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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Perle blames Iraq opposition on U.S.

Political infighters say some stupid things, but Richard Perle takes the cake, blaming the rise of opposition forces in Iraq on the decision to leave the U.S. military as an occupying force, instead of "turning the keys over to the Iraqis" during the relative calm after the fall of Baghdad.

The problems didn’t start immediately after Saddam’s removal. The problems started when the occupation began to wear on the people, and that was predictable. (Perle on O'Reilly, via Newsmax)
Perle's claim is that if we had not stayed on as occupiers, the insurgency would never have taken place! How is that different from blaming 9/11 on America? If only we hadn't irritated the Muslim world by being so superior, and by not letting them annihilate Israel. The fact is, the Islamo-fascists cannot be appeased. To think that they would not have allied with the Baathist remnant in Iraq to try to hold onto that country, no matter what we did, is ludicrous. If we had left, Iraq would simply have been overrun. This idiot has been an architect of U.S. policy? Brrrrrr.

Perle's intent is to exculpate Rumsfeld and the Pentagon (and himself) for the condition of Iraq, while blaming Powell and State. (Why would any sane person want to escape "blame" for one of the great successes and good deeds of all time?) I am certainly sympathetic to blaming State for bad things and crediting Defense with good, but in this case the "bad" thing isn't bad, and if Perle is to believed, it looks like we owe Powell and State some credit for keeping us fully committed in Iraq.

Friday, November 19, 2004

The morals gap

A desperate-for-sex woman (and by implication an adulterous housewife) literally throws her naked body at a stud athlete in an NFL locker room and he responds, "my team will have to win without me." Is this wrong behavior, or is it just something that is embarrassing to see on national television because it is a properly private moment? If you want to see a good example of the gap in moral understanding between blue-state America and red-state America, read what San Francisco Chronicle sportswriter Ann Killion has to say:
Oh, now I get it. I've figured out why there's so much outrage over last Monday Night Football's opening segment, in which actress Nicollette Sheridan seduces Philadelphia receiver Terrell Owens.

It must be because Owens didn't reach for his Viagra or Levitra before Sheridan dropped her towel.

What an outrage that someone missed that kind of opportunity for cross-promotion!

I can't quite work up much anger over the titillating segment that merged two of my favorite programs: ``Desperate Housewives'' and ``The T.O. Show.''

Offensive to families? Hey, I have two kids. We love to watch sports as a family. But there are a lot more embarrassing things than watching the Owens spot. How about spending the entire World Series watching the Viagra ``Wild Thing'' commercial? How about having to explain erectile dysfunction and the linebacker blitz in the same sentence? How about the 49ers running onto the field through a pumped-up helmet with the Levitra logo on it?
She continues in this vein for the rest of the article. Anyone with moral sentience is dumbfounded. How can a mother of two fail to distinguish between what is embarrassing but moral (graying couples still wanting to have sex) and what is embarrassing and grotesquely immoral (Desperate Housewives throwing themselves at celebrity athletes for sex)?

We all know that some women do in fact hang around outside of pro-sports locker-rooms offering sex to celebrity atheletes they have never met before. The ABC promo put a fig-leaf on the transaction by having Owens know "Idi's" name. Oh, so he picked her up outside the locker-room once before. The reference to the pro-sports desert-tray of anonymous sex is unavoidable. And this gets sprung on family TV at 6 p.m.?

Killian's indifference shows the depth of the divide between blue-state and red-state America. In place of tolerance (the understanding that error must often be abided), blue-staters substitute an ethic of "non-judgmentalism," to the point where they have managed to render themselves blind to the moral landscape of the world. Reuters won't call terrorists terrorists on the grounds that "one man's terrorists is another man's 'freedom fighter'." People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals champion the slogan: "A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy" (coined by PETA co-founder and President Ingrid Newkirk, Vogue Magazine, September 1989). Non-judgmentalism is a crock. We TOLERATE even desperate housewives throwing themselves at stud athletes for an expected sexual thrill. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be judged harshly!

Is there a parallel here to the blue-state mindset on abortion, where any recognition of unborn life is feverishly rejected as a threat to abortion rights, even to the point of protesting Laci and Connor's law? Are blue-staters thinking that ANY recognition of morality must be resisted as a surrender to their ideological opposites? Sure looks like it. That is what makes the Global War on Terror such a problem for the blue-staters. GWOT is about recognizing right and wrong, and the need to fight on the side of right. That is problematic for people who see any distinction between right and wrong as a concession to their political opponents. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face. This is giving yourself a moral lobotomy to spite you know not what (having given yourself a moral lobotomy).

Yup. That's why the blog is titled Error Theory.

UPDATE: The above is slightly edited, after my seeing the full video. (I had earlier seen an abbreviated clip on the news that made the encounter look completely anonymous.)

Also, I just discovered a great new tool: Blog Search Engine. To see who else is commenting on your subject, just put in a few keywords (e.g. Nicollette Sheridan and Terrell Owens) and go. Be prepared for a “yikes.” Like this awesome lefty fruitcake response, in full moral-lobotomy mode (all the way through to an anti-morality attack on GWOT). Slacktivist thinks that wanting to protect children from slut-like behavior shows that CONSERVATIVES have dirty minds. Well, I guess I can see how someone might think that, if he has NO mind!

Should the possum-take-out video have been censored?

Excellent discussion by Diplomads and Eagle1 about how the military should have handled the video of the Marine taking out the wounded insurgent fighter who he perceived to be playing possum. The dips make the case that the video should have been suppressed. Eagle1 argues that the right response would have been to come clean with the video, then aggressively defend the Marine's behavior.

Eagle hits the nail on the head about the proper PR response (best statement I have seen yet, my own included). But of course our military did not make an aggressive response. I can't believe our military spokesman only said "we are investigating," without explaining how feigning death is a hostile activity, and shooting enemies who are engaged in hostile activity is a soldier's job description.

I agree with the Diplomads, however, that the military must be ready to censor video that is easily misunderstood, or in the case of an actual war crime, could wrongly paint our entire military with the mis-deeds of a few. The military could censor video but still let the story out, then follow Eagle1's script and protect the brand by explaining our policy for the relevant hypotheticals.

Example: The Abu Ghraib pictures should never have been released. My local paper, the San Francisco Chronicle, ran the picture of the hooded prisoner with the "electrodes" on his fingers over and over again, without ever repeating the information that the man was being spoofed and the "electrodes" were fake.

Just as our terrorist enemy does not abide by the rules of war, and hence must be treated with great suspicion, so too we are faced with a media that does not abide by principles of honest reporting, and hence should not always be trusted with full information, even when tactical information is not involved.

Half the world's press is on the side of the enemy. That fact needs to be taken into account every bit as much as the fact of explosive-belt-wearing possums.

UPDATE: Jawa and Ace are also talking about the media's search for more of that Abu Ghraib gold, as are Sasha, and lots of other smart people.

Also, signing the petition that is going around is, oh I don't know, a little like having a chance to VOTE again, and don't we have a good feeling about that? You even get to post a comment. Mine:
That soldier should be awarded a medal for his alertness in detecting covert behavior from an unsecured enemy, and for acting quickly to terminate the potential threat, in spite of great personal risk from a nearby camera-man, and the potentially lethal moral incompetence that the camera-man would almost certainly expose him to.

My fear is that the brass might say: "You know, that video LOOKS bad, so maybe we should burn this one friendly, just to prove to all the people who can't understand what is and is not bad behavior that we really do punish bad behavior." Read Dale Franks' powerful essay on the importance of demonstrating that we abide by the rules of war, and sacrificing one soldier almost seems plausible. But that would itself be breaking the rules. As Eagle1 says, our job is to illuminate. The way to create light is to do justice. The more explaining is required, the more illumination is accomplished. The brass must KNOW that if they try to sacrifice this Marine, it is THEY who will burn, and that WILL be justice. I don't think they'll be that stupid, but a few million signatures on a petition might provide a little insurance.

I had never come across Eagle1/Eaglespeak before, but he has an awesome blog. Check out, for instance, his background post on the fallujah shooting, with his from-the-horse's-mouth citations on the law of armed conflict. (Belmont has a similar background post, but not as thorough.)

Well, this is the limitation of the blogosphere at present. There is no reliable way to connect people to the information they would think is important. It's all just turning over rocks, finding the occasional slimy mollusk (Eagle1's rating in Truth Laid Bear's "ecosystem.") I'll definitely be giving Eaglespeak some visits.

Kevin Sites, who filmed the possum shooting in Fallujah, has a self-justifying post up on his blog that shows how immanently biased he really is. On the heart of the issue he writes:
According to Lt. Col Bob Miller, the rules of engagement in Falluja required soldiers or Marines to determine hostile intent before using deadly force. I was not watching from a hundred feet away. I was in the same room. Aside from breathing, I did not observe any movement at all.
That is, he interprets from the lack of observed movement that intent was not hostile. That is absurd. Hostile intent had already been determined. These were known insurgents who had been fighting from inside a mosque. It was already known that they were not bystanders. The only questions are whether the "hostile" was indeed playing possum, and hence engaging in covert action that warranted immediate termination, and whether the soldier should have known that these enemy fighters had already been taken prisoner the day before.

Sites reports that the soldier did not know that these hostiles had already been secured as prisoners the day before, and that that status was in question anyway because insurgents had re-occupied the mosque overnight. They easily could have booby-trapped bodies or armed the wounded with grenades. On the perception of possum-playing, Sites acknowledges the danger, and the possible reasonableness of the soldier's momentary preception of this activity, but tries to declare it unreasonable in the broader context. Marines had just been in the Mosque killing insurgents and those Marines:
...knew from their training to check the insurgents for weapons and explosives after disabling them, instead of leaving them where they were and waiting outside the mosque for the squad I was following to arrive.
Thus the soldiers with Sites, who went in next, should have known everything was secure. Bullshit. By Sites own report, they had not been told that there were any prisoners inside. The Marines coming out said they had shot everyone. The obvious implication, on finding a hostile playing possum, was that this body HAD NOT been secured, or it would have been reported as a prisoner. Sites is clearly glomming onto those bits of reason and evidence that seem to militate against the reasonableness of the shooting while ignoring contrary interpretations. Nowhere is this clearer than in his conclusion:
So here, ultimately, is how it all plays out: when the Iraqi man in the mosque posed a threat, he was your enemy; when he was subdued he was your responsibility; when he was killed in front of my eyes and my camera -- the story of his death became my responsibility.
Sites ASSUMES that the enemy was indeed subdued, and that the Marine should have regarded him as such. That is exactly the question, and no such assumption about the answer to it warranted.

Sites wants to present himself as an honest broker. His lengthy post is addressed to the soldiers he was embedded with. But the clear implication is that he does not even know what an honest broker is.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Gun rights for Iraqis

Belmont club has an excellent post on the "successive cities" strategy being used by the Baathists and Islamo-fascists in Iraq, and what a challenge it presents to the U.S. military. By making us do in successive cities what we did in Fallujah, they have a chance to turn Iraqis against us. But of course, Iraqis also know to blame the destruction on the Islamo-fascists, and we can use that.

One way to counter the "successive cities" strategy is to promote gun rights. The bad guys are all already armed. We need to make sure that those Iraqis who want liberty and democracy are able to keep their cities free of the vermin by having the means to kill them. The question is how to manage it. As we have learned here in America, what is needed is a two pronged strategy: arming the good guys and disarming the bad guys. Gun rights do need to be regulated if the advantage of the law abiding over the criminal is to be maximized.

One possible scheme of regulation would be to get the Iraqis to form militias where membership is conditional on the willingness of other militia members to vouch for each other's loyalty to liberty and democracy for Iraq. Iraq is a traditional society, where everything is personal connections and reputation, so the infrastructure is in place for this kind of verification process to work for most of the country. The formal rule might be that anyone who can get five other people to vouch for his loyalty gets a permit to carry firearms, openly or concealed.

These reputational links could then be used to police the system. If anyone with a gun permit is caught acting as an insurgent, all who vouched for him are disarmed. At the same time, sanctions could also be applied to higher level militia organizations. If there is any pattern of disloyalty in the ranks, a militia might be disarmed, or be barred from accepting new members until they get their loyalty rating up, likely leading to a dynamic where the most loyal militias would grow and would gain in prestige.

To take advantage of the militias, they would have to be empowered to kill any anti-regime fighters they discover. Any attempt to intimidate loyal militias by attacking them could then be met by the equivalent response. Militia members would hunt down and kill those who are threatening militia members and other innocent Iraqis. Car bomb factories are not hidden from ordinary Iraqis. Iraqis are just not empowered to take them out. That is the missing step. We need to LET Iraqis fight for their liberty.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Rogue CIA and the republican guarantee

As Senator McCain observed yesterday, President Bush is faced with a rogue intelligence agency. The CIA rebelled at his policies and tried to torpedo his re-election by illegally leaking its own biased intelligence assessments during the campaign. State is also a rogue agency, monopolized by officers who bitterly oppose to the president they are supposed to serve (as documented by Joel Mowbray in his book Dangerous Diplomacy).

The common thread is that, under current civil service laws, the president has very little power to fire or in any way punish members of these bureaucracies for even the most blatant insubordination. Only a tiny fraction of offices are filled by political appointees. The rest are near untouchable. The courts have even ruled that it is illegal for the secretary of state to fire a woman who pled guilty to felony charges. This is undemocratic. In a democracy, the people are supposed to choose who shall govern them. If they find their governors not to their liking, they are supposed to be able to “throw the bums out.” Our civil service laws contravene this fundamental principle, barring the people’s elected representative in the executive branch from throwing the bums out the bureaucracies. As a result, the people can only evict, through the electoral process, a tiny fraction of their governors.

It is undemocratic, but is it unconstitutional? Article IV section 4 of the Constitution guarantees to the states that they shall have “a republican form of government.” What is “a republican form of government?” Alexander Hamilton, in remarks before the New York Convention, declared “the true principle of republicanism” to be “that the people should choose whom they please to govern them.” (2 Debates on the Federal Constitution 257. J. Elliot ed. 1876.) Thus the principle of voter sovereignty is indirectly asserted in the Constitution, but the republican guarantee is only imposed as a requirement on the states, and it has never been interpreted by the Supreme Court to be enforceable by the courts.

Hamilton’s assertion of voter sovereignty has, however, been invoked by the Supreme Court to locate the political rights of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. In particular, it was used by the Court to strike down Congressional term limits (in Thornton v. Term Limits, 514 U. S. 779, 795 (1995)). Unfortunately, the Thornton precedent is not likely to support any broad recognition by the court of a constitutional interest in voter sovereignty because the Thornton ruling only applies to ballot access questions, while voter sovereignty has implications in at least three areas: ballot access (letting the people elect who they want to elect), civil service laws (letting the people fire, through their choice of executive officers, who they want to fire), and laws against lobbying by government.

When governments use the people’s money to tell them how to vote they are overturning the principle of voter sovereignty: that it is the people who are the master and government the slave. In the voting process, it is the people who tell the government what is right and what is wrong, not vice versa. We have laws now against government lobbying for legislation, but they are very weak, and are not recognized to be a matter of constitutional principle. What we need is a general recognition of voter sovereignty as a constitutional principle, and that means going to the source: the article IV section 4 guarantee to the states that they shall have a republican form of government.

The current failure of the courts to enforce the guarantee clause is an artifact of an unfortunate history. Very simply, no proper guarantee clause case was ever brought, until I filed suit in 2002 against a California requirement that candidates for sheriff must be members of law enforcement. The explicit justification for this law was to obstruct the will of the people. The sponsor of the law, the California Sheriff’s Association, complained that without the law, candidates from outside of law enforcement were liable to win elections (as they had indeed been doing). My main argument was on straight election law precedent, which is fully consistent with the principle of voter sovereignty. The only state interests that are recognized as legitimate in election law cases are interests in achieving free and fair elections that accurately express the will of the people. The state’s expressed interest in the California sheriff restriction—to ban would be winning candidates who do not have law enforcement background—was clearly illegitimate, but getting the courts to apply this election law precedent is another matter, as I found out, suing all the way to the Supreme Court to no avail.

My really interesting discovery in pursuing this case is the viability of a guarantee clause suit (again, providing our idiot judges will pay attention to what is important). All earlier guarantee clause suits tried to use the guarantee clause either to overturn election results (creating a non-justiciable conflict with the expressed will of the people) or to overturn laws that actually satisfy rather than violate republican principles. Still, through all of that history, the Court never completely shut the door on the possibility of a proper guarantee clause suit being brought, and I seem to have been the first to have met all the necessary conditions (suing only to overturn the offending law, not any election results, and suing on proper grounds of voter sovereignty). Unfortunately I ran into lower court judges who couldn't imagine how limiting candidacy to members of the government itself warranted any scrutiny whatsoever. To support the position that my case was a total nothing, California’s Sixth Appellate District Court actually cited pre-Civil-War state powers, without noting how they are checked by the Fourteenth Amendment. (See my Writ of Certiori to the Supreme Court.) That’s right. Thanks to my case, pre-Civil-War state powers are now standing precedent in California! Not quite what I had in mind.

At least I got the brief right. To see how guarantee clause precedent allows a valid guarantee clause case to be mounted, see my Writ, section II. If such a suit is ever won, it would open the door to recognizing voter sovereignty as a general constitutional requirement, at least at the state level. To extend the constitutional principle of voter sovereignty to the federal government, a constitutional amendment should ideally be passed. Alternatively, the Supreme Court could just do what it did in Korematsu v. United States (the internment case), where it extended the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection to apply to federal government actions, even though the Fourteenth Amendment only applies it to the states. (My analysis of Korematsu here.) In the case of the guarantee clause, such a leap might even be tenable. Given the 14th Amendment, and the New Deal Court’s destruction of the system of limited enumerated federal powers, the states are now almost fully under the power of the federal government. Since the Constitution guarantees the states a republican form of government, this could be taken to require that the federal government itself must adhere to republican principles.

If wounded Iraqi was faking death, Marine may have been right to shoot first, ask questions later

NBC is reporting the shooting of a wounded Iraqi fighter by an American Marine. (NBC misleadingly assumes he that the fighter should properly be called a prisoner.) It seems that five wounded Iraqis were taken prisoner by one batch of Marines, who then abandoned them. Another group of Marines came upon the wounded fighters and when one of these Marines thought he detected that one of the Iraqis was pretending to be dead, he shot him up.

If the Marine was right that the Iraqi was feigning death, or if he drew a reasonable inference of the same, then shooting the wounded man first and asking questions later might well have been the correct thing to do. War is not like police work where an officer has a duty not to kill unless he absolutely has to. A soldier's duty is to kill every enemy he can who is not actively trying to surrender. Feigning death is not trying to surrender, and a fighter in such circumstances could very well inflict terrible damage. Some of the fighters in Fallujah have been strapped with suicide bomber belts. In this circumstance, any covert activity, like feigning death, would seem to call for instant death.

Of course there may be more to the story. Maybe standing orders addressing such situations demand forbearance. Maybe both of the fighter's hands were already blown off and surreptitious action was clearly impossible. NBC reports that the "prisoner" (I have to put that in quotes) "did not appear to be armed or threatening in any way," but appearances can be deceiving. If the Marine detected deceit, then acting on the presumption that appearances ARE deceiving seems warranted. It is certainly not obvious that the Marine acted wrongly, never mind criminally.

If he was in the right, or was at least not criminally in the wrong, I hope the Pentagon has the balls to come out and explain to the world media--who will doubtless be crying for the Marine's head--that this is war.

Thanks to Charles at LGF for posting an excerpt. Reading comments there and at the Command Post, I see that some others were struck, as I was tonite, by the wait-and-see attitude of the network reporting on the incident. Maybe with the election over they don't see any benefit in attacking the war effort with their old gusto. If they really want to bring things into perspective, they could also report this tidbit from CNN:
About a block away, a Marine was killed and five others wounded by a booby-trapped body they found in a house after a shootout with insurgents.
(Hat tip Rant Wraith, commenting at LGF.)

Monday, November 08, 2004

Funniest video ever, plus, at least one strike for these guys

First the bad news. We have to hunt the makers of a certain "advertisement" down and put them in jail. WARNING. You might not want to watch this. We do not have to see our terrorist enemys chop off heads to know that we want to incapacitate every one of them, one way or another. The criminals who made this tape are a near cousin to the Islamo-fascist be-headers. All you need to know is that the cat in the video could not possibly have died in the particular way that it did unless the relevant parts of the car had been sharpened to a cutting edge, which no part on a factory car ever is. This car was modified to kill this cat in this way, and the videographers need to be put in jail. One strike at least.

Antidote here (though it may make you want to give the perpetrators of the above something more like 3 strikes.) Recommend dose: watch until you are laughing as hard as the people who were there (about three times).

UPDATE: Apparently the cat snuff video ad was actually made by the British advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather, working for Ford UK. Managment of both companies claim they nixed the ad idea when it was first proposed, but that employees made the video anyway. (Story here.) They also claim that the cat in the video is animated rather than real, which is most implausible. If law enforcement would confiscate Ogilvy's tapes, the veracity of animation claim could be easily determined. If the cat is real, the fact that such an ad was discussed beforehand proves that the cat was not killed accidentally. Ogilvy should be pressed to make its video-tape and computer data available so that independent experts can determine for themselves whether Ogilvy employees committed a crime.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Election was partisan interest vs. national interest

Democrats knew that a vote for Kerry was a vote against America’s interests in the world, but voted for him because the battle for Democrat interests in America was more important to them than the battle for America’s interests in the world. Indeed, Kerry epitomized this distinction between Democrat interests and national interests. This man was one of the original authors, during the Vietnam war, of the strategy now being used by the Islamo-fascist enemy to try to defeat America by breaking America's will to win at home. Kerry may not have been the first to take up that strategy during the Vietnam war, but he is the one who took it furthest, committing actual treason on the enemy's behalf, lying to Congress that his fellow soldiers were systematically committing war crimes.

Everything that Kerry has done since has been consistent with that past, voting against American power at every turn. During the campaign he even reprised his Vietnam war strategy in Iraq, trying to depict the war as a failure. To put forward a more overt enemy of America’s national interests the Democrats would have had to nominate Osama Bin Laden as their presidential candidate. Yet on domestic issues, Kerry was the perfect Democrat partisan. He has top ratings from all the Democrat-left interest groups: the anti-gun groups, the pro-choice on abortion groups, the unions, pro-entitlement groups. Thus the Democrats faced a clear decision: vote for the partisan dream candidate on domestic issues and against the national interest in international affairs, or vote for the national interest and lose the partisan battle. A remarkable number voted their partisan interests, but not enough to win.

Here is what is strange. If partisan domestic interests mean so much more to the Democrats than the national interest, why in the world didn’t they nominate a candidate that combined their domestic agenda with support for the national interest, so that voters would not have choose between the two? Why did they fail, in their choice of candidate, to sacrifice what was less important to them—their unpopular international stance—to what was more important to them, their domestic agenda? I think the answer is that they weren’t strategic. Instead of trying to pick the candidate with the best chance of winning, they went with the candidate that best represents what the party actually is. In foreign policy, the Democrats are anti-American. Like the Europeans who they so broadly admire, Democrats think that America is what is wrong with the world. Like Kerry, they have been enemies of American power since the 1960’s. Kerry’s candidacy just happened to lay this out in particularly stark fashion, so stark that the Democrat dominated mainstream media could not completely hide it, even though they refused to scrutinize Kerry’s traitorous past.

They won’t be able to protect him any longer. Over the next year, Kerry’s traitorous past will come into full view, as will the huge U.S. success in Iraq, as secular democracy succeeds and Iraq becomes the next Afghanistan. It will then be absolutely clear to everyone what a disaster a Kerry victory would have been, and the implications for Hillary in ‘08 will be devastating. With the Democrats exposed for what they are, sane people will continue departing in droves. The shrinking remnant will be ever more radicalized until the party becomes marginalized. Eventually a new two party system will emerge from Republican side, with social conservatives on one side and libertarian conservatives on the other, both competing to roll back government to its proper limited role, with the bone of contention being just how limited that limited role should be. All will be in agreement that the government should keep its hands off of the economy, stop forcing children into government schools, and stay away from people’s guns. Let’s keep it rolling y’all. Great days are coming.

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