Arafat On The Way Out?

Despite the blatherings of Wesley Clark (see below), the days of Yasser Arafat may be numbered, according to a report from the Jerusalem Post (via Drudge). The pan-Arab news source Al-Quds-al-Arabi reports that the Egyptian government has issued an ultimatum to Arafat to reform or face an Israeli response unrestrained by either the US or Egypt itself:

According to a report Monday in the pan-Arab Al-Quds-al-Arabi, Suleiman handed Arafat three demands:
First, to unite all the Palestinian security forces under one command authority, and into three components. These include the police, the Preventative Security Service (equivalent of Israel’s General Security Service), and the Palestinian foreign security service (equivalent of Israel’s Mossad).
Secondly, give PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei complete authority to conduct negotiations with Israel over Ariel Sharon’s unilateral disengagement plan.
Thirdly, stand aside and accept a symbolic position and let others lead the Palestinian Authority.
If these demands are not met, the Egyptian-American shield saving Arafat’s life may be removed, Al-Quds-al-Arabi reported.

It appears that despite Gen. Clark’s analysis that blames the US for Palestinian intractability, the Egyptians labor under no such delusions. Egypt has long played both sides of the conflict, making its peace with Israel and recognizing them diplomatically while shipping arms clandestinely to the Palestinians, sometimes via tunnels in Gaza. However, with Sharon offering to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip and the US pressuring Hosni Mubarak to do something to justify his $2B per annum, Egypt has finally had enough of Arafat’s obstructionism.
Mubarak gave Arafat a deadline of June 15 for compliance, but if al-Quds-al-Arabi has its story straight, Arafat has no intention of agreeing to a strictly symbolic position in a Palestinian state:

The same official met with Arafat in Ramallah, where the PA chairman told him he intends to refuse the Egyptian demands, because their implementation means the end of his de facto leadership and his reduction to a purely symbolic figure, wrote al-Quds al-Arabi.

If that is true, then Egypt’s threat to leave Arafat’s future “in the hands of Ariel Sharon” will be tested quite soon, even before the Iraqi transfer of sovereignty. We’ll circle June 16 on our calendars now.

Wes Clark’s Rambling Fantasy

While I regarded Gen. Wesley Clark as a terrible candidate, I had respect for his experience in uniform and his outlook on foreign-policy issues. However, in his essay in The New Republic, Clark endorses a series of proposals more rooted in fantasy than reality and demonstrates his unsuitability for involvement in the war on Islamofascist terror — in which he would surely play a significant role during a Kerry administration.
Clark argues for a course correction in Iraq without clearly explaining why the current course is a failure, except by pointing at polls that says people think it’s failing:

But today, 14 months later, the mission is in shambles, scarred by rising Iraqi popular discontent, continued attacks against U.S. forces, infiltration of foreign fighters, mounting civil strife, and no credible sense of direction.
Despite President George W. Bush’s calls for staying the course, American public opinion has clearly turned against the mission. Some have already pronounced it a failure.

This is nonsense. We’re dealing with two minor conflicts in Najaf and Kufa that have mostly burned themselves out, and a lousy deal in Fallujah that we should have thought through better. Other than that, the news has been mostly unremarkable for its success, as the soldiers and Marines on the ground have been saying in their letters and blogs. Power has been mostly restored, human-rights groups are flourishing, and the Iraqis can look forward to self-government for the first time ever. Clark hits the panic button far too early. No one said it would be smooth, but we remain in control and the insurgents become more desperate every week. Saying that we’re losing Iraq is akin to claiming that California was about to collapse entirely into chaos during the Rodney King riots.
Who knew an American general could get that hysterical?

While our troops should help secure the borders and handle internal threats that are too large for the still-nascent Iraqi forces, they should, as soon as possible, stop policing the country for one simple reason: They’re not very good at it. Instead, we need to involve Middle Eastern countries and the larger international community in building a unified Iraq with a representative government that doesn’t threaten its neighbors or serve as a magnet for Al Qaeda recruiting and that exerts enough control to ensure domestic stability and promote economic development. …
n essence, the Bush administration has scared Iran and Syria into believing that, if the United States is successful in its occupation of Iraq, they will be the next targets. To the Iranians and Syrians, the implication is that their survival depends on dragging the U.S. mission in Iraq into failure. Furthermore, America’s perceived pro-Israel bias, and its failure to engage seriously in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has fed the poisonous atmosphere fueling Arab anger toward the United States and its efforts in Iraq.

Clark blames the US for the Palestinian’s refusal to stop bombing Israeli pizza parlors, a stance that should draw hysterical laughter from everyone except Yasser Arafat. The US has hosted at least two drawn-out conferences between the Irsaelis and the Palestinians, which produced plenty of serious plans and absolutely no desire on the part of the Palestinians to do anything about them. During the Clinton administration, Ehud Barak handed them a state on a silver platter, and they launched the intifada in response.
Memo to Clark: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only reach resolution when the Palestinians decide to accept the existence of Israel. No amount of American pressure not already applied will make them understand this. The nations of the Middle East do not help this problem, they exacerbate it. Iraq clearly was among the leaders, paying $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers as payment for murder in its multi-threaded support for terrorism. Iran and Syria openly support terrorist groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezb’ Allah, which aim for the annihilation of Israel. Does Clark seriously believe that they’re going to convince the Palestinians to lay down arms, or to turn up the heat?
Similarly, Clark’s notion that we should invite the neighboring kleptocracies, thugocracies, and mullahcracies into Iraq and expect the end result to be a representative government is so incredibly naive as to challenge all credulity. In reading this, I had to ask myself if Clark really believes this, or is just flacking for the Democrats. Clark keeps straining the imagination by claiming that we should use our experience in the Balkans to accomplish this, when we have spent most of a decade in the Balkans working with neighboring governments, all of them Western democracies, and still haven’t established representative government where it didn’t exist before. In Kosovo, we haven’t even established whether a separate representative government to be our goal, despite the several years the West has spent there as “peacekeepers”.
Whether or not we’re failing in Iraq, an assessment that in either case would be premature at this point, Clark’s essay clearly shows that Clark is not the man to lead this nation or its foreign policy. Casting blame on the US for the obstinacy of Palestinian anti-Semitism while believing the Iranians and Syrians to be partners in democracy shows a disconnect from reality so severe that I wouldn’t have believed it unless I read it for myself.
Addendum: William Safire seems to get more news than Wes Clark. Perhaps the general should read more than Mother Jones for information.

First Mate Update, Again

I intended to do a bit more blogging today, as we planned to attend a party for the Little Admiral, our granddaughter, who turns 2 today. I had my digital camera at the ready for a bit of instantaneous photosharing. Unfortunately, while we were shopping for her presents this morning, the First Mate started feeling oddly and slurring her words. Fortunately, we were right around the corner from a hospital, and I got her in through the Emergency room. It turned out that she had a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which is related to a stroke but causes no permanent damage; it’s sort of a blockage that clears itself rather quickly.
We knew that the First Mate ran the risk of a stroke because of the high blood pressure that comes from diabetes and kidney failure. Since we’re only nine days away from the scheduled kidney transplant, we had hoped that she would be spared that. Now, with this new development, we’re not sure if she’ll be able to do the transplant next week or anytime soon. She’s in ICU for the night, and they’ll run some tests in the morning. She’s been fine for several hours but everyone wants to take a close look to be sure we’re not looking at something potentially catastrophic.
Keep your fingers crossed — we’d all appreciate it. I’ll be back to blogging sometime late tonight or tomorrow, depending on my mood.
21:51, CDT: I’m back from the hospital. The First Mate is doing pretty well, but they’re keeping her in ICU to monitor her blood pressure, which means she’ll sleep like a baby — up every two hours. She’s exhausted, and so am I, as you might imagine. I’ll post more tomorrow morning after I talk with her.
UPDATE 5/31, 10:55 AM: I spoke to the First Mate this morning and am on my way out to see her right now. I told her about all of the wonderful, supportive comments we’ve received from all of you and she says: “Tell them thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers. It’s so nice of you, and it means a lot to me.” She’s coming out of the ICU this afternoon, but she’ll stay in the hospital at least for a while longer.
Update 3:04 PM: I’m hijacking a computer port in the First Mate’s room right now and I’ll blog a little while I’m here. (I’m incorrigible.) She’s doing well at the moment — the blood pressure has come down and she’s taking a nap. She wanted me to tell everyone again how much she appreciates your comments. So far, we’re hearing that the doctors consider this an isolated incident, but they keep using the word ‘stroke’ instead of TIA. That’s a bit worrisome.

Libertarian Nonsense No Threat To Two-Party System … Again

Jon at QandO points out that the Libertarian Party has nominated its selection for President — the selection that CBS News breathlessly suggested last week would create a threat on the Republican’s right flank. Jon, who regularly blogs on libertarian issues and philosophy, can’t wait to not support Michael Bednarik:

I mean, really. It’s like the LP is competing with PETA to see who can appear more ridiculous in pursuit of Idealism. 10 out of 10 for standing on principle, but minus a few thousand for doing it in a clown costume.

Why does Jon get so cynical about the Libertarian Party? As Jon suggests, take a look at the approach on issues that their candidate espouses, and try to think how these will go over with either the left or the right of the political spectrum in November:

Children take drugs because criminals actively sell them. Criminals sell drugs because they are astronomically profitable. Drugs are highly profitable only because they are illegal. The Libertarian solution is to decriminalize drugs, which will make drugs extremely cheap, which will remove the profit motivation for selling drugs, which will result in fewer children taking drugs.

While I share some of Bednarik’s concern about the war on drugs, especially when you look at incarceration statistics, the claim that people sell drugs to children because the profit margin is astronomical on one hand, while in the next breath claiming that lowering the price will constitute a market barrier to children in the next is nothing short of lunacy. Lowering price barriers opens markets, it doesn’t close them, and the people who directly sell to children do so to fund their own habits. Making drugs legal will not change the profit motivation for selling drugs in any case, whether to children or adults. It simply makes the profit motive legal and encourages investment, mass production, economies of scale, and lower prices to consumers. Safer supplies and lower prices will increase consumption. If you want to make this argument for the market approach, at least do it honestly.

The IRS is despised by every American old enough to work for a living. This agency is notorious for confiscating property from citizens without proper due process of law. Michael would eliminate this agency completely, without instituting a flat tax to take its place. Michael would also eliminate the NEED for an income tax by abolishing hundreds of unconstitutional offices and government programs.

Michael needs to explain how he would pay for those functions he does see as Constitutional, such as common defense, the judiciary, interstate commerce, the enforcement of the various Constitutional amendments for equal treatment under the law, and so on. Would he replace the income tax with a federal sales tax? I doubt it, but simply saying, “I’ll eliminate the IRS and lots of government agencies” amounts to a fairy tale. Besides, it’s interesting to note his devotion to the Constitution when he argues for its abolition:

The purpose of the Constitution is simply to outline a form of government that will put the Zero Agression Principle into practice. When it fails (and some think that it has) we have the right “to alter or abolish it, and to institute NEW government, laying its foundation on such principles (such as Zero Aggression), and organizing its power in such form, (such as the Constitution) as to them, shall seem, most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

On the other hand, in the same interview, he seems hostile to changing the Constitution when it doesn’t suit his needs:

The IRS didn’t come into existence the day the Constitution was ratified in 1789. The 16th Amendment and the IRS didn’t come into our lives until 1913 – over 100 years later.

On monetary policy, the man takes an intellectually defensible position and hammers it into nonsense:

Article 1, Section 8, clause 5 grants CONGRESS the power and responsibility “to coin money, and regulate the value thereof…” It does NOT give Congress the authority to transfer that responsibility to another branch of the government, much less to a private company such as the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve has been inflating our money supply ever since 1933, which makes our money worth less than Monopoly money. (I estimate that Parker Brothers prints far less money than the Federal Reserve does!) In order for the United States to survive economically, we need to reestablish a non-inflationary currency based on some commodity, not necessarily gold and silver, though I admit a preference to precious metals. Eliminating the unconstitutional Federal Reserve is a logical and necessary first step.

Agency law has been well established by the courts and Congress. While he may have a point on floating currency, the notion that Monopoly money has more value than an American dollar is utter nonsense, even for rhetorical purposes. Try taking a Monopoly $100 bill and buy yourself dinner. If you think the restaurant owner will suddenly leap with joy because now he can finally put a hotel on Park Place, vote for Bednarik.
If you want to see what a Libertarian Presidency in the hands of Bednarik would look like, check out his plans for his first day in office, as Jon recommends:

I would also issue a valid executive order to the BATF and other pseudo police agencies informing them that any agent who confiscates a weapon of any kind, from someone who is not currently engaged in a murder or robbery, will not only be terminated from their position, but they will also be prosecuted for violating the unalienable rights of the citizens they have sworn to protect. …
High ranking officials from [the IRS] would be closely monitored as flight risks, pending indictments for fraud in the event that evidence proves that they knew that no statute exists that requires Americans to fill out a 1040 form and relinquish a significant percentage of their hard earned money to an unconstitutional government that refuses to operate within a budget. …
I would announce a special one-week session of Congress where all 535 members would be required to sit through a special version of my Constitution class. Once I was convinced that every member of Congress understood my interpretation of their very limited powers, I would insist that they restate their oath of office while being videotaped.

Michael Bednarik for President. Congress would only serve at his pleasure. Welcome the new Oliver Cromwell, whose Puritanism will save democracy! If this loon attracts more than a single percentage point of the vote in November, I’ll eat my hat.

Escalation In The Eucharist Wars

The Star Tribune reports today that we have seen an escalation in the battle over the Eucharist in the Catholic Church. Now, lay groups have formed to prevent members of other lay groups from participating in Communion:

About 40 men from a recently formed group, Ushers of the Eucharist, collected in the central aisle in the Cathedral of St. Paul during holy communion and asked the Rainbow Sash Alliance not to take part.
They then knelt in the aisle to block those wearing rainbow sashes, which symbolize support of gay Catholics taking communion. Other members of the group created a bottleneck by kneeling in front of the altar.

The Eucharist, which Catholics believe are the body and blood of Jesus Christ, has been at the center of politics in this election cycle. Catholic bishops have opined, on both sides, as to whether pro-abortion Catholic politicians should be allowed to receive the Eucharist. At issue is the nature of Communion itself; Catholic doctrine states that one must be free of mortal sin — that is, one must have confessed and repented of it — before receiving the Host. In the case of abortion, as I wrote earlier this month, Catholic teaching has always been clear from the earliest days of the Church (paragraph 2270):

Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life. … Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,”77 “by the very commission of the offense,”78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.

Note the phrase “formal cooperation”, which includes those who actively work to make abortions available. The bishops in the US — at least some of them — have finally acted to enforce the Catechism in this regard, imposing the excommunication that the Church’s own doctrine demands. While some see this move as overtly political, in truth the reluctance of the bishops to intercede before demonstrated much more of a political calculation, and Catholics know it. Democrats have for decades embraced more of the Church’s mission on social justice, and the bishops have long shaded their eyes on abortion in order to gain on other issues. Now, however, they have finally demanded that politicians who identify as Catholics and take Communion repent of their mortal sins as well, as defined by the Church they proclaim.
But — and I cannot make this argument strongly enough — excommunication must be declared by the bishops, either de facto or pro forma, and not by the laity. The so-called Ushers of the Eucharist may have pure hearts and good intentions, and unlike them, I will not judge the motives of the opposition. In theory, their stance conforms to the Catechism, at least superficially (paragraph 2357):

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

Even though the Rainbow Sash group identifies themselves as gay, they don’t necessarily identify themselves as practicing homosexual relations. It may sound like a distinction without a difference, and in practice most often it is. However, the Catechism makes clear that gays and lesbians are not barred from Communion as long as they practice chastity, just like any other unmarried person in the Church. Unlike pro-abortion Catholic politicians, who defy Church doctrine by voting to legalize and expand the practice of abortion, these gay Catholics do not trumpet the precise conditions of mortal sin — and it is not for the laity to presume their guilt (in regard to Church doctrine) or innocence.
In short, the Ushers of the Eucharist have judged without complete knowledge or even reasonable knowledge the status of the souls of the Rainbow Sash members. Their actions in blocking access to the Eucharist are therefore unacceptable and must be stopped. The bishops need to take appropriate action to ensure that these disruptions during Mass are not repeated. And the laity of the Church needs to recognize that while they have considerable power over the affairs of their parishes and dioceses, excommunication falls outside their authority, and if they insist on enforcing the Catechism they need to also abide by it.
Addendum: Obviously, I’m Catholic, and I write this from a Catholic perspective. However, I’m not willing to say that gay relationships are wrong in an objective or empirical sense. What I have written about “guilt” and “innocence” relates to the Catholic doctrine on the subject. In all other senses, I am a libertarian, and I think that one is answerable to God and not to me. As long as what someone does hurts no one else, I see no need to judge or condemn.
However, I do have one question for those who insist on remaining Catholic despite their contravention of its doctrine: why? Church membership is voluntary, and if their 2,000-year-old doctrine explicitly argues against one’s core beliefs, I don’t know why a person feels compelled to belong.

A Housekeeping Note

I’m making a small change to Captain’s Quarters. I’ve received feedback especially from dial-up readers that the load time for CQ is pretty darned slow. Up to now, I’ve kept four days active on the page in order to allow readers to scroll through several posts at a time. However, due to the length of the posts we typically write and the sheer number of posts, I’ve decided to cut the active days to two. Archives are always accessible through the calendar on the left or through the weekly and monthly archives, using the drop-down boxes.
Hopefully, these changes will work out for everyone. Please feel free to comment on this post or to drop me an e-mail with your feedback on the modification. Thanks!
UPDATE: Still working on it …. and screwing things up, as usual. Bear with us for a little while on this. Right now, I’ve managed to take us back to the “classic” CQ look.

CBS Poll Skewed, Biased Against Bush

Note: This originally was going to be an update on my post from yesterday noting the desperation at the Kerry campaign and their plan to bring in Bill Clinton to boost Kerry on the stump. After being challenged in the comments about polling numbers, I intended on giving a brief explanation … but you know how ‘brief’ I can get …
The recent CBS News poll, published May 24th, showed a dramatic increase in support for John Kerry and an equally significant drop in George Bush’s approval ratings. It looked as though John Kerry had finally achieved some traction in the race, using his new advertising campaign to attack Bush at a vulnerable point and building some momentum towards the convention. CBS’ poll got massive exposure in the mainstream media and generated a huge amount of buzz in the blogosphere. The poll only has one problem.
It lies.
Just to put the polling in context, take a look at the Rasmussen poll, which shows a continual dead heat between Bush and Kerry, even on a head-to-head basis, using a sample of 3500 likely voters, with the last data reported 5/29. Quinnipiac has Bush ahead by one point in a three-way race, 43-42-6, as of 5/26, using a sample of 1160 registered voters. While you’re there, take a look at the trends; Bush’s favorability rating has stabilized at 40% over the past two months, while Kerry’s has dropped four points and is below Bush’s number.
The CBS poll, on the other hand, uses only 1113 registered voters, broken down in an unusual manner: 346 Republicans, 390 Democrats, and 377 independents. Since when are there that many more Democrats than Republicans? The poll then shows its “weighting” (although it doesn’t explain what it means), and the numbers get even worse: 330-R, 401-D, 381-I. According to the University of Pennsylvania in 2003, Republicans accounted for 32.5% of the registered electorate, while Democrats accounted for 33.7%. In a sample of 1113 voters, you would then expect to see 361-R, 375-D, 376-I. The result of CBS’s sample is to throw off representation for Republicans by 8.6%, while bolstering Democrats by 7% and independents by 1.3%, using CBS’ weighting.
The outcome, therefore, should hardly surprise anyone — overreported Democrats are surely likely to support John Kerry, while the underreported Republicans depres Bush’s ratings. It could hardly escape anyone’s notice that CBS’ result differed dramatically with other polling taken at the same time, using larger samples and better vetting, such as Rasmussen’s 3,500 likely voters — or could it?
Only RealClearPolitics remarked on the CBS sampling problems, noting that it represented a solid trend at the Tiffany Network:

If you go back, as I did this morning, and look at job approval numbers from the same group of pollsters for the first five and a half months of 2004, you can see the consistency of the CBS/NYT bias more clearly.
In every instance except one this year (and a very iffy one at that), CBS/NYT produced the worst job approval number of any of the three polls during a comparative time period.

And then Tom Bevan gives you a handy table demonstrating the phenomenon. All other news sources, however, gave CBS numbers straight, without any mention of its rather anemic sample — you’d think a broadcast network could afford to poll larger — its unreliable sample type, and its poor representation of the electorate. The lesson is that in order to analyze the polling numbers, you have to actually do some work and check the samples.

A Clinton Rescue?

You won’t read this in American newspapers, but the London Telegraph reports that the John Kerry presidential campaign has decided that they need Bill Clinton to energize the lackluster candidate that John Kerry has proved to be:

Top advisers to the Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, have asked Bill Clinton to play a starring role in the final months of the Massachusetts senator’s campaign. …
“There has been talk about the danger of Bill Clinton overshadowing John,” said a senior Democrat last week, “but the decision has been taken to accept him as being centre stage and hope that some of the magic rubs off”.

After spending the past few months worrying that the release of Clinton’s memoirs, due in mid-June, would drown out the struggling Kerry campaign as Clinton attracted all of the limelight, the Democrats now appear to hope that Kerry gets buried. As has been remarked by various pundits, it seems that the more people get to know Kerry, the better they like Bush. Even Kerry campaign workers note the problem:

“I’ve never heard him tell a joke,” said one campaign worker at a Kerry fund-raising party last week. “I’ve never seen him look as if he was genuinely enjoying himself. He just needs to come across as more human. If Clinton can help with that, then we sure need that help.”

He needs something, as polling indicates. Bush has weathered two terrible months on Iraq, primarily in the violent insurgencies and the Abu Ghraib scandal. However, Kerry has not taken advantage of the bad news in any meaningful form. Although Bush’s approval ratings have dropped, Kerry’s numbers haven’t risen. Clearly, Democrats are worried about Kerry’s prospects, especially if the transfer of Iraqi sovereignty goes well and the economy continues to perform as strongly as it does.
Engaging Clinton has its dangers as well as its benefits. Clinton can work a crowd like no one else in American politics today, and his ability to communicate intellectually and emotionally recalls the best of Ronald Reagan, John Kennedy, and Bobby Kennedy. However, it’s precisely these abilities which will inevitably lead voters to compare the sparkling Clinton to the dry and starchy Kerry and find the latter wanting. It also runs the risk of rubbing not just the glamour of Clinton but also the stench of his scandals onto Kerry, not just Lewinsky and impeachment but also the pardon party and missing furniture that erupted at the end of his presidency. And don’t think the Republicans will miss a chance to remind people, either.
If nothing else, Clinton’s involvement will put an end to the rumors of a Torricelli option at the convention, where Kerry bails in order to give Hillary an opportunity to play the white knight. That alone may be worth something, at least in the morale department.
UPDATE: For Adaplant, take a look at my new post on CBS’ polling. I didn’t even bother with the Zogby poll, as Marc from Cranial Cavity nailed it. If you want to build a poll every bit as reliable as Zogby’s, simply put up a website, set up a free registration at, and start counting the numbers. That’s essentially what Zogby did.

Kerry: Democracy Not Important

In words that echo his 1971 Senate testimony on the Vietnam war, John Kerry told the Washington Post that establishing democracy would not be a priority of a Kerry administration, preferring to work on more pressing issues other than liberty and freedom:

Sen. John F. Kerry indicated that as president he would play down the promotion of democracy as a leading goal in dealing with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China and Russia, instead focusing on other objectives that he said are more central to the United States’ security. …
In many ways, Kerry laid out a foreign-policy agenda that appeared less idealistic about U.S. aims than President Bush or even fellow Democrat former president Bill Clinton. While Kerry said it was important to sell democracy and “market it” around the world, he demurred when questioned about a number of important countries that suppress human rights and freedoms. He said securing all nuclear materials in Russia, integrating China in the world economy, achieving greater controls over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons or winning greater cooperation on terrorist financing in Saudi Arabia trumped human rights concerns in those nations.

Unfortunately, John Kerry demonstrates almost every day that he just doesn’t understand the critical issue of Islamofascist terrorism. Fanatics grow in the dark, as we continue to learn, as the various thugocracies, kleptocracies, and mullahcracies in the area oppress their citizens and feed them a steady diet of anti-American and anti-Semitic rationalizations. Not only will America make no progress on human-rights abuses until the regimes change, but the region will continue to produce terrorists until representative governments replace the dictatorships, so that free discourse and self-determination provide safety valves for anger and voting can replace the gun and the vest-bomb.
Kerry engages in moral relativism, a long-standing habit that has cropped up in his public life again and again. Kerry said much the same thing last month, as the Post’s editorial noted in a scolding editorial:

“WE NEED A reasonable plan and a specific timetable for self-government” in Iraq, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said in December. “That means completing the tasks of security and democracy in the country — not cutting and running in order to claim a false success.” On another occasion, he said: “It would be a disaster and a disgraceful betrayal of principle to speed up the process simply to lay the groundwork for a politically expedient withdrawal of American troops.”
Contrast that with what Mr. Kerry told reporters last week: “With respect to getting our troops out, the measure is the stability of Iraq. [Democracy] shouldn’t be the measure of when you leave. I have always said from day one that the goal here . . . is a stable Iraq, not whether or not that’s a full democracy.”

Trading liberty for stability is the philosophy that brought us the modern Middle East. It’s a short-sighted strategy that the British and French employed after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, when they propped up strongmen like the House of Saud in order to play power politics in the region. Only in Turkey, which fought for its independence under the legendary Kemal Ataturk, actually realized a self-determinative and free government, and that mostly at the opposition of the West.
John Kerry often expresses a disdain for democracy in the name of expediency and moral relativism. During his 1971 Senate testimony, Kerry made the following declaration:

Senator, I will say this. I think that politically, historically, the one thing that people try to do, that society is structured on as a whole, is an attempt to satisfy their felt needs, and you can satisfy those needs with almost any kind of political structure, giving it one name or the other. In this name it is democratic; in others it is communism; in others it is benevolent dictatorship. As long as those needs are satisfied, that structure will exist.

Continuing his campaign of snide remarks, Kerry also said this about the 2000 election:

“The last time I looked, except for Florida, an election is an election,” Kerry said.

So did we, Senator, until Al Gore unleashed his lawyers on Florida to overturn it.

Hayes: Saddam, Al-Qaeda Links Verified By Clinton Administration, NPR, ABC, et al

Stephen Hayes, a contributor to the Weekly Standard, will release a new book this week titled The Connection, describing in great detail the ties between al-Qaeda and the deposed Iraqi strongman. The Weekly Standard features an excerpt from the Hayes book in its latest online edition which discusses the curious and massive case of amnesia that the media suffers on the question of these ties:

“THE PRESIDENT CONVINCED THE COUNTRY with a mixture of documents that turned out to be forged and blatantly false assertions that Saddam was in league with al Qaeda,” claimed former Vice President Al Gore last Wednesday.
“There’s absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda, ever,” declared Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism official under George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, in an interview on March 21, 2004.
The editor of the Los Angeles Times labeled as “myth” the claim that links between Iraq and al Qaeda had been proved. A recent dispatch from Reuters simply asserted, “There is no link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.” 60 Minutes anchor Lesley Stahl was equally certain: “There was no connection.”
And on it goes. This conventional wisdom–that our two most determined enemies were not in league, now or ever–is comforting. It is also wrong.

Hayes points out that while the media says this now about Saddam-AQ ties, when it bothers to discuss them at all, as late as 1999 the national news media filled volumes with reports on these ties. In his excerpt, Hayes lists a few reports from mainstream news media:

Newsweek magazine ran an article in its January 11, 1999, issue headed “Saddam + Bin Laden?” “Here’s what is known so far,” it read:
Saddam Hussein, who has a long record of supporting terrorism, is trying to rebuild his intelligence network overseas–assets that would allow him to establish a terrorism network. U.S. sources say he is reaching out to Islamic terrorists, including some who may be linked to Osama bin Laden, the wealthy Saudi exile accused of masterminding the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa last summer.
Four days later, on January 15, 1999, ABC News reported that three intelligence agencies believed that Saddam had offered asylum to bin Laden:
Intelligence sources say bin Laden’s long relationship with the Iraqis began as he helped Sudan’s fundamentalist government in their efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. . . . ABC News has learned that in December, an Iraqi intelligence chief named Faruq Hijazi, now Iraq’s ambassador to Turkey, made a secret trip to Afghanistan to meet with bin Laden. Three intelligence agencies tell ABC News they cannot be certain what was discussed, but almost certainly, they say, bin Laden has been told he would be welcome in Baghdad.
NPR reporter Mike Shuster interviewed Vincent Cannistraro, former head of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, and offered this report:
Iraq’s contacts with bin Laden go back some years, to at least 1994, when, according to one U.S. government source, Hijazi met him when bin Laden lived in Sudan. According to Cannistraro, Iraq invited bin Laden to live in Baghdad to be nearer to potential targets of terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. . . . Some experts believe bin Laden might be tempted to live in Iraq because of his reported desire to obtain chemical or biological weapons. CIA Director George Tenet referred to that in recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee when he said bin Laden was planning additional attacks on American targets.

Saddam-AQ reports were not limited to just the news media. The Clinton administration’s anti-terror chief Richard Clarke, who testified earlier this year that any notion of tying Iraq to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden were patently false, sung a much different tune when speaking to the Washington Post in 1999. Five months earlier, Clinton had ordered missile strikes on Baghdad as retaliation for the expulsion of UNSCOM weapons inspectors from Iraq, as well as a strike on a pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan (an al-Qaeda power base at that time) that the US suspected of producing chemical-weapons precursors — nerve gas — for Iraq. In fact, that factory had major ties to al-Qaeda, as Clarke argued:

[T]he same Richard Clarke who would one day claim that there was “absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda, ever,” told the Washington Post that the U.S. government was “sure” that Iraq was behind the production of the chemical weapons precursor at the al Shifa plant. “Clarke said U.S. intelligence does not know how much of the substance was produced at al Shifa or what happened to it,” wrote Post reporter Vernon Loeb, in an article published January 23, 1999. “But he said that intelligence exists linking bin Laden to al Shifa’s current and past operators, the Iraqi nerve gas experts, and the National Islamic Front in Sudan.”

Nor was the ever-flexible Clarke the only Clinton administration official who linked Saddam to al-Qaeda. In the wake of the Sudan missile strike, reporters on the ground found only aspirin bottles, and the ground sample that initiated the strike turned out to be taken some distance away from the plant itself. As Hayes recalls, the Clinton administration made a concerted effort to justify its action in light of the lack of clear evidence of WMD:

The Clinton administration sought to dispel doubts about the targeting and, on August 24, 1998, made available a “senior intelligence official” to brief reporters on background. The briefer cited “strong ties between the plant and Iraq” as one of the justifications for attacking it. The next day, undersecretary of state for political affairs Thomas Pickering briefed reporters at the National Press Club. Pickering explained that the intelligence community had been monitoring the plant for “at least two years,” and that the evidence was “quite clear on contacts between Sudan and Iraq.” In all, at least six top Clinton administration officials have defended on the record the strikes in Sudan by citing a link to Iraq.

Yet again in 1998, the Clinton administration made its case that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden had worked together to coordinate activities and to share expertise on WMD, as well as develop targets for attacks. In its indictment of Osama bin Laden prior to the embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya that killed over 250 people, most of them ironically Muslims but twelve Americans as well, the Clinton indictment read:

Al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq.

So what happened to all of this evidence, and more importantly, what changed to convince the media that none of this is applicable now? The most obvious change occurred in January 2001, when the White House switched to Republican control. While Bill Clinton has publically said that George Bush operated from the same intelligence analysis as he had and that they drew fundamentally the same conclusions, others from his adminstration have worked to give the impression that they never believed in such a connection. Richard Clarke merely provides the clearest example.
During 1998 and 1999, Newsweek, NPR, and the rest of the mainstream media didn’t question how a secular regime like Saddam’s and the religious fanaticim of bin Laden could coordinate when reporting their ties as fact. However, now the entire media establishment treat such reports as flights of fancy and proof of conservative chumpery. Either they allowed themselves to be duped earlier by the Clinton administration or they’re balking now in order to make Bush look bad. I’ll leave it to you to determine which you think is the case.