American Generosity

As a follow-up to the last post:
Americans are "stingy." This was the accusation hurled at the U.S. almost exactly one year ago today by Jan Egeland, United Nations Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs, immediately after the Asian tsunami disaster.

Even by U.N. standards, it was a particularly absurd anti-American slur--although it no doubt expresses the view of many foreign elites, who have come to believe that government is the only true source of goodness and charity. In the weeks and months that followed the tsunami, American citizens dug deep into their wallets, donating some $1.78 billion to the relief effort in Asia--dwarfing the contributions of other developed nations. Since October Americans have also contributed $78 million to assist the casualties of the Pakistan earthquake.

And lest there be any doubt that the Good Samaritan ethic is alive and well in America, consider the latest totals of charitable giving to help the New Orleans victims of Hurricane Katrina. The Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University announced last week that the total value of private donations in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita has reached $3.12 billion, thus "setting what is believed to be a record for a single disaster and recovery effort." This tsunami of aid dollars was donated in just three and a half months.

More astounding still is that this Gulf Coast aid is only a little more than 1/100th of what Americans donate to charities and churches every year. The quarter trillion dollars a year that Americans provide to sustain the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, the American Cancer Society, their local churches, universities and such is greater than the entire GDP of most countries. Bill and Melinda Gates have given more dollars to fight AIDS and malaria in Africa than have many nations. And all of this comes on top of the $1 trillion in taxes that Americans pay each year to support government income-transfer and benefit programs.

This generosity in money and volunteerism has been a hallmark of American society since its earliest days. Some 150 years ago Alexis de Tocqueville lauded the impulse of Americans (in contrast to Europeans) to set up churches, schools, orphanages, hospitals, homeless shelters and other civic aid organizations throughout the land.

* * *

There is a mythology in the philanthropic world that Americans are motivated to give by the somewhat selfish pursuit of a tax deduction. But a surprisingly large percentage of charitable gifts aren't even itemized on tax forms. Moreover, the Tax Foundation has provided compelling evidence that over the past 50 years--as tax rates on the highest earners have fluctuated from a high of 90% to a low of 28%--American giving has hardly deviated from 2% of personal income. In the 1980s, as tax-rate reductions reduced the value of the charitable tax deduction by about half, the level of charitable giving nearly doubled. This suggests that charitable giving would continue to flourish under a flat-rate tax system with no deduction.

Holiday Warmth Everyday

To stretch the holiday spirit is this surprisingly positive story from the LA Times:
From Heckles to Halos
In dramatic contrast to the Vietnam War era, U.S. service personnel now are being treated to strangers' spontaneous bursts of gratitude.
By Faye Fiore, Times Staff Writer

There's a diner called Peggy Sue's about eight miles outside of Barstow, and as hard as Lt. Col. Kenneth Parks tries, he can never seem to pay his bill.

He orders a burger and a chocolate shake. But before he's finished, the waitress informs him the tab has been taken care of by yet another stranger who prefers to remain anonymous but who wants to do something for a soldier in uniform.

Many Americans have conflicted feelings about the Iraq war, but not about the warriors. The gestures of gratitude and generosity that occur with regularity at Peggy Sue's — across Interstate 15 from Ft. Irwin, a military desert training site — have become commonplace across the United States.

A spontaneous standing ovation for a group of soldiers at Los Angeles International Airport. Three $20 bills passed to a serviceman and his family in a grocery store in Georgia. A first-class seat given up to a servicewoman on a plane out of Chicago.

These bursts of goodwill have little to do with the holiday season or with political sentiments about the war. In contrast to the hostile stares that greeted many Vietnam veterans 40 years ago, today's soldiers are being treated as heroes throughout the year, in red states and blue, by peace activists and gung-ho supporters of the Iraq mission. The gestures are often spontaneous, affiliated with no association or cause, and credit is seldom claimed.

"It makes you feel great. It may just be a burger and a shake, but it's the thought behind it," said Parks, 41, who has served two tours in Iraq. Stationed at Ft. Jackson, S.C., he goes to Barstow regularly for training.

"My father went over to Vietnam three times, and he felt like he was not respected," Parks said. "Sometimes he felt like he was not even an American. But I see a big difference. I feel we're appreciated. An airport is about the best place for a soldier to be."

That was Sgt. Baldwin Yen's experience when he landed at LAX on Thanksgiving Day 2004. The pilot asked whether the other passengers would mind letting the soldiers on board exit first so they could get home to their families all the sooner. Not a passenger complained. Still in their combat fatigues, the soldiers were assembled in a corner of the airport when a bystander began to applaud. Soon, people were standing up and clapping in spontaneous tribute as far as Yen could see.

"I was kind of embarrassed," said Yen, 27, of West Hollywood. As an Army reservist who wore his uniform only infrequently until he was called to Iraq, he was unaccustomed to such attention. "I'm a slight, Asian man — 5-feet-9 and 140 pounds. People usually didn't think I looked like the military type. But then all these people were standing up. I was touched and surprised."

This is not a nation at war so much as it is an army at war. Service members and their families mostly bear the weight of the Iraq and Afghanistan missions alone — family separations, career dislocation and danger. Many soldiers are serving third tours, and there is no clear end in sight.

For civilians, the chance to directly touch a military member or family can be irresistible, so much so that people break the comfortable anonymity of public places — airports, hotels, supermarkets — to walk up and pat a soldier on the back.

"For probably the first time in American history, civilians are asked to make no sacrifices in a time of war. We don't have a draft. There is no gas rationing the way there was in World War II. There is no increase in taxes; we get tax cuts instead," said Charles Moskos, a leading military sociologist at Northwestern University. "These acts are small ways of showing some recognition, because we're not doing it any other way."

U.S. Army Capt. Alina Martinez was in a grocery store outside Ft. Benning, Ga., with her soldier husband and their 3-year-old daughter last spring. Noticing the haircut, the couple in line ahead asked whether Martinez's husband was in the military. He answered that they both were. The couple thanked them repeatedly for their service and left the store.

Soon afterward, the cashier handed Martinez $60 that the strangers had left for them.

"My husband and I were shocked. He ran out to the parking lot to thank them, but they were gone. The cashier said the couple specifically told her to wait until they had left. They didn't want us to know," Martinez said.

"It wasn't the money; it was the fact that this couple only spoke to us for a couple of minutes, and they were so generous and sincere," she said. "It brought tears to my eyes right in the store."

National sentiment has come a long way since the days when Randall Rigby came home from Vietnam and was instructed by commanding officers to change out of his uniform before going out in public to avoid ridicule. Now a retired Army lieutenant general, Rigby recalled the memory one recent day when he watched a large man give up several inches of legroom in first class to a small female soldier seated in coach.

Although the military takes pride in the family support network it has built, spouses still rely on the kindness of civilians during the strain of separation.

Kristy Cormier traveled to Florida from her home in Georgia so her friend, Jacqui Coffman, could run a 10K race. Both of their husbands were deployed in Iraq, and Cormier found herself in a hotel pool in charge of their combined five children, ranging in age from 7 months to 6 years.

The children began to play with a man splashing around with his twins; Cormier mentioned to him that they probably missed male contact, because their fathers were overseas.

The man "was very generous all morning, catching them in the water…. I must have looked crazy trying to manage them all, and he helped me. It happens often, people thanking us for our service. It's very humbling," said Cormier, 36.

Her husband, Maj. Daniel Cormier, 38, returned days ago from a year in Iraq. He made it home in time for his son's elementary school holiday pageant, where the teacher announced his presence, and the audience applauded.

Charitable and nonprofit organizations, in the tradition of the long-serving USO, have burgeoned since the beginning of the war. There are websites for collecting books to send to deployed troops (www.booksforsoldiers.com), and sites that offer "Take a Soldier to the Movies" packages that include popcorn, candy, a drink and a DVD (www.soldiertomovies.org). Another, (www.fisherhouse.org), tells how to donate air miles to the loved ones of injured soldiers.

Donations have grown steadily. Since it was founded nearly two years ago, the Hero Miles program has delivered nearly 175 million air miles, saving military families an estimated $6 million in travel costs, said Jim Weiskopf, spokesman for the Fisher House Foundation, a Maryland-based charity that supports service members and their families.

Similarly, more than 7,000 DVD packages have been distributed to troops abroad through Operation: Take a Soldier to the Movies. The website was created by Bernie and Kathy Hintzke of West Allis, Wis., a year ago to help support their son and his unit in Iraq.

But the American people have taken charity a step further, bypassing formal groups to help or comfort a soldier or a military family directly.

Celeste Zappala's son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, 30, was killed in an explosion in Baghdad on April 26, 2004 — the first member of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard to die in combat since 1945.

She still receives packages in the mail from strangers: quilts, religious cards, American flag pins fashioned in the shape of teardrops.

"They come from random places, as far away as Kentucky," said Zappala, 58, who lives in Philadelphia and is an active peace advocate. "People who just see my name on the Internet somewhere will pick up the phone to call and tell me they are sorry for my loss. It's really very dear."

When encountering a soldier, people often give and then move on, without leaving so much as a name. In North Carolina, a stranger in a hunting cap instructed a waiter to bring Capt. Jeremy Broussard, 28, anything he pleased. A couple in Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport handed Spc. Adrian Ocampo, 21, a cellphone to call anyone he wanted.

In the Barstow area, the wave of altruism grips with equal passion at the locals at Peggy Sue's and the high rollers who've stopped by the diner on their way to Las Vegas.

Peggy Sue Gabler, who owns the diner with her husband, Champ, has decided it has something to do with the opportunity to care for a soldier immediately and in person. She still remembers the customer who picked up a bill totaling several hundred dollars for a group of 18 GIs.

"You could pass around a tin can that says 'Aid to soldiers,' and people would let it go by," she said. "But if a soldier orders a Philly steak, people just want to pay for it. To be able to do something right at that moment just makes them feel elated."
Have you given? I have.



As democracy settles in Iraq, a democratic Iraq will become GWBush's international legacy. What will be his domestic legacy? It will be the men who fought there:
The future of America -- in Iraq
By Robert D. Kaplan, ROBERT D. KAPLAN is the author of "Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground" (Random House, 2005).

IF YOU WANT to meet the future political leaders of the United States, go to Iraq. I am not referring to the generals, or even the colonels. I mean the junior officers and enlistees in their 20s and 30s. In the decades ahead, they will represent something uncommon in U.S. military history: war veterans with practical experience in democratic governance, learned under the most challenging of conditions.

For several weeks, I observed these young officers working behind the scenes to organize the election in Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city. They arranged for the sniffer dogs at the polling stations and security for the ballots right up to the moment Iraqi officials counted them. They arranged the outer ring of U.S. military security, with inner ones of Iraqi soldiers and police at each polling station, even as they were careful to give the Iraqis credit for what they, in fact, were doing. The massive logistical exercise of holding an election in a city of 2.1 million people was further complicated by the fact that the location of many polling stations changed at the last minute to prevent terrorist attacks.

Throughout Iraq, young Army and Marine captains have become veritable mayors of micro-regions, meeting with local sheiks, setting up waste-removal programs to employ young men, dealing with complaints about cuts in electricity and so on. They have learned to arbitrate tribal politics, to speak articulately and to sit through endless speeches without losing patience.

I watched Lt. John Turner of Indianapolis get up on his knees from a carpet while sipping tea with a former neighborhood mukhtar and plead softly: "Sir, I am willing to die for a country that is not my own. So will you resume your position as mukhtar? Brave men must stand forward. Iraq's wealth is not oil but its civilization. Trust me by the projects I bring, not by my words."

Turner, a D student in high school, got straightened out as an enlisted man in the Coast Guard before earning a degree from Purdue and becoming an Army officer. He is one of what Col. Michael Shields, commander of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Mosul, calls his "young soldier-statesmen."

Regardless of whether you support or oppose the U.S. engagement in Iraq, you should be aware that that country has had a startling effect on a new generation of soldiers often from troubled backgrounds, whose infantry training has provided no framework for building democracy from scratch.

At a Thanksgiving evangelical service, one NCO told the young crowd to cheers: "The Pilgrims during the first winter in the New World suffered a 54% casualty rate from disease and cold. That's a casualty rate that would render any of our units combat ineffective. But did the Pilgrims sail back to England? Did they give up? No. This country isn't a quitter. It doesn't withdraw."

Not withdrawing means bringing stability and liberal values to a society in which people have been trained to be subjects, not citizens. Young commanders in Iraq are experiencing in the bluntest terms the intractable cultural and political realities of a world that the U.S. seeks to remake in its own image, even as their own life struggles — as well as their religious faith, which is generally deeper than that of secular elites — make them not only refuse to give up but to feel betrayed by those who would.

To label them conservative is to miss the point. Having ground-truthed the difficulty of implanting democracy in a place with no experience of it, Iraq has stripped them of any ideology they might have had. At the same time, they have become emotionally involved with building Iraqi democracy. They have developed a distrust of an American media that have not, in their eyes, recorded advances they feel they have made in reducing the level of combat or getting a nascent electoral system started. In a vast country of 23 million people, they rarely see the car bombings that kill a few dozen every day and are reported on the news at home. But they daily see the progress in front of their eyes.

What these officers represent is the frontier ethos of applied wisdom, the combination of pragmatism and idealism that allowed for 19th century westward expansion, the clearing of land and the building of towns. Military men, with their impatience with ideas that cannot be field tested, are a vibrant illustration of this ethos, especially as so many of them have grown up in rural America (and many I spoke to came from family farms). Now their deep engagement in civilian development matters — in nation building — has extended the meaning of the continental frontier overseas.

They are not imperialists, if by that we mean that they would support unilaterally invading a country again with a large number of troops. But they are absolutely committed to U.S. success in Iraq, no matter the cost to themselves. And as they trickle out of the service in coming years and rise to prominence in civilian life, the ability of the home front in these difficult days not to pity them, but to sustain them in their mission, could have enormous consequences for the future of American politics.
What better legacy can you leave for the future, Freedom where there was none abroad, and Leadership among those who can bring more Freedom to others at home and abroad. HT Belmont Club


The NSA Surveillance Program

I believe this Powerline post to be a very thorough legal analysis supporting the President authorization for the National Security Agency to intercept messages against foreign powers. Read it all.


Sign of Victory 2

From PJMedia
Dec. 18, 2005 (UPI delivered by Newstex) -- Sunni Muslim leaders in Iraq's violent Anbar province say they are ready to cooperate with the United States.

They are seeking to extend a temporary truce honored by most insurgent groups for last week's elections but say they want the United States to reduce military raids and increase development projects for their vast desert province, The Washington Times reports.

Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of a prominent Sunni bloc, said insurgent groups had prevented violence from interfering with Thursday's elections, the newspaper said.

The truce resulted from weeks of negotiations between U.S. officials and insurgents.

Sunni religious leader Sheik Abed al-Latif Hemaiym told The Times in an interview in Amman that Sunnis were prepared to work with the United States.

"We now believe we must get on good terms with the Americans," Hemaiym said. "As Arab Sunnis, we believe that within this hot area of Iraq, facing challenges from neighboring nations who want to swallow us, especially the Iranians, we feel we have no alternative."

It was a mistake when the Sunni boycotted the election in January. At least now they realize their best means for political power is not through force of arms. As a minority in Iraq, without the presence and moderation of the Americans, they would have been victim of revenge by the Kurds and the Shia. Rather, by participating in the December 15 election, they have ensured both a voice in the politics of Iraq, and protection as part of a democratic Iraq.
Naturally the real losers are the defeatist members of the Democratic Party.


Regime Change Iran

This is the most interesting news item of the day from Iran:
One of the bodyguards of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was killed and another wounded when an attempt to ambush the presidential motorcade was thwarted in the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan, according to a semi-official newspaper and local residents.

I've previously posted about the political change within Iran. Clearly a crisis is building. The folks at RGI believes this isn't a regional uprising:
However, for months now there have been rumors that the Rafsanjani and Khatami factions may attempt to have Ahamdinejad assassinated in hopes of obtaining a "grand bargain" with the international community which leaves the regime in place while they continue their secret nuclear program. Ahmadinehad has been threatening many in the Rafsanjani and Khatami factions with arrest under corruption charges.

From Roger L Simon
(Michael Ledeen, who has contacts within the Iranian freedom movement, informs me these "bandits" were also, like Ahmadinejad, messianic believers in the 12th imam - hence it's an inside job. Who knows?)

My question is what is our involvement in this. Notice the region's proximity to Afghanistan and Pakistan. If not involved, what else short of sanctioned assassination, which i oppose, should we do to destabilize Iran from within. We are not in a position to mount an conventional confrontation with Iran at this time.

Liberty and Security

Attributed to Benjamin Franklin:
"They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security"
This quote is being applied to the current discussion regarding both the Patriot Act and to the NYT report regarding wire tapping by the National Security Agency.

Firstly, lets look at the quote. Did Franklin actually say it? From Wikiquote, companion to Wikipedia.
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

This statement was used as a motto on the title page of An Historical Review of the Constitution and Government of Pennsylvania. (1759) which was attributed to Franklin in the edition of 1812, but in a letter of September 27, 1760 to David Hume, he states that he published this book and denies that he wrote it, other than a few remarks that were credited to the Pennsylvania Assembly, in which he served. The phrase itself was first used in a letter from that Assembly dated November 11, 1755 to the Governor of Pennsylvania. An article on the origins of this statement here includes a scan that indicates the original typography of the 1759 document. Researchers now believe that a fellow diplomat by the name of Richard Jackson to be the primary author of the book. With the information thus far available the issue of authorship of the statement is not yet definitely resolved, but the evidence indicates it could well have been Franklin.

Many variants derived from this phrase have arisen and have usually been attributed to Franklin:
"They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
"He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security"
"He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither"
"If we restrict liberty to attain security we will lose them both."

So even if Benjamin Franklin did not originate it, is it still true? I must respond with an emphatic No! In any society can there be liberty without security? no and this is self evidently true. There is no single society, there are numerous societies that vie with each other for prominence, and conflict, not necessarily war, is the norm. All societies thus develop means to provide security against another competing societies. The absence of security is anarchy, a turbulent and likely violent environment, given the human conditions, drives, and desires, rather than a peaceable kingdom of freedom and liberty. How then thus a society acquires the means of security? By limiting the liberties of its citizens, most commonly through an attempted monopoly of force and standardization of exchanges. The freedom to commit violence is remove or prohibited to the individual and are held by the state in the form of law and justice, as well as policemen and the military. Standardization of exchanges entails language, customs, moneys, and expectations. As individuals we willingly relinquish our freedom such as our "liberty" to kill, for the protection and security against others wishing us harm by being a respectful member of a lawful society.

Would we sacrifice essential liberty for temporary security? Hell no, but again that is not what is being discussed with either the Patriot Act or the NSA "scandal". What we do instead, especially in times of war is to temporarily sacrifice non-essential liberty for durable security. Remember the quote "loose lips sink ships?" Are we not talking about a limit of freedom of speech there?

The concern for civil liberty is valid. The striving of absolute civil liberty is foolish and misplaced in times when the security nesisary to protection of essential liberties are threatened.

Related reads:
All Things Beautiful
Atlas Shrugs
Little Green Footballs
Roger L Simon


Victory in Iraq

In a sign of the shifting sands in Iraq:
FALLUJA/RAMADI Iraq (Reuters) - Saddam Hussein loyalists who violently opposed January elections have made an about-face as Thursday's polls near, urging fellow Sunni Arabs to vote and warning al Qaeda militants not to attack.
In a move unthinkable in the bloody run-up to the last election, guerrillas in the western insurgent heartland of Anbar province say they are even prepared to protect voting stations from fighters loyal to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq.

Graffiti calling for holy war is now hard to find.

Instead, election campaign posters dominate buildings in the rebel strongholds of Ramadi and nearby Falluja, where Sunnis staged a boycott or were too scared to vote last time around.

"We want to see a nationalist government that will have a balance of interests. So our Sunni brothers will be safe when they vote," said Falluja resident Ali Mahmoud, a former army officer and rocket specialist under Saddam's Baath party.

"Sunnis should vote to make political gains. We have sent leaflets telling al Qaeda that they will face us if they attack voters."

All military actions, especially wars, are tools to a political end. The best gauge of victory in Iraq will be what the Iraqi do once liberated. Now it appears all three factions have accepted and endorsed a democratic process over armed conflicts. Only Al Qaeda in Iraq, an outsider faction, remains. They will be destroyed by the insider 3 (Shiite, Kurds, and Sunni).


Seoul Train

I found this review in the WSJ
Despite its whimsical title, "Seoul Train" is deadly serious -- and yet so compelling that you can't stop watching even though you know it will haunt your dreams. Its subject is the "underground railroad" of North Korean refugees who are running for their lives in a desperate attempt to reach freedom. (On PBS's Independent Lens series, Tuesday, 10-11 p.m. ET. Check local listings.)

Getting out of North Korea, which this documentary accurately describes as the "world's largest prison camp," may be the easy part. Once they make it over the border into China, the refugees are hunted like rabbits by zealous Chinese cops and soldiers. Forcibly repatriated to North Korea, the refugees face torture and imprisonment for the treasonous act of leaving the country. It's a crime punishable by death. Some of the North Koreans interviewed for this film probably are dead already.

Apart from a few sickening scenes shot secretly in North Korea, most of the program takes place in China, where we meet groups of refugees awaiting rides on an underground route to safety. One of the most welcoming destinations is Mongolia, which has a reputation for treating North Koreans humanely before helping them reach their ultimate destination in democratic South Korea.

Schindler of Asia

We meet the first group of refugees as they plan a trip by train, taxi and foot across China to the Mongolian border. They include Han Sul-hee, who is 17. She and the rest of the group, mainly young adults who have left parents and siblings behind, are sitting in a safe house with a Christmas tree and Santa decorations. They have been waiting several months -- eating proper food and trying to gain enough weight so they'll look healthy enough to pass for South Korean tourists. So severe is North Korea's government-induced famine that the average 7-year-old child in North Korea is about half a foot shorter than his counterpart in South Korea, and it's estimated that up to three million souls have perished from hunger in recent years.

The camera follows Sul-hee and the others as they head for the train station in Yanji, China, for a journey that will be full of peril at every stage, especially in towns where the locals like to report foreigners to the police. The refugees' escort is Chun Ki-won, a South Korean pastor who has been called the "Schindler of Asia" for his rescue efforts. We last see him and his little tour group as they head into the Gobi, just a few miles from the crossing into Mongolia. The hidden camera could go no farther, so a message on our TV screen fills in the rest: Chun and all his charges were arrested at the border by Chinese police.

We know how awful that must have been from the scenes we do see, of another group of North Koreans who tried a different method of escape. With the help of activist-guide Moon Kook-han, this group moved into a motel near the Japanese consulate in Shenyang, China, where they spent days preparing to dash through the gates onto sovereign Japanese soil and demand asylum. According to the plan, two men in the group would go first, pushing Chinese guards aside so the women, including 2-year-old Han-mi and her mother, could rush into the consulate yard.

A camera across the street recorded what happened next: Reaching the gate, the men barged through but the guards grabbed Han-mi and her mother. As a crowd gathered, and the camera rolled, the mother clung to the iron gate, screaming and struggling with all her might to break free and get to safety, just a few precious feet away. But the guards wrestled her to the ground. The last shot we see is little Han-mi's terrified face as the guards overpower her mother.

Like a Human Being

Mr. Moon also worked with the seven North Koreans who tried yet another approach and formally applied for refugee status at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The MoFA-7, as the group became known, were arrested by Chinese authorities and presumably repatriated. None has been heard of again. Mr. Moon weeps when he thinks that he may have, in effect, led them to their deaths.

Watching film of the MoFA-7 in the moments before their arrest -- one woman tells the camera that she's willing to risk death for the chance "to live like a human being with dignity" -- it's tempting to heap all the blame on China and North Korea. But the behavior of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is in a way more shocking. A UNHCR official interviewed here says that while some of the North Koreans may be refugees, there's not much his agency can do to help them. After all, he explains, "a couple" of UNHCR representatives went to the border "four or five years ago" to look into the situation of refugees there and were prevented from doing that by Chinese authorities, "so it's not like we haven't tried."

A few of the North Koreans seen in this program have since been released from captivity in China and made their way to South Korea, some with the help of concerned members of Congress. But most of the stories do not have happy endings. Since Mr. Chun was arrested at the Mongolian border in 2001, many thousands of refugees have tried and failed to reach freedom. All the program can do is end our ignorance. Someday, when the full extent of North Koreans' suffering is revealed, no one who has seen "Seoul Train" will be able to say, "I didn't know."

Time and time again people across the world have demonstrated that life without dignity has little meaning. In Asia thousands poured across the sea to Taiwan when the Red Tide swept through China. Again when Korea and Viet Nam was partitioned, thousands moved toward freedom. The phenomenon of the Vietnamese boat people illustrate this decades later as well. Note that many keep on trying, despite bodily harm and deaths of friends and family. I feel shame for those who enjoy lives of liberty who would perpetuate life without dignity as an end in itself, even to perpetuate the familiar oppression of a dictator.


I heard another commentary on NPR the other night about Bush's failure with the environment by not signing Kyoto! (never mind that the Senate refused to ratify the treaty). Reporters should investigate rather than opine.
In the past third of a century, the American economy has swollen by 150 per cent, automobile traffic has increased by 143 per cent, and energy consumption has grown 45 per cent. During this same period, air pollutants have declined by 29 per cent, toxic emissions by 48.5 per cent, sulphur dioxide levels by 65.3 per cent, and airborne lead by 97.3 per cent. Despite signing on to Kyoto, European greenhouse gas emissions have increased since 2001, whereas America's emissions have fallen by nearly one per cent, despite the Toxic Texan's best efforts to destroy the planet.

HT WILLism a great site btw.


Europa 2

A nice summary of the difference in international perspective between the US and the EU. HT Atlas Shrugs
In Cuba, Brussels has withdrawn its support for anti-Castro dissidents. In Iran, the EU has pursued a decade-long policy of "constructive engagement" with the ayatollahs. In Iraq, with a few exceptions, Europeans were horrified at the notion of toppling a tyrant by force. In European capitals, unlike in Washington, Israel's status as the region's only democracy is not seen as meritorious.

In China, the EU has not only announced its intention to lift the arms embargo on Beijing, but is also actively collaborating with the Communists on a satellite system called Galileo, designed to challenge what Jacques Chirac calls the "technological imperialism" of America's GPS. And, when it comes to international bodies, the US is almost alone in taking the view that elected politicians are more legitimate than global technocrats and human-rights lawyers.

This difference in approach was, as it were, encoded in the DNA of the two organisations. The US was born out of a revolt against autocratic government. In consequence, it sympathises naturally with democracy, decentralisation and national self-determination. Its founding creed was adumbrated by Thomas Jefferson, who believed that power should be exercised by the individual in preference to the state, and by lower in preference to higher tiers of government.

The EU, by contrast, was a reaction against the pre-war plebiscitary democracy which, in its patriarchs' eyes, had led to fascism and conflict. Its governing principle is the precise opposite of Jeffersonianism: the doctrine of "ever-closer union". Its leaders believe to this day that states are better run by experts than by populist politicians and, just as they apply that belief to their own institutions, so they extend it to other continents. Indeed, the distinction between the two unions can be inferred from the opening words of their founding charters: the American Constitution begins "We, the people"; the Treaty of Rome begins "His Majesty the King of the Belgians".

That we have different views on the world is only natural. But what is interesting in that Frenchie way is the attempt to claim the high moral ground and leverage it against the US.
We'd be the first to applaud Europeans for finally concerning themselves with moral principles instead of commercial interests. Many of the Middle East's problems, including terrorism, would be easier solved if Europe were seriously concerned about morality. Europe would no longer be Iran's No. 1 trading partner, and its companies wouldn't be able to attend trade fairs in Sudan anymore.
Unlike American companies--recently defamed in Germany as "(blood) suckers" and "locusts" by the former government--European firms are quite busy in Sudan. The chamber of commerce and industry in Stuttgart has enthused over what great opportunities Sudan's oil resources offer to German companies.

Lest people think they are doing something morally reprehensible, the salesmen from Stuttgart prefer to describe the massacres of black Africans in Darfur as "political disturbances." The German economics ministry, which sponsored the German pavilion at last February's trade fair in Sudan, will also support next February's event, the chamber of commerce assures its members.

Where is the outrage? How does that jibe with supposed European values?

Or who in Europe has heard of Soghra, an Iranian woman sentenced in October to death by stoning for adultery? Or Mokhtar N. and Ali A., hanged last month in a public square in Iran for homosexuality?

In much of Europe's public debate, the true meaning of human rights has degenerated into a tool that gives anti-Americanism an aura of legitimacy. The real, horrendous human-rights violations in the Middle East, North Korea, China, Cuba, etc., are largely ignored or relegated to news blurs on the back pages. For front-page coverage, you need an American angle.

Having said that, it is note worthy the publication of Saddam's Black Book in France.
Le Livre Noir de Saddam Hussein (The Black Book of Saddam Hussein) is a robust denunciation of Saddam's regime that does not fall into the trap of viewing everything in Iraq through a US-centric prism. The writers - Arabs, Americans, Germans, French and Iranian - have produced the most comprehensive work to date on the former Iraqi president's war crimes, assembling a mass of evidence that makes the anti-intervention arguments redundant.

"The first weapon of mass destruction was Saddam Hussein," writes Bernard Kouchner, who has been observing atrocities in Iraq since he led the first Medecins Sans Frontieres mission there in 1974. "Preserving the memory of the arbitrary arrests that Saddam's police conducted every morning, the horrible and humiliating torture, the organised rapes, the arbitrary executions and the prisons full of innocent people is not just a duty. Without that one cannot understand either what Saddam's dictatorship was or the urgent necessity to remove him."

The obsession of many journalists and commentators with the fruitless hunt for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons has meant much of the evidence of Saddam's atrocities in liberated Iraq has been under-reported. Sinje Caren Stoyke, a German archeologist and president of Archeologists for Human Rights, catalogues 288 mass graves, a list that is already out of date with the discovery of fresh sites every week.

"There is no secret about these mass graves," Stoyke writes. "Military convoys crossed towns, full of civilian prisoners, and returned empty. People living near execution sites heard the cries of men, women and children. They heard shots followed by silence."

Stoyke estimates one million people are missing in Iraq, presumed dead, leaving families with the dreadful task of finding and identifying the remains of their loved ones.


Siren Songs

This week economic news report continued expansion of the economy for the US for ten continuous quaters at a healthy and manageable rate of over 3%. As reported by the WSJ yesterday:
Treasury Secretary John Snow, in a prepared statement, called the growth "outstanding" and "very good news for American workers and those seeking jobs." A minimum annual growth rate of 3% to 3.5% is considered a good sign of prosperity and favorable for adding new workers to the economy. Although previous third-quarter growth estimates exceeded those rates, the earlier data also gave off mixed inflation signals, which caused concern among some analysts.

Inflation indicators in yesterday's report, though, were revised downward. Consumer prices excluding food and energy, the Federal Reserve's preferred inflation measure, rose at a 1.2% annual rate, down 0.1 percentage point from the original estimate. That would be the lowest core-inflation rate in more than two years.

Today's WSJ follows that with updated employment figures:
Hiring recovered in November from a hurricane-induced slowdown in the previous two months, as employers added 215,000 jobs to U.S. nonfarm payrolls. The unemployment rate held at 5%.

The Labor Department's latest report on the employment situation suggested that employers were more willing to take on new workers as the economic effects of a destructive hurricane season faded. Energy prices, which soared as powerful storms roiled oil and natural-gas production, have declined recently, and headaches caused by disruptions to transportation have eased.

Past payroll estimates were revised to show a 44,000-job increase in payrolls in October and a modest 17,000-job climb during September. Previous estimates showed a 56,000 increase in October and an 8,000 decrease in September.

"The September weakness was clearly associated with the devastating direct effects of Hurricane Katrina, and it is possible that October's job growth was held down somewhat by the indirect effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita," said Kathleen Utgoff, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "To put the November increase in perspective, from January through August of this year, payroll employment growth averaged 196,000 per month."

Yet economic pessimism hangs in the air. Why?
This onslaught of negative thinking is clearly having an impact. During the 2004 presidential campaign, when attacks on the economy were in full force, 36% of Americans thought we were in recession. One year later, even though unemployment has fallen from 5.5% to 5%, and real GDP has expanded by 3.7%, the number who think a recession is underway has climbed to 43%.

This is a real conundrum. It is true, bad things have happened. Katrina wiped out a major city and many people are still displaced. GM has announced massive layoffs. Underfunded pension plans are being handed off to the government. Oil, gasoline and natural gas prices have soared. Despite it all, the U.S. economy continues to flourish.

One would think that this would give pouting pundits reason to question their pessimism. After all, politicians who bounce back from scandal get monikers such as "the comeback kid." Athletes who overcome personal tragedy or sickness to achieve greatness are called "heroes." This is a quintessential American tradition, and the economy is following the script perfectly. The more hardship it faces, the more resilient it appears. The list of pessimistic forecasts that have been proved wrong grows by the day.

The trade deficit was supposed to cause a collapse in the dollar; but the dollar is up 10% versus the euro in the past eight months. The budget deficit was supposed to push up interest rates; yet the 10-year Treasury yield, at 4.5%, is well below its 2000 average yield of 6% when the U.S. faced surpluses as far as the eye could see.

Sharp declines in consumer confidence and rising oil prices were supposed to hurt retail sales; but holiday shopping is strong. Many fear that China is stealing our jobs, but new reports suggest that U.S. manufacturers are so strong that a shortage of skilled production workers has developed. And since the Fed started hiking interest rates 16 months ago, 3.5 million new jobs and $750 billion in additional personal income have been created. Stocks are also up, which according to pundits was unlikely as long as the Fed was hiking rates.

So, where is all of the pessimism coming from? Some say that the anxiety is warranted. The theory goes like this: Globalization and technology are a massive force that levels the playing field. Because capital and ideas can move freely around the world, foreign wages will move up, while U.S. wages fall, until some sort of equilibrium is found. It's a compelling story. After all, real average hourly earnings in the U.S. fell 1.6% during the 12 months ending in October.

However, there are numerous reasons to believe that this statistic is not giving an accurate picture of the economy's health. First, history shows that when oil prices rise sharply, real earnings take a temporary hit. As a result, a snapshot of inflation-adjusted earnings data in the wake of Katrina is misleading.

Moreover, for the past 30 years, real average hourly earnings have declined by an annual average of 0.1%. But this can't possibly reflect reality. In the past 30 years, cell phones and computers have become ubiquitous. Home and auto ownership have climbed. More people dine out; travel; attend sporting events, movies and rock concerts; and join health clubs. Over those same 30 years, real per capita consumption has increased at an average annual rate of 2.3%. Hourly earnings data do not include tips, bonuses, commissions or benefits, and therefore will always lag actual increases in living standards.

Some observers of the current economy, such as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and former Clinton economic adviser Gene Sperling, argue correctly that globalization is inevitable and, in fact, good. Nonetheless, they focus on those who are hurt by the transitional impact and suggest that government intervene to offset any damage from plant closures or job losses.

But this has never worked. The history of economic progress is one of innovation and change. This "creative destruction" can never be a pain-free experience for every individual involved. The new must replace the old. Attempting to alter this fact of life, and create a utopia where no one experiences pain, has always led to more unhappiness than before. Germany's near 11% unemployment rate and the recent riots in France are the latest evidence of government's inability to successfully fight market forces.

One key reason the U.S. economy has outperformed other industrialized nations, and exceeded its long-run average growth rate during the past two years, is the tax cut of 2003. By reducing taxes on investment, the U.S. boosted growth, which in turn created new jobs that replace those that are lost as the old economy dies. Ireland is also a beautiful example of the power of tax cuts to boost growth and lift living standards.

Economic growth is the only true shock absorber for an economy in transition. To minimize the pain of technological globalization and address the anxiety that these forces are creating, free-market policies must be followed. While tremendous pressures are building to increase government involvement in the economy, it is important that the U.S. stay the course that brought it out of recession.

There is a malaise in the mainstream media. It is not just about Iraq or terrorism. All the mainstream media see is destruction. Be careful of their siren songs.


Iraq Election

Thanks to Iraq the Model I found this today. Knowing the different parties participating will make the December 15 election more interesting i think.

My result is this:

Explanation for the different parties is here.
Funny my result but note that it is only 56% match.
party of islamic virtue (fadhila)
حزب الفضيلة الإسلامية
(Hizb al-Fadhila al-Islamiyah)

History: After the 2003 Iraq War, when many Shi’ite scholars returned to Najaf and Karbala, Muhammad al-Ya’qubi pesonal profile here), who had studied with Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, disputed the direction of the Sadrist Movement with Muqtada al-Sadr, and split off to establish the Hizb al-Fadhila al-Islamiyah. He has the support of Qom-based Grand Ayatollah Kadhim al-Ha’iri. In the Jan 2005 parliamentary elections the party achieved 28 seats in the TNA (within the United Iraqi Alliance), as well as representation in the Baghdad, Karbala, Najaf, Al-Qadisiyah, Maysan, Dhi Qar, Al-Muthanna, and Basra provincial councils.
Current leader: Ayatollah Shaykh Muhammad al-Ya’qubi (Najaf)
- Guaranteeing freedom and prosperity to the Iraqi society in accordance with Shari’a standards
- Spreading intellectual and political awareness among the Iraqis and deepening awareness of their religion and homeland
- Leading the Iraqis toward an integration of consciousness and belief on their way to a better moral and material future, in a society enjoying freedom, justice, and independence
Desired political system: A constitutional, parliamentary, pluralistic system that is founded on elections, and limited by Shari’a. Federalism is not preferred but might be the best solution at this time.
Liberties & civil rights: “The constitution must guarantee human rights and the basic freedoms, which do not contradict the Islamic Shari’a and common customs.” Human rights should be guaranteed “in a manner that does not distort the nature of Iraqi society and the commandments of Islam, the true religion.”
Distribution of wealth: “The entirety of natural resources belongs to the public sector. [...] All movable assets attained from natural resources can be acquired only through labor. They can also be acquired through inheritance, indemnity for damages, and other forms of acquisition.”
Law & judiciary: The source of laws is the Shari’a, or at least the laws should not contradict it.
- Ba’thists who committed crimes against the Iraqi people must be prosecuted by law and justly penalized.
- Ba’thists who did not commit any crime against the Iraqi people should be slowly re-integrated into Iraq’s political life
Iraq’s identity: “The land and people of Iraq must remain unified. [...] Iraq belongs to all Iraqis. [...] The constitution must emphasize the Islamic identity of the country.”
Kurds and minorities:
- The party “believes in the cultural and national rights of the Kurds in a way that harmonizes with their circumstances and fits into the framework of a unified Iraq, in which Arabs and Kurds live in brotherhood and share equal rights of citizenship and equal and equivalent obligations.”
- The party does not like to use the term “minority”. All are Iraqis and have equal rights and obligations.
On terrorism: “[The] terrorism that broke out in Iraqi society was not a product of current confessional or intellectual preconditions in Iraq. It is rather a phenomenon that grew up outside Iraq and crept into Iraq within the range of regional and international interests. [...] The Shari’a forbids terrorism.”
On the occupation: “[It] is a comprehensive project of Western civilizing procedures aimed at changing ways of thinking and the present culture, in Iraq in particular and in the whole Middle East in general.” It needs to be unmasked and resisted, but in a planned and scientific manner. Both violent and non-violent resistance are important.
Regional/International relations:
- Foreign policy should be based on the Arabic and Islamic affiliation of Iraq.
- Especially friendly relations should be established with Iraq’s neighbors.
- Relations should be maintained with all countries except Israel.

My only issue with them is the over reliance on sharia. Taken in itself i do not think sharia as originally intended is bad, but as applied by men (against women in particular) it is no good. But using a religious belief as a basis for governance at least inject some sort of morality and would be better than a Godless system.
patriotic union of kurdistan (puk)
الاتحاد الوطني الكردستاني

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) was established on 1 June 1975 after the collapse of the KDP-led Kurdish resistance as a result of the Algiers Agreement between Iraq and the Shah of Iran. The party was formed as a union of three political groups: the Kurdish Workers League, the Socialist Kurdish Movement and the Social Democratic Movement under the leadership of Jalal Talabani.

Party history:
The party continued its armed activities against the Saddam Hussein regime until the 1991 uprising which followed the Gulf War, with the exception of a period in 1983 when the party negotiated with the regime. After the 1991 uprising and the establishment of the so-called "secure area" by the coalition forces, the PUK was one of the two powers administering the Kurdish areas - equally with the KDP. After clashes between the two parties erupted in 1994, the PUK gained control over the areas of the Sulaymaniya region and some areas of Arbil and Kirkuk regions, which are the areas that traditionally had been under its influence.
During the 1992 General Party Congress in Arbil, the Party decided to transform its political agenda from a Marxist-socialist to a democratic socialist one. This transformation came in response to the changes that took place in the international political situation after the fall of the USSR and its allies.
Current leader: Jalal Talabani has been the General Secretary of the party since its establishment. For a long time he had been a member in the Kurdistan Democratic Party. He participated in the Iraqi Interim Governing Council and was elected President of Iraq on 6 April 2005.
Goals: "The PUK is a socialist, democratic organization struggling for peace, democracy, freedom, equality and against dictatorship, occupation, aggression, nationalistic, denominational, and religious persecution, violation of human rights , ethnic cleansing, racism, terrorism, and reactionism. It struggles for the right of self -determination, solidarity, and peaceful coexistence."
System of governance:
- The establishment of a federal, parliamentarian, democratic, pluralistic system based on nationalistic and geographical bases
- Islam is the religion of the state and must influence its laws, but there will not be an Islamic government.
Liberties & civil rights: The party is committed to the International Declaration of Human Rights and to all international conventions related to human rights.
Capital punishment: The PUK is a member of the Socialist International, which is against capital punishment.
Distribution of wealth: Distribution of oil and gas by consensus between the regions and the central government.
Iraq’s identity: Iraq is a multi-national and multi-religious country. The Arabs are part of the Arab world, and the Kurds are part of Greater Kurdistan. Kurds have their own cultural and political identity.
Kirkuk: The party considers Kirkuk within the geographical borders of the Kurdistan Region and that the solution of this issue will be according to Article 58 of the TAL, meaning first normalization and then determination of the fate of the city.
De-Ba'thification: Previous members of the Ba'th Party should be allowed to hold civil and administrative jobs, but they cannot join the armed or security forces.
On terrorism:
- "The armed insurrection movement in our country can be put down if Kurdish and Shi'ite militias are employed.
- The Iraqi insurgents are divided into two groups. The first are the orphans of Saddam, with whom it is not possible to negotiate because they dream of bringing Saddam's regime back to power, and this is impossible. The Iraqis struggled for years to bring down this regime, and it is impossible to allow it to come to power again. The second group consists of some patriotic and Islamic persons who have been upset by what has happened. It is possible to negotiate with them and reach an agreement to involve them in the political process."
On militias: The Peshmerga forces and the Badr Corps are not considered militias.
On the occupation: There is no occupation, but a war of liberation.
Media: http://www.kurdsat.org

Socialist? No death penalty? Militias?
A blend of the two would have worked for me after addressing these concerns. Now these guys seem alright to me and i wonder how they will do:
iraqi national conference (inc)
حزب المؤتمر الوطني العراقي

Established: 1992
Current leader: Ahmad Jallabi (President - personal profile here)
System of governance:
-A democratic federal system, with a rejection of a religious (denominational) or non-religious quota. The political majority is determined by means of elections and not by means of population statistics.
-Federalism is the best system because it meets the needs and requirements of every region and group in a more accurate and effective way.
Liberties and civil rights: One of the party's principles is the priority given to the respect of the individual over the respect of religious groups, sects, and tribes.
Iraq’s identity: Iraq has an Arab face, but it also prides itself on its other features. Iraq is an Islamic country even though the party prefers the non-interference of the religious leaders in ruling the country.
De-Ba'thification: The party is one of the groups which established the De-Ba'thification Committee. It declares, "The new Iraqi government should acknowledge the fact that the first enemy of the new Iraq is the Ba'th organization, and that it should adopt steps to implement its eradication." (There must be a consensus and a national dialogue and openness regarding the criteria for pardon and forgiveness from which everyone that joined the party in the previous era may benefit, whether they joined under duress or voluntarily.)
On the occupation:
- Drawing up a timetable for the withdrawal of the multi-national forces from Iraq is a central goal of the party.
- The INC considers what happened in Iraq in Spring 2003 to be an act of liberation. Jallabi approves the security support which the coalition forces give to the Iraqi security forces.
On terrorism: The party puts a lot of responsibility on the neighboring countries for the deteriorating security situation in Iraq. It believes that international Islamic terrorism has come to Iraq from the outside. The party considers dialogue with the followers of Al-Sadr a necessity while it rejects dialogue with the followers of the Ba'th and calls for fighting and punishing them.
International relations: The party is committed to the principle of non-interference and asks the neighboring countries to shoulder their responsibility in standing against the smuggling of arms and terrorists into Iraq.
I don't really see much difference between the puk, kdp, or the itf. Having political parties based on ethnicity is fairly stupid imo.
kurdistan democratic party (kdp)
الحزب الديمقراطي الكردستاني

Establishment: The party was established on 16 September 1946 in Iran under the leadership of Mullah Mustafa Barzani. Other co-founders were important Kurdish leaders such as Mustafa Khushnaw, Mir Hajj, Muhammad Qudsi and Hamza Abdullah.
Current leader: Mas'ud Barzani
System of governance: Multi-federal, democratic, federal (essentially), provided the federation is established based on nationalist and geographic principals.
Liberties & civil rights:
- The party believes in the freedom of publishing, press, and media. It emphasizes its active role as a fourth power in educating the society and in carrying the voice of the Kurdish people to the world.
- There must be public and personal freedoms.
- Democracy is part of the party’s philosophy, nonetheless many criticized the coalition between the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan at the Kurdistan government elections level for it oppressed the healthy democratic competition within the region.
Minorities’ rights:
- The party’s relationships with the small minorities are excellent, like the different Christian and Muslim minorities, their rights and particularities were protected in the Kurdistan Region. Even the representation of some of them, particularly the Christian minority, in the Kurdish administration and political institutions was bigger than its actual percentage in the population. Protecting the (small) minorities is one of the party’s main policies.
The Turkmen-Kurdish and Arab-Kurdish relations in Kirkuk became tense when the Kurdish parties held that a referendum on the fate of the city should include the original inhabitants that had been expelled by the previous Ba'th regime to Arabize the city. The party sees that the Arabizing process carried out by the previous regime in some areas should be reversed by evacuating the Arab (non-original) inhabitants and procuring the properties of the Kurds who originally lived there.
Law & judiciary:
- The judiciary and its independence is respected. All available judiciary guarantees are emphasized.
- Islam is considered as the main source for legislations but not the only source.
Distribution of wealth: Each region has a share in the petrol profits, funding, aid, and foreign loans according to the percentage of the population from among the total population in the country.
De-Ba'thification: The slogan “national reconciliation” was raised during a conference in London in December 2002 but without exempting the criminals who committed crimes against the Iraqi people and particularly the Kurds. At the same time group punishment was not recommended.
On terrorism: the party condemns all shapes and ways of terrorism regardless of reason or of source.
Iraq’s identity:
- The country’s religion is Islam, Iraq is part of the Islamic world.
- Arabs are part of the Arab nation; Kurds are part of the Kurdish nation.
The Kurdish issue:
- The party believes that the “divided Kurdish nation” deserves the right to decide its fate. The party fights for a united constitution that guarantees the right for the Kurdish people to decide its fate in Iraq.
- The party defends the rights of the Kurds who are living in other regions in Iraq. It also should guarantee the continuity of the national and cultural connections amongst them.
- The party strives to grant a peaceful solution of the Kurdish issue in all parts of Kurdistan (in Iraq and neighboring countries).
- The party calls for a comprehensive re-evaluation of all school curricula, books and study material to infuse it with the Kurdish spirit and the original values of the Kurdish people along with the scientific, technical and civilization advancements.
Kirkuk: The party considers Kirkuk to be within the Kurdistan area and within the geographic borders of Kurdistan. The issue has been concluded according to Article 58 of the TAL. It orders the returning of the expelled and the joining of the sectors which were divided from the city during the previous regime. Afterwards, the fate should be decided according to referendum at the regional level.
International relations: The KDP has strong relations with the United States of America, Iran, and Syria. Relations with Turkey are tense at times.
Media: http://www.kurdistantv.net

iraqi turkmen front (itf)
الجبهة التركمانية العراقية
(Irak Türkmen Cephesi / Al-Jabha al-Turkomaniyah al-Iraqiyah)

History: Established on 24 April 1995 as a coalition of Turkmen groups. Members include Turkmen Shura Council, Islamic Movement of Iraqi Turkmen (IMIT), Iraqi National Turkmen Party (INTP), Turkomaneli Party, and the Independent Turkmen Movement. Outside Iraq, offices exist in Berlin, London and Washington. The Front participated in all Iraqi opposition meetings in exile. Because it holds that the draft constitution denies the Turkmen their rights it called for its supporters to vote “No” in the referendum on 15 October 2005.
Current Leader: Dr. Faruq Abdullah Abd al-Rahman
Goals: Turkmen should be free to decide their destiny. They should be able to administer themselves in their areas where they constitute a majority, so they can maintain, develop and practice their culture and language freely. They should participate in the governance of Iraq according to their population ratio, which should be established by an internationally observed census. The Kurdification of Turkmen areas and cities should end. Separatist groups and militias who restrict Turkmen’s freedom and impose a separatist agenda should be disarmed. Elections should be internationally observed, fair and just so that the National Assembly correctly represents all groups. Kirkuk is the capital city of the Turkmen in Iraq.
System of governance: Republican, democratic, pluralistic, and parliamentary system. The government should be elected through free and fair elections. The status of the current 18 provinces of Iraq should be maintained. If a federal system is adopted, then the Turkmen should have the right to their own federal region that would comprise all the areas where they are the majority.
Civil rights & freedoms: National and constitutional rights should be given to all Iraqis without discrimination. This principle should explicitly be mentioned in the constitution. No ethnic group’s rights should be increased at the expense of other groups.
Law & judiciary: The judiciary should be independent. A Constitutional Court should be established. Citizens and political groups should have the right to sue for the unconstitutionality of laws as well as suing the government.
Distribution of resources: All natural resources, including petroleum and water, are the property of all Iraqis. They should be utilized and distributed in fair and accurate ways and methods.
Iraq’s identity: Iraq is a multi-national and multi-religious country. The Arab majority is the part of the Arab world and the Muslim majority is part of the Islamic world. Iraq’s territorial and national integrity should be maintained.
Kurds and minorities: Since Kurdish has been established as an official language, Turkish should be the third official language, at the minimum in those areas where Turkmen are the majority. In Turkmen regions, the rights of education in Turkish should be guaranteed. All minorities should be given equal rights.
International relations: The Front receives strong (incl. financial) support from Turkey. Turkmen-Kurdish relations are tense, while Turkmen-Arab relations are marked by overlapping positions on the Kirkuk question.


A Democrat Worthy

In the 2000 Primary season, I was keen on one candidate I thought worthy of being president. That man was Joe Lieberman. In today's WSJ editorial he demonstrate the good sense that should have won him the Democratic nomination. Unfortunately, the democratic party members did not feel the same and nominated a flip flopper instead.
I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood -- unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn.

Progress is visible and practical. In the Kurdish North, there is continuing security and growing prosperity. The primarily Shiite South remains largely free of terrorism, receives much more electric power and other public services than it did under Saddam, and is experiencing greater economic activity. The Sunni triangle, geographically defined by Baghdad to the east, Tikrit to the north and Ramadi to the west, is where most of the terrorist enemy attacks occur. And yet here, too, there is progress.

There are many more cars on the streets, satellite television dishes on the roofs, and literally millions more cell phones in Iraqi hands than before. All of that says the Iraqi economy is growing. And Sunni candidates are actively campaigning for seats in the National Assembly. People are working their way toward a functioning society and economy in the midst of a very brutal, inhumane, sustained terrorist war against the civilian population and the Iraqi and American military there to protect it.

It is a war between 27 million and 10,000; 27 million Iraqis who want to live lives of freedom, opportunity and prosperity and roughly 10,000 terrorists who are either Saddam revanchists, Iraqi Islamic extremists or al Qaeda foreign fighters who know their wretched causes will be set back if Iraq becomes free and modern. The terrorists are intent on stopping this by instigating a civil war to produce the chaos that will allow Iraq to replace Afghanistan as the base for their fanatical war-making. We are fighting on the side of the 27 million because the outcome of this war is critically important to the security and freedom of America. If the terrorists win, they will be emboldened to strike us directly again and to further undermine the growing stability and progress in the Middle East, which has long been a major American national and economic security priority.

* * *

Before going to Iraq last week, I visited Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Israel has been the only genuine democracy in the region, but it is now getting some welcome company from the Iraqis and Palestinians who are in the midst of robust national legislative election campaigns, the Lebanese who have risen up in proud self-determination after the Hariri assassination to eject their Syrian occupiers (the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah militias should be next), and the Kuwaitis, Egyptians and Saudis who have taken steps to open up their governments more broadly to their people. In my meeting with the thoughtful prime minister of Iraq, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, he declared with justifiable pride that his country now has the most open, democratic political system in the Arab world. He is right.

In the face of terrorist threats and escalating violence, eight million Iraqis voted for their interim national government in January, almost 10 million participated in the referendum on their new constitution in October, and even more than that are expected to vote in the elections for a full-term government on Dec. 15. Every time the 27 million Iraqis have been given the chance since Saddam was overthrown, they have voted for self-government and hope over the violence and hatred the 10,000 terrorists offer them. Most encouraging has been the behavior of the Sunni community, which, when disappointed by the proposed constitution, registered to vote and went to the polls instead of taking up arms and going to the streets. Last week, I was thrilled to see a vigorous political campaign, and a large number of independent television stations and newspapers covering it.

None of these remarkable changes would have happened without the coalition forces led by the U.S. And, I am convinced, almost all of the progress in Iraq and throughout the Middle East will be lost if those forces are withdrawn faster than the Iraqi military is capable of securing the country.

The leaders of Iraq's duly elected government understand this, and they asked me for reassurance about America's commitment. The question is whether the American people and enough of their representatives in Congress from both parties understand this. I am disappointed by Democrats who are more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq almost three years ago, and by Republicans who are more worried about whether the war will bring them down in next November's elections, than they are concerned about how we continue the progress in Iraq in the months and years ahead.

Here is an ironic finding I brought back from Iraq. While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism. Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam, and a resounding 82% are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today. What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.

The leaders of America's military and diplomatic forces in Iraq, Gen. George Casey and Ambassador Zal Khalilzad, have a clear and compelling vision of our mission there. It is to create the environment in which Iraqi democracy, security and prosperity can take hold and the Iraqis themselves can defend their political progress against those 10,000 terrorists who would take it from them.

* * *

Does America have a good plan for doing this, a strategy for victory in Iraq? Yes we do. And it is important to make it clear to the American people that the plan has not remained stubbornly still but has changed over the years. Mistakes, some of them big, were made after Saddam was removed, and no one who supports the war should hesitate to admit that; but we have learned from those mistakes and, in characteristic American fashion, from what has worked and not worked on the ground. The administration's recent use of the banner "clear, hold and build" accurately describes the strategy as I saw it being implemented last week.

We are now embedding a core of coalition forces in every Iraqi fighting unit, which makes each unit more effective and acts as a multiplier of our forces. Progress in "clearing" and "holding" is being made. The Sixth Infantry Division of the Iraqi Security Forces now controls and polices more than one-third of Baghdad on its own. Coalition and Iraqi forces have together cleared the previously terrorist-controlled cities of Fallujah, Mosul and Tal Afar, and most of the border with Syria. Those areas are now being "held" secure by the Iraqi military themselves. Iraqi and coalition forces are jointly carrying out a mission to clear Ramadi, now the most dangerous city in Al-Anbar province at the west end of the Sunni Triangle.

Nationwide, American military leaders estimate that about one-third of the approximately 100,000 members of the Iraqi military are able to "lead the fight" themselves with logistical support from the U.S., and that that number should double by next year. If that happens, American military forces could begin a drawdown in numbers proportional to the increasing self-sufficiency of the Iraqi forces in 2006. If all goes well, I believe we can have a much smaller American military presence there by the end of 2006 or in 2007, but it is also likely that our presence will need to be significant in Iraq or nearby for years to come.

The economic reconstruction of Iraq has gone slower than it should have, and too much money has been wasted or stolen. Ambassador Khalilzad is now implementing reform that has worked in Afghanistan -- Provincial Reconstruction Teams, composed of American economic and political experts, working in partnership in each of Iraq's 18 provinces with its elected leadership, civil service and the private sector. That is the "build" part of the "clear, hold and build" strategy, and so is the work American and international teams are doing to professionalize national and provincial governmental agencies in Iraq.

These are new ideas that are working and changing the reality on the ground, which is undoubtedly why the Iraqi people are optimistic about their future -- and why the American people should be, too.

* * *

I cannot say enough about the U.S. Army and Marines who are carrying most of the fight for us in Iraq. They are courageous, smart, effective, innovative, very honorable and very proud. After a Thanksgiving meal with a great group of Marines at Camp Fallujah in western Iraq, I asked their commander whether the morale of his troops had been hurt by the growing public dissent in America over the war in Iraq. His answer was insightful, instructive and inspirational: "I would guess that if the opposition and division at home go on a lot longer and get a lot deeper it might have some effect, but, Senator, my Marines are motivated by their devotion to each other and the cause, not by political debates."

Thank you, General. That is a powerful, needed message for the rest of America and its political leadership at this critical moment in our nation's history. Semper Fi.
In a previous post, I tested as a centrist and a Democrat. This to me suggest that the majority of the Democratic leaders like Reid and Pelosi have lost touch with not only the people in general, but the ideals of liberalism at large.


Exploiting Our Weakness 2

Apparently it is the democratic leadership only that is being a tool for the islamofascists in Iraq. News worth repeating from the WaPo:
Democrats fumed last week at Vice President Cheney's suggestion that criticism of the administration's war policies was itself becoming a hindrance to the war effort. But a new poll indicates most Americans are sympathetic to Cheney's point.

Seventy percent of people surveyed said that criticism of the war by Democratic senators hurts troop morale -- with 44 percent saying morale is hurt "a lot," according to a poll taken by RT Strategies. Even self-identified Democrats agree: 55 percent believe criticism hurts morale, while 21 percent say it helps morale.

The results surely will rankle many Democrats, who argue that it is patriotic and supportive of the troops to call attention to what they believe are deep flaws in President Bush's Iraq strategy. But the survey itself cannot be dismissed as a partisan attack. The RTs in RT Strategies are Thomas Riehle, a Democrat, and Lance Tarrance, a veteran GOP pollster.

Their poll also indicates many Americans are skeptical of Democratic complaints about the war. Just three of 10 adults accept that Democrats are leveling criticism because they believe this will help U.S. efforts in Iraq. A majority believes the motive is really to "gain a partisan political advantage."

This poll is one of the few pieces of supportive news the administration has had lately on Iraq. Most surveys have shown significant majorities believe it was a mistake to go to war, as well as rising sentiment that Bush misled Americans in making the case for it.

Even so, there is still support for Bush's policy going forward. A plurality, 49 percent, believe that troops should come home only when the Iraqi government can provide for its own security, while 16 percent support immediate withdrawal, regardless of the circumstances.


Syria has been implicated in harboring, if not actively supporting the Iraqi insurgents. Make that the Al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq. Syria does not understand the consequences. First there is international pressure from the US via the UN, with the pretext being the assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Had Syria been more cooperative and supportive of US activities in Iraq, I'd doubt so much political pressure would have been brought to bear by the US. Now Syria has quietly agreed to UN questioning of key officials per Mehlis’ Deadline.

Most recently there are reports of US military incursions into Syria in pursuit of fleeing terrorists. Such incursions will continue because of the "clear and hold" activities of the current coalition's Anbar campaign. Were orders not given to stop the chase at the border? Is it a coincidence that the Syria is in a weakened state currently to contest the incursions?

And what is the internal political pressure being mounted against young Assad? He leads a minority clan in Syria, one branded heretical by many mainstream Muslims. He lacks the political astuteness and adroitness of his father; ruthlessness alone will not suffice. Minority rule must still have allies. Now he cannot protect key allies from foreign investigations for acts he either ordered or was keenly aware of. How will his erstwhile allies react to be handed over? And now border incursions. How will the terrorists respond when they no longer feel protected? How will his political adversaries react when he cannot even safeguard the border?

Think things are heating up? Well a tell-tale sign is that Syria actually welcomes David Duke believing somehow that might help!
Interesting times for Syria. I've always felt they will be the next Middle Eastern regime to fall. Afterward it will be Iran.


It is a black and white world, good or evil. And within each category it is all the same don't you know.
Death always came after weeks of torture.

"Sometimes we would hang them upside down and beat their feet with clubs. Or we would electrocute them," he said.

"One of the worst things was putting 10 people in a one-square-metre room for weeks. They had a brief break every day and were allowed the toilet every three days," he said.

Three executions were carried out each Monday and Thursday. One day Saddam's feared son Uday showed up and asked about eight political prisoners standing nearby. He ordered their immediate execution, said Abu Hussein.

Abu Hussein, a father of three, said watching men writhe in agony as they died sometimes made him cry. But he said nobody could afford to defy orders in Saddam's Iraq.

"We would have been killed on the spot. One time this executioner was one hour late in hanging someone and he was himself hanged. What could we do? All of this had a toll on us," he said.

He sometimes broke the rules and allowed prisoners to inform their families of their whereabouts in the prison, which held thousands before their execution.

But the mention of Saddam turns him into a hard man prepared to torture and kill.

"I know they will set Saddam free. He is a strong man with a brain like a computer," he said.

Many of his fellow executioners fled Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, fearful that prisoners or their families would seek revenge for their suffering at Abu Ghraib, now a U.S.-run facility also marred by prisoner abuse.



I find this oddly amusing, and a nice diversion from politics. It is a knitting of the gastrointestinal system, from the tongue to the anus, including liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. Note the appendix.



The hour is late and this post is long over due. I worked today, and hopefully did some good in the process. Much to thanks for personally, and much to thanks for as a nation.



From Powerline:
Two weeks ago, as I was starting my sixth month of duty in Iraq, I was forced to return to the USA for surgery for an injury I sustained prior to my deployment. With luck, I'll return to Iraq in January to finish my tour. I left Baghdad and a war that has every indication that we are winning, to return to a demoralized country much like the one I returned to in 1971 after my tour in Vietnam. Maybe it's because I'll turn 60 years old in just four months, but I'm tired:
I'm tired of spineless politicians, both Democrat and Republican who lack the courage, fortitude, and character to see these difficult tasks through.

I'm tired of the hypocrisy of politicians who want to rewrite history when the going gets tough.

I'm tired of the disingenuous clamor from those that claim they "Support the Troops" by wanting them to "Cut and Run" before victory is achieved.

I'm tired of a mainstream media that can only focus on car bombs and casualty reports because they are too afraid to leave the safety of their hotels to report on the courage and success our brave men and women are having on the battlefield.

I'm tired that so many American's think you can rebuild a dictatorship into a democracy over night.

I'm tired that so many ignore the bravery of the Iraqi people to go to the voting booth and freely elect a Constitution and soon a permanent Parliament.

I'm tired of the so called "Elite Left" that prolongs this war by giving aid and comfort to our enemy, just as they did during the Vietnam War.

I'm tired of anti-war protesters showing up at the funerals of our fallen soldiers. A family who's loved ones gave their life in a just and noble cause, only to be cruelly tormented on the funeral day by cowardly protesters is beyond shameful.

I'm tired that my generation, the Baby Boom - Vietnam generation, who have such a weak backbone that they can't stomach seeing the difficult tasks through to victory.

I'm tired that some are more concerned about the treatment of captives then they are the slaughter and beheading of our citizens and allies.

I'm tired that when we find mass graves it is seldom reported by the press, but mistreat a prisoner and it is front page news.

Mostly, I'm tired that the people of this great nation didn't learn from history that there is no substitute for Victory.


Joe Repya
Lieutenant Colonel
U. S. Army
101st Airborne Division
Meanwhile, some do understand victory at Deuce Four's Punisher's Ball :
Ever the master of the moment, Erik Kurilla turned the microphone over to Bruce Willis. Bruce had taken the time to fly in as a guest speaker to thank the members of the Deuce Four. He gave the most impassioned speech I can remember, using clear terms—including some well-selected profanities to describe terrorists—to express his admiration and support for the troops. Bruce’s speech was so accurate in his description of the war, and so charged with emotion, that he seemed ready to lead the troops himself back to Iraq; and they were ready to go.

Interestingly, I learned later—and I am not sure Bruce wants this to be known—Bruce actually tried to join the military to fight in this war but they told him he is too old. He doesn’t look too old. Not judging by the reaction of all the women in attendance at the ball that night.
Speaking of being a soldier, here is a study looking at the composition of the US military:
This paper reviews the demographic status of the all-volunteer military and refutes the claim that enlisted troops are underprivileged and come from underprivileged areas. In terms of education, household income, race, and home origin, the troops are more similar than dissimilar to the gen eral population.

Put simply, the current makeup of the all-vol untary military looks like America. Where they are different, the data show that the average sol dier is slightly better educated and comes from a slightly wealthier, more rural area. We found that the military (and Army specifically) included a higher proportion of blacks and lower propor tions of other minorities but a proportionate num ber of whites. More important, we found that recruiting was not drawing disproportionately from racially concentrated areas.
Finally, a link to a page dedicated to honoring the fallen soldiers.


Exploiting Our Weakness

We are at war, a global war against terrorism, whether we like it or not. As a nation at war, we must all unite and work toward victory. In all wars, we can either fight a defensive one at our border, or open new fronts and take the battle to the enemy. I fully support our efforts in Iraq, much more so than Afghanistan even. I fully support those who dissent and do not believe Iraq is a just battlefield. What I do not support are actions of the dissenters to undermine our nation's wartime effort. It is unfortunate that some have failed to hold the line between dissention and disloyalty.

It is apalling to me how some Democrats have crossed the line for short term political gains and place our national interests at risk.
Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania proposed that Congress order the termination itself by adopting a joint House-Senate resolution saying the troops should be redeployed "at the earliest practicable date." The initiative represents a gamble for the 73-year-old lawmaker and Marine Vietnam veteran, who has opted to put his military reputation on the line to try to force a change in American policy.
What a dumbass! He has learned nothing from Vietnam.
"We were not strong enough to drive out a half-million American troops, but that wasn't our aim. Our intention was to break the will of the American government to continue the war."
--North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap, in a 1990 interview with historian Stanley Karnow


News about News

Last night after months within the chrysalis, Pajama Media became Open Source Media. When the initial call went out into the blogosphere, I considered signing up. Ultimately I chose to remain an independent small voice in the wilderness. Never the less, I have been following the creation of OSM with great interest and I wish them success, but not so much success that they would lose their grassroots origin. I have already added them to my news link list.

Meanwhile in related news from Tunis:
Negotiators from more than 100 countries agreed late Tuesday to leave the United States in charge of the Internet's addressing system, averting a U.S.-EU showdown at this week's U.N. technology summit.
Good for the US to retain a product of its creation, given the freedom of speech and press we seek to uphold. The internet as a beacon of freedom?


France's Occupation Plans

This was too interesting not to repeat in total. HT No Parasan
France was not always opposed to the American invasion of Iraq. One persistent Pentagon rumor, however, might explain why the French came to oppose the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. In December, 2002, a French staff officer visited the Pentagon with a proposal from his government. France would send 18,000 troops (about what they contributed in 1991) to join the Iraq invasion force. However, France wanted a specific area of occupation after the war, with full authority in that area for as long as Iraq needed to be occupied. The American State Department backed the French proposal, but the Department of Defense didn’t trust the French, and were suspicious of their motives. So the French officer went home empty handed, and the French government decided that invading Iraq was really an evil thing to do.

What exactly were the French up to? No one is sure, but the most plausible theory was that the French wanted to be in Iraq, after Saddam fell, to make sure no embarrassing documents, or witnesses, showed up. France had been supplying Saddam with weapons, and other assistance, for over three decades. Moreover, how better to help get the Sunni Arabs back in power, than to have 18,000 French troops occupying, say, western Iraq. This sort of arrangement is nothing new for the French. Although France participated in the Balkans peacekeeping of the 1990s, France was known to be pro-Serb, and French officers were later caught helping out the Serbs in illegal ways. Very embarrassing, but not unexpected. The Pentagon was well aware of how the French pulled their pro-Serb stunts in the 1990s, and apparently wanted no more of that nonsense in Iraq.