deals with the oppressors only created more risk and more opportunity for terrorist groups.
So the Anglosphere changed directions and demanded accountability from the dictators of the worst area for political oppression — Southwest Asia. After giving the Taliban one chance to cough up the masterminds of 9/11, Bush decapitated them despite opposition predictions of 19th-century quagmires and anarchical results. Within two years, the Afghans had held their own elections and started governing themselves, a story that the Western media has largely ignored despite its historic significance.
Once the Taliban had been driven off, the Anglosphere turned its sights onto Saddam Hussein. Many on the left have argued that Saddam had been effectively “contained” (some used the phrase “in his box”) by UN sanctions, but ultimately Saddam had continued to defy UNSC resolutions — 16 of them — to disarm, stop committing genocide on his own people, and provide proof of the destruction of his WMD programs. Saddam refused to do any of this. His intransigence demonstrated the UN’s inability to act in its own interest, and as we later found out, the UNSC states themselves helped Saddam undermine the containment they argued to continue. Saddam’s continued grip on power showed the UN to be helpless to do anything to enforce its own resolutions.
That provides part of the oft-asked question of Why Saddam and why not Iran/North Korea/Syria et al? This map provides the other part:

Geographically and militarily, Iraq holds the key to Southwest Asia, and the Anglosphere leaders proved they can read maps even if their political opponents cannot. Iraq still had the region’s most potent military, and after the necessary first strike against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, all further operations in the Gulf region required neutralizing both Saddam and his army. His defiance provided all of the justification necessary for such a step, and the Anglosphere took it. They destroyed the region’s best and most battle-tested military in less than three weeks, despite opposition predictions of desert quagmires and holy-war catastrophes. While the Iraqis themselves didn’t welcome us with flowers and chocolates — a product of our 1991 betrayal — they proved less than two years later that they wanted to choose their own leaders by braving bombs and bullets to vote in surprisingly large numbers.
On the heels of that surprising success, Bush specifically called Syria out as his next focus during his annual State of the Union speech. I don’t think even Bush could have predicted Bashar Assad’s stupidity in assassinating a tremendously popular figure in Lebanon as Rafik Hariri, but Bush demanded a complete Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon during that speech. Combined with his inaugural speech ealier and the success of Iraq’s election, his words have had a powerful effect on Lebanese developments. The purple fingers of Iraq have led to the red-and-white banners demanding freedom today in the streets of Beirut and the capitulation of Egypt’s president-for-life, Hosni Mubarak, to multiparty elections.
Nor have we seen the wave of democratization crest yet. Looking back at the map above, that wave threatens to crash across Syria from two directions now, especially with its Kurdish minority paying close attention to their Iraqi cousins. Syria, long an undeniable exporter of terrorism, either has to ride that wave to a peaceful transition to true representative government or drown in an attempt to stand fast. The collapse of Syria and a transformation of Egyptian politics would severly undercut the terrorist impulses of populations who have been fed radical anti-Westernism by their oppressors for decades as a means to rechannel their rage towards anyone else but the dictators themselves.
More horizons beckon, notably Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan, but these will follow in time. One question that arises still is, why now? Was this really the work of the Anglosphere? The answer lies in the 150,000 troops currently stationed in Iraq and the will to act that put them there. Does anyone think that Syria would have stood still for a spontaneous demonstration against their puppet government if Saddam Hussein was still defying the UN in Baghdad? Would Hosni Mubarak have suddenly transformed into a democrat without watching the Anglosphere demonstrate a will to act rather than just continue talking tough?
Would the people of the region had the undeniable personal courage to stand up to their oppressors as they have in Cairo and Beirut if they had not seen the Iraqis and their purple fingers, freely voting for their own government, with their own eyes?
Make no mistake. This transformation didn’t just happen to coincide with the terms of Bush, Blair, and Howard. Expect the mainstream media to sell that meme in the next few weeks — how George Bush, especially, got lucky to just happen to be President when all of this happened. Don’t buy it for a second. He saw how to change the world and eliminate terrorism over the long haul and more importantly had the political courage to act in that regard.

Pro-Syrian Lebanese Govt Resigns Under Pressure

Reuters reports that the pro-Syrian Lebanese government has resigned under pressure from the unprecedented demonstrations of dissent in the streets of Beirut today, giving an opportunity for activists of liberty to wrest control of Lebanon from Damascus for the first time in decades:

Lebanon’s Syrian-backed Prime Minister Omar Karami, under popular pressure after the assassination of an ex-prime minister, said Monday his government was resigning.
“Out of concern that the government does not become an obstacle to the good of the country, I announce the resignation of the government I had the honor to lead,” Karami told parliament in Beirut.
The government came under fire in parliament Monday over the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri in a huge bomb two weeks ago, while streets away thousands defied a protest ban to demand it stand down.
The debate had been expected to close with a no-confidence vote in the government, but after a lunch break Karami took the podium to announce the resignation of the government.

The collapse of the puppet government in such a short period of time gives testimony to the depth and power of the spontaneous freedom movement inspired by the truly stupid assassination of Rafik Hariri earlier this month. The resignation of Karami and the withdrawal of his government exposes the Syrian power behind the green curtain at Anjar, and protestors lost no time demanding that Damascus get the hell out:

“Today the government fell. Tomorrow, it’s the one huddled in Anjar,” opposition leader Elias Atallah told the crowd to cheers, referring to the Syrian intelligence chief based in the eastern Lebanese town of Anjar. He said the opposition will continue its actions until all demands are met.
The protesters went further, immediately shouting for the resignation of pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud.
“Lahoud, your turn is coming!” they said.
Others in the sea of red, white and green flags chanted, “Syria Out!” and “Freedom, sovereignty, independence!”
Lahoud’s six-year term was renewed in September by Parliament, under apparent Syrian pressure to change the constitution, which banned further terms. A U.N. resolution demanded Lebanon hold presidential elections, Syrian troops pull out of Lebanon and Syria stop interfering in Lebanese affairs.
“The battle is not over. It is just beginning. We want to know who killed Prime Minister Hariri,” opposition legislator Faris Saeed said, addressing the crowd. The crowd responded loudly and in unison: “Syria! Syria!”

In other words, if Assad thought that Karami’s departure would satisfy the Lebanese, he has made another mistake. Assad or his intelligence services have provided a spark with the Hariri assassination that has turned into a firestorm of Lebanese nationalism, one that has united all of the factions in demanding a complete and immediate Syrian withdrawal. Momentum has turned into an avalanche, one that threatens to bury Assad and his Ba’athists in Damascus.
This is Assad’s worst nightmare come true. With the Syrians, especially the Kurds in the northeast, watching the Iraqis vote in the first free multi-party elections ever on their east and the Lebanese on their west showing how fragile the Syrian grip on power truly is, the Assad government may wind up facing similar demonstrations in the streets of Damascus, demanding free multi-party elections — which would end Assad’s grip on power, unless he got in front of the effort immediately.
Will Assad get ahead of history and lead Syria out of Lebanon and into a freely-elected, multiparty democracy? Or will he dither and stand pat and attempt to survive the avalanche headed his way? These are the choices that the Anglo-American strategy of democratization have left with Assad. His father would choose the latter; Bashar might just be smart enough, like Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, to opt for the former. Either way, he only has weeks, possibly even days, to make his choices before the choices are made for him.


Beirut took to the streets this morning to protest the continuing occupation of Lebanon by Syrian military and intelligence forces and the existence of the puppet Lebanese government, despite a ban on such demonstrations and the intimidation of armed forces cordoning the city:

Defying a ban on protests, about 10,000 people demonstrated against Syrian interference in Lebanon on Monday, as opposition lawmakers sought to bring down the pro-Damascus government two weeks after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Hundreds of soldiers and police blocked off Beirut’s central Martyrs’ Square, but there was no violence, even as more and more protesters managed to evade the cordon and join the demonstration.
Protest leaders urged their followers not to provoke the security forces, who refrained from trying to disperse the crowd.

The Syrians must know now that the world has finally focused on their oppression in Lebanon. For over a decade, Lebanon was the dirty little secret that everyone knew and simply winked at. Now, after the brutal assassination of a leading dissident, the world has discovered the machinations of the Assad regime, and the Lebanese know that this is their one chance to be heard. They have marched past the Syrian soldiers and braved the bombs of Hezbollah to demonstrate against the Ba’athist occupation of their country — and they need the world’s help to free the Lebanese from the yoke of Syria’s tyranny.
Will the world continue to listen? Assad hopes not. Let’s make sure Assad doesn’t get his wish.

Israel Plays Daniel

Israel plans on doing something rather remarkable today, an act of faith that has echoes of Daniel in the lion’s den. Israel will request that the United Nations Security Council condemn the terrorist bombing that killed four people in Tel Aviv this weekend and demand that the Palestinian Authority dismantle the terrorist groups operating in its territories as a prerequisite to further negotiations on autonomy:

Israel will ask the U.N. Security Council today to condemn a weekend suicide bombing in Tel Aviv and press Palestinians to act against militants, marking a rare diplomatic offensive in the international forum by the Jewish state, officials said.
In Israel yesterday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he had stepped up military measures against terrorists in response to the attack at a seaside nightclub that killed four, and would condition future peace talks with the Palestinians on concrete steps to fight terrorism. …
The U.N. foray is a departure for Israel, which is more accustomed to being isolated on Middle East security issues. It hopes to get a declaration condemning the attack in an “unequivocal” manner, while pressing Mr. Abbas to take “tangible” steps, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev.
“Usually, we’re used to playing defense at the U.N.,” said Mr. Regev, who added that a successful outcome would mark a shift in Israel’s fortunes at the world body.

That’s putting it mildly. The UN has been little more than a temple to hypocrisy when it comes to Israel since the 1967 war — initiated by the Arabs — that created the occupation. The UN has repeatedly scolded Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians without ever noting the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorists. There doesn’t appear to be much hope of getting such a resolution passed; just recently, another UN resolution condemning Israel exclusively got floated and died only with the promised US veto.
However, the UNSC should understand that Israel has a practical point. If the Palestinian authority cannot lay claim to the only legitimate use of force in their own territories, then they cannot govern. While two or three other factions exist that can match or exceed that of the PA, then a state cannot arise. A state must have a monopoly on legitimate organized uses of force, or it no longer functions as such, and instead turns into a Somalia-style geographical construct run by warlords. And just as in Somalia, the world will see what kind of nutcases such an environment will export.
Good for Israel, however, for laying this back at the feet of the UNSC. Either they have to act to pressure Abbas to drive out the other actors of violence, or the UN will abdicate its role in peacemaking altogether.

The Party Of Abortion, Imposed On You By Hollywood

Rhode Island Democrats and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committe have focused on a candidate to challenge liberal Republican Lincoln Chaffee in next year’s elections. Congressman Jim Langevin appeals most to Rhode Island voters, the DSCC has determined, and they have decided to work with him to unseat Chaffee. However, a group of people 3,000 miles away has decided that Langevin does not toe the abortion line sufficient to their tastes and have decided to inject themselves into Rhode Island politics.
Guess where they live?

Victoria Hopper, wife of the actor Dennis Hopper, enlisted 16 actors, producers and philanthropists to sign a letter objecting to the potential candidacy of Representative Jim Langevin, who is being recruited for the 2006 race by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
The letter writers say they support the primary candidacy of Matt Brown, Rhode Island’s secretary of state, for the seat now held by Lincoln Chafee, a Republican.
“This is even more important than one precious Senate seat; it is a fight to protect women and families, and a fight for the core and soul of our party,” Ms. Hopper wrote in the letter. “Unbelievably, some conservative D.C. Democrats have recruited Representative Jim Langevin, a radically anti-choice candidate.” …
Ms. Hopper’s letter included a roster of big Hollywood donors, including Chris McGurk, vice chairman of MGM; Cindy Horn, wife of Alan Horn, president of Warner Brothers; the actors Camryn Manheim, Christine Lahti, Kathy Najimy and Heather Thomas; Susie Tompkins Buell, a founder of the Esprit clothing company; and Callie Khouri, the screenwriter of “Thelma and Louise.”

The only name missing is Mrs. Larry David, who hosted a hate-in for the Democrats in December 2003 which she called the “Hate Bush – 12/2 Event”. Other than that, it’s all the usual suspects. Hollywood, having learned nothing from the 2004 campaign, intends on driving the Democrats over a cliff by radicalizing them along the MoveOn/International ANSWER policy dogma.
Let’s take Langevin as an example. First, the man has a 10% rating from NARAL, which casts that as pro-life, and Langevin has apparently described himself as such, although I couldn’t find that reference myself. In 2000, however, these are the votes NARAL found so objectionable and caused the 10% rating:
* Making it a crime to harm a fetus during another crime
* Banning partial-birth abortion
* Ban on human cloning (even though he supports embryonic stem-cell research)
* Funding health care providers who decline to give abortion info
Inside Hollywood, these votes indicate a radical right-wing agenda. Outside of Hollywood, where the limousine liberals apparently rarely travel, they’re considered indicative of moderation. Many people who otherwise support abortion understand the restrictions of not allowing others to kill or injure the fetuses of pregnant women without penalty, and oppose the idea of late-term abortions, especially ones in which doctors essential birth the baby and kill it midway through.
Even John Kerry, one of the more radically liberal Senators still left in office, understands the need for Democrats to start finding moderate ground on abortion in order to gain credibility with centrists who have tired of the “not an inch” dogma. Hollywood, however, insists on throwing its money everywhere to ensure that Democrats select only the most radical candidates available. Let’s hope they can overwhelm the centrists at the DSCC and DLC, and help Democrats into losing even more ground as the GOP expands its big tent in 2006.

Lebanese Protestors Defy Syrian Ban

Thousands of protestors in Beirut have defied a ban on public demonstrations to protest against the Syrian occupation and the Damascus-backed government:

Thousands of demonstrators massed in central Beirut overnight to defy a government ban on protests on Monday ahead of a fiery debate in parliament over the assassination of the country’s former prime minister.
Opposition groups have called a demonstration at central Martyrs Square and a one-day strike to coincide with the debate on Rafik al-Hariri’s killing on Feb. 14 that for many recalled Lebanon’s bitter 1975-90 civil war.
Interior Minister Suleiman Franjieh called on security forces in a statement on Sunday “to take all necessary steps to preserve security and order and prevent demonstrations and gatherings on Monday.”

The Syrians still want to hang onto the illusion of control in Beirut, but they may wind up setting off another public-relations nightmare instead. US Deputy Secretary of State David Satterfield will visit Beirut to check on the status of Syria’s withdrawal, and the Syrians and their puppet government have planned their own “spontaneous” demonstrations in an attempt to sway world opinion back against democratization.
The two demonstrations have a good chance of coming together, with potentially disastrous results. The Syrians would like nothing better than to have a situation arise where they can justify a use of force, but if they think that will convince anyone outside of their Iranian allies, then Assad truly has lost his mind.
Lebanon has slipped away from the Assad regime, and no amount of force and diversions will get it back. They can try delaying the inevitable, but the American troops in Iraq will continue to trump all of Assad’s cockeyed political ploys. Eventually the Syrians will get forced out of Lebanon if they don’t leave on their own. Assad should emulate Hosni Mubarak and take the first opportunity to pretend it’s his idea if he plans on salvaging his international position.

North Korea To Return To The Bargaining Table

North Korea has apparently ended its tantrum, noticed that no one got very unnerved by their antics, and has decided to return to the six-party talks. Not only that, but Pyongyang apparently has committed to reaching an accord with the US by October:

North Korea has told officials in South Korea it is willing to take part in six-party talks on its nuclear arms program in June, a Japanese newspaper reported.
Pyongyang also said in its message, which was conveyed to South Korea by unofficial routes and then to Japan by Seoul, that it was willing to sign a treaty with the United States by October, the conservative Sankei Shimbun said on Monday.
North Korea declared on Feb. 10 that it had nuclear weapons and that it was pulling out of the talks, which include Japan, Russia, China and the United States as well as the two Koreas.

The Kim regime had apparently hoped to scare up enough defeatism in the United States to allow the North Koreans to force Bush into bilateral talks, the kind of negotiating the Democrats wanted to promote during the presidential campaign. However, Bush wants North Korea’s neighbors to have stakes in the process and outcome, and also want to impress upon the Chinese that if Pyongyang goes nuclear, the US can arrange for Japan and Seoul to do the same.
So once again the grown-ups at the Bush White House have won another round of diplomacy where the Democrats wouldn’t have had the nerve to play. It’s yet another reason why we’re better off with Bush serving a second term than having John Kerry bringing back Madeline Albright for an encore.