From CNN: Bush nominates Alito to Supreme Court.
Moving quickly to pick a Supreme Court nominee after his last selection withdrew her name, President Bush on Monday nominated Circuit Court Judge Samuel Alito -- a favorite of conservatives -- to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
To see more Newsmaker Caricatures by John Cox, click here.
From FoxNews: Libby Indictments Cast Pall on White House.
With one top official facing jail time and another still under investigation, the White House is nearing a perfect storm of political events that threatens President Bush's agenda.
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, resigned on Friday after he was indicted by a special prosecutor on five counts in the investigation of the leak of a CIA officer's identity. While not widely known by the public, Libby was a key figure in the administration and integral to developing the case for the invasion of Iraq. ...
[T]he White House's worst-case scenario — indictments for both Libby and [Karl] Rove — did not materialize. The prospect of a high-level official being escorted out of the White House in handcuffs had Bush critics practically giddy with anticipation; some even referred to Fitzgerald's pending announcement as "Fitzmas."
"Had Rove been indicted, this would have been a 100-megaton explosion for the White House. But the fact that he escaped indictment and the only person indicted was Libby, who the public doesn't know much about, makes this a difficult but containable political problem," said Wayne Slater, Dallas Morning News senior political reporter and co-author of "Bush's Brain."
But Rove remains under investigation and the potential for other indictments is still on the table.
Happy Halloween, everyone!
From AFP today: Iran condemned over anti-Israel remark, regime unrepentant.
Iran was hit by a barrage of Western condemnation after its hardline president called for Israel to be "wiped off the map", but the clerical regime struck back with yet more verbal attacks against the Jewish state.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech, delivered Wednesday at a conference entitled "The World without Zionism", came just hours before a suicide bombing in Israel and provoked fresh fears that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons programme.
The European Union said Thursday that the comments -- the first time in years that such a high-ranking Iranian official has openly called for Israel's annihilation -- were "despicable and unacceptable" and "inconsistent with any claim to be a mature and responsible member of the international community". ...
And Israel, which alleges Iran is seeking nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, said the Islamic republic should be expelled from the United Nations.
But Iran's regime was unrepentant, confirming its dramatic shift to the right that came with Ahmadinejad's shock election win in June.
The spokesman of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Seyed Massoud Jazihiri, backed up Ahmadinejad by describing Israel as a "cancerous tumour".
He said the West "was right to be afraid, because two decades ago when the Imam (Khomeini) called for Israel to be wiped off the map they thought it was a slogan, but as time passes we are seeing signs of unity in the Islamic world."
"We have no doubts that at the end of the road, the victory of Muslims and the defeat of Israel is inevitable," Jazihiri told the Fars news agency.
Iran's foreign ministry also ordered its diplomats to lodge official protests over Europe's attitude toward "Zionist crimes". [Emphasis added]
UPDATE I: From Investor's Business Daily: Hate, Iranian Style.
There's nothing Israel can do to please such Islamic radicals. Ahmadinejad called Israel's recent withdrawal from the Gaza Strip only a "new instigation, which aimed at Israel's recognition by the Islamic countries." No concessions on the part of Israel hold meaning to the Iranian regime; it wants nothing less than the state's eradication, and by extension the Jews themselves.
More significant than words is what Iran has been up to. Iran's determination and ability to act against the U.S. should not be underestimated.
The November issue of the German monthly Cicero will report that, according to Western intelligence sources, the Iranian Republican Guards are providing haven in and near Tehran to 25 members of al-Qaida — from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uzbekistan and Europe. ...
What's more, the deadlier, more sophisticated bombs now being used by insurgents to kill American troops in Iraq make use of TNT from Iran seven times stronger than the TNT available in Iraq, according to a Washington Post interview of a former Iraqi army officer who is now a member of al-Qaida.
And lest there be any doubt about the fascistic tendencies of his regime, Ahmadinejad recently led a committee of Islamic clerics in banning Western films from being shown or sold in Iran. [Emphasis added]
UPDATE II -- Oct. 28: From FoxNews: Iranians Rally in Support of President's Anti-Israel Stance.
Tens of thousands of Iranians staged anti-Israel protests across the country on Friday, repeating calls by their ultraconservative president for the Jewish state's destruction. ...
Iranians staged multiple demonstrations in the capital, Tehran (search), and other cities such as Mashad in Iran's east, holding banners carrying anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian slogans. "Death to Israel, death to America," read many of the placards.
The demonstrations are part of the annual al-Quds — Jerusalem — Day protests, which were first held in 1979 after Shiite Muslim clerics took power in Iran.
The state-organized rallies are expected to grow ahead of midday mosque sermons across Iran. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians have attended previous protests.
UPDATE III: From FrontPageMagazine: Iran Calls for a New Holocaust by Robert Spencer.
If Ahmadinejad and his gang are to see that the anger of the civilized world against his criminal regime is genuine, world leaders should heed Sharon’s recommendation [to expell Iran from the U.N.] -- and also work quickly to defuse Iran’s nuclear program. Otherwise Iran’s Thug-in-Chief will almost certainly use those weapons to make sure that there is indeed a “world without Zionism” – and since the jihad Israel faces is the same jihad that threatens so much of the world today, this great “victory for the Islamic world” will only herald even larger cataclysms to come.
This cartoon is based on a suggestion from David Vest.
CNN reports today: U.S. military death toll in Iraq reaches 2,000.
From Investor's Business Daily: Death Watch 2,000.
With the 2,000th U.S. military death in Iraq near, anti-war demonstrators and the "this-is-a-quagmire" press are eagerly awaiting a painful milestone.
We see nothing to celebrate. Still, Cindy Sheehan says she'll mark the occasion by tying herself to the fence outside the White House and refusing to leave "until they agree to bring the troops home."
It will be a sad spectacle -- Sheehan and the rest of the war protesters on their macabre death watch, waiting for American heroes to die. In Sheehan's defense -- which leaves us feeling a bit odd -- we agree that every U.S. military death in Iraq has been tragic. But we don't agree with her that it's been needless.
Do Sheehan and her friends think Islamic terrorism against the West was just going to go away without military intervention? ...
To the anti-war groups and those in the media who uncritically repeat their message, we would ask: Who else might celebrate the 2,000th death in Iraq? The enemy itself, of course.
Is this the side the anti-war groups really want to be on?
Charles Johnson is tracking media references to the "grim milestone": "Grim Milestone" Watch 4.
First, being in the military is a high-risk enterprise, even when you are not in combat. Humvees roll over, helicopters crash, people commit suicide, people get hit by vehicles. People die. But in this instance, since they happened in a combat zone, they fit neatly into the meme of the leftists that "Bush Lied, People Died". They would have you believe that all of these brave souls died as victims of imperialist government fighting in an illegal war. Bringthemhomenow.org says"So far, more than 1950 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq ...."
But only slightly more than 1500 have actually died from hostile fire. More than 400 military members have died due to non-combat causes. And not all of the almost 2000 deaths have actually happened in Iraq. If a military member dies in the AOR, on orders for OIF, his/her death is counted towards "the milestone of 2,000 U.S. military deaths in Iraq".
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, director of the force's combined press center, is pushing back against the inevitable media tide. He deserves our support. In an e-mail to the press that should be disseminated far and wide, he properly challenged the anti-war movement's number as a phony excuse to protest.
"I ask that when you report on the events, take a moment to think about the effects on the families and those serving in Iraq," Boylan wrote on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press (which has been among Sheehan's most ardent sycophants). "The 2,000 service members killed in Iraq supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom is not a milestone. It is an artificial mark on the wall set by individuals or groups with specific agendas and ulterior motives." [Emphasis added]
AS the aggregate number of American military fatalities in Iraq has crept up over the past 13 months - from 1,000 to 1,500 dead, and now to 2,000 - public support for the war has commensurately declined. With the nightly ghoulish news of improvised explosives and suicide bombers, Americans perhaps do not appreciate that the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the effort to establish a democratic government in Iraq have been accomplished at relatively moderate cost - two-thirds of the civilian fatalities incurred four years ago on the first day of the war against terrorism.
Comparative historical arguments, too, are not much welcome in making sense of the tragic military deaths - any more than citing the tens of thousands Americans who perish in traffic accidents each year. And few care to hear that the penultimate battles of a war are often the costliest - like the terrible summer of 1864 that nearly ruined the Army of the Potomac and almost ushered in a Copperhead government eager to stop at any cost the Civil War, without either ending slavery or restoring the Union. The battle for Okinawa was an abject bloodbath that took more than 50,000 American casualties, yet that campaign officially ended less than six weeks before Nagasaki and the Japanese surrender.
Compared with Iraq, America lost almost 17 times more dead in Korea, and 29 times more again in Vietnam - in neither case defeating our enemies nor establishing democracy in a communist north.
Contemporary critics understandably lament our fourth year of war since Sept. 11 in terms of not achieving a victory like World War II in a similar stretch of time. But that is to forget the horrendous nature of such comparison when we remember that America lost 400,000 dead overseas at a time when the country was about half its present size.
From the St. Petersburg Times: Jeb: This is how to respond to hurricanes.
Gov. Jeb Bush praised Florida emergency management officials on Monday while blasting the efforts of Louisiana officials during Hurricane Katrina.
Bush said Florida responded successfully in the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma because the state relied on the expertise of local emergency managers. He said relying on federal emergency officials can be a fatal blunder.
"Our system is a bottoms-up system," Bush said. "In the case of Louisiana it was left to the federal government to fill a void and the consequences are there for the rest of the world to see."
"This is the model for how to respond to hurricanes," Bush said of Florida. "Compare this to what happened a month and a half ago in other parts of the country."
From AP: Wilma Kills 6 in Fla.; 6M Without Power.
Hurricane Wilma left a wide, messy swath of damage Monday as it sped across Florida with winds of more than 100 mph, shattering skyscraper windows, peeling off roofs and knocking out power to more than 6 million people from Key West to Daytona Beach.
State and local officials blamed at least six deaths on Wilma and insured damages were estimated in the billions. Even storm-savvy Floridians found Wilma fearsome as it sliced through the middle of heavily populated South Florida. It was the worst hurricane to hit the Fort Lauderdale area since King in 1950, officials said.
The Category 3 hurricane littered the landscape with damaged signs, awnings, fences, billboards, roof tiles, pool screens, street lights and electrical lines. Felled trees dotted even expressways.
More than one-third of Key West flooded, cutting off the island, and there was scattered floodwater elsewhere.
To see more Newsmaker Caricatures by John Cox, click here.
From FoxNews: Hurricane Wilma Makes Landfall; Floridians Begin to Evacuate.
Hurricane Wilma, lumbering but deadly and coming on the heels of several disastrous storms, officially made landfall late Friday afternoon.
The center of the storm's eye arrived at the Mexican island of Cozumel at 4:30 p.m. EDT, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said. Florida officials and residents were bracing for Wilma's arrival, expected on Monday.
The Category 4 storm killed 13 people in Haiti and Jamaica. The Cuban government evacuated nearly 370,000 people, and up to 3 feet of rain was expected in some parts of the island nation.
The storm was expected to hover over the Yucatan Peninsula for two more days while lashing at Cuba, before making its way toward the Sunshine State. ...
In Mexico on Friday, Wilma was laying waste to some of that country's prized resort towns. The storm's winds and surges popped out windows and clawed at beachfront hotels.
Meanwhile, Florida officials and residents were bracing for the storm's arrival. Evacuation orders were issued for the west coast town of Naples and a nearby island. Florida Keys residents also were asked to start leaving.
UPDATE --Oct. 22:Hurricane Wilma Holds Over Yucatan.
From FoxNews: Saddam Pleads Not Guilty.
At the start, the 68-year-old ousted Iraqi leader — looking thin in a dark gray suit and open-collared shirt — stood and asked the presiding judge: "Who are you? I want to know who you are."
"I do not respond to this so-called court, with all due respect to its people, and I retain my constitutional right as the president of Iraq," he said, brushing off the judge's attempts to interrupt him.
"Neither do I recognize the body that has designated and authorized you, nor the aggression because all that has been built on false basis is false."
From The New York Times: Iraqis Watch the Trial on TV, With Emotions Running High.
Viewpoints varied widely, some calling it a tawdry display of victor's justice, others a long-awaited, if somewhat unsatisfactory, accounting for sins too numerous to list.
The opinions generally divided along ethnic and sectarian lines, with many Sunni Arabs expressing some sympathy for Mr. Hussein, one of their own, and long-persecuted Shiites and Kurds barely containing their hatred. Everyone, though, seemed to take notice of Mr. Hussein's fierce disposition and his unwillingness to bend to his captors.
This cartoon was originally posted in February during the Eason Jordan controversy. Jordan, then CNN's chief news executive, had accused the U.S. military of "targeting" journalists during battle. And though he later resigned, a CNN report today indicates that his legacy lives on: Spanish judge wants U.S. soldiers arrested.
A Spanish judge issued an international arrest warrant Wednesday for three U.S. soldiers, charging them with murder in the death of Spanish TV cameraman Jose Couso in Baghdad, Iraq.
Couso, who worked for Spain's Telecinco network, died at the Palestine Hotel on April 8, 2003, as U.S. forces advanced to take control of the city in April 2003. ...
The warrant said the soldiers were assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division and identified them as Sgt. Thomas Gibson, commander of the tank that allegedly fired a projectile at the hotel where Couso was filming; Capt. Philip Wolford, Gibson's superior; and Lt. Colonel Philip D. Camp, the captain's superior, CNN+ reported.
Setting aside the absurdity of the Spanish arrest warrants (see Barcepundit for commentary on that issue), let's look at the Palestine Hotel incident itself. Being a news organization, one would expect CNN to relate all important information regarding the incident. Here's what the article mentions:
The U.S. Central Command said at the time that U.S. forces came under "significant enemy fire" from both buildings [the Iraq's Ministry of Information and the nearby Palestine Hotel] and responded "consistent with the inherent right of self-defense." ...
Journalists from three Western television networks told CNN they were in the Palestine Hotel when the tank fired and saw no outgoing fire from it.
In short, the CNN article essentially repeats (and links to) the original CNN report from the time of the incident. Has no new information come out since then? Were there no other witnesses or reporters on the scene? Are we to believe that U.S. soldiers may have deliberately targeted journalists?
If you want to know more about what happened, what other journalists have reported, or if you just want to read some excellent combat reporting, I highly recommend a post by Grayhawk from February: Targeting Journalists. Two journalists (from the Boston Herald and the Los Angles Times) provide their accounts of the Palestine Hotel incident from the perspective of the troops on the ground, and they leave no doubt as to why an accidental firing took place. I can't recommend this post too strongly, for it not only provides crucial information about a tragic incident used to slander our military, it also documents the difficult and heroic efforts of our troops.
The question is, why hasn't CNN read these reports? And if they have, why didn't they relate them in the today's story?
From FoxNews: Iraqis Continue Checking Referendum Results.
The first bags containing sheets of vote counts from Iraq's provinces arrived in Baghdad for tabulation, but delays from other areas mean a final result in the landmark referendum may not be known until the end of the week, election officials said Tuesday.
Complicating the count is the need to audit results that have raised eyebrows because they show an unexpectedly high number of "yes" votes, triggering questions of irregularities. Two crucial provinces that could determine the outcome are apparently among the regions that need investigation.
Despite these questions, and despite concerns about what the constitution will ultimately mean for Iraq and America, TIA Daily's Robert Tracinski pointed out something of which we can be certain: Zarqawi loses, again.
The significance of Saturday's vote on the Iraqi constitution is not that the constitution itself will be adopted. The constitution provides only woozy protections for individual rights, offset by a possible basis for theocratic rule, plus a mechanism to allow Shiites to set up a "federal" theocracy in Southern Iraq -- with all of this to be decided later on. So it decides very little about the actual shape of the Iraqi government.
What is significant about the election is that it amounts to a public endorsement of how those decisions are to be made: through electoral politics, rather than through terrorist bombings. While many voted for the constitution because it increased the power of their group (whether Shiite or Kurdish), others, like the man quoted in this New York Times article, voted for it because they want a system in which government depends on their consent. ...
The election was a loss for the terrorist insurgency, which mounted even fewer attacks during this election than during the parliamentary elections in January. This time, crucially, Sunnis did not boycott the polls and many apparently voted in favor of the constitution. This could be the beginning of the end for the insurgency, as Sunnis reluctantly choose to engage in political debate rather than to obstruct it. ...
[T]he real battle in Iraq becomes a political one to prevent a theocratic takeover in the south. Having failed to get a commanding majority in the January elections, the Iranian-backed Shiite theocrats have fallen back on a new strategy, campaigning for a semi-independent "federal" region in the south, where they have the votes to take over.
This merely highlights the fact that the real enemy in this war is Iran, which arms and finances these Shiite theocrats and provides the theocratic model they hope to emulate. Meanwhile, our diplomats are at least beginning to issue threats against Iran for providing high explosives to insurgents who have attacked American and British troops. But when will this stop being a mere war of words?
From Reuters: Hariri probe raises stakes for Syria's Assad, Lebanon.
The leaders of Syria and Lebanon could be fighting for political survival if, as many expect, a U.N. inquiry blames Syrian and pro-Syrian Lebanese officials for the killing of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.
Analysts and diplomats say they expect a cycle of bombings and killings to continue or intensify in Lebanon, where Syrian influence remains strong and where pro-Syrians will challenge any such U.N. findings as politically motivated. ...
Chief U.N. investigator Detlev Mehlis presents his report to Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday over the February 14 assassination of Hariri and 20 others in a truck bomb in Beirut.
Diplomats and Lebanese political sources have told Reuters they expect Mehlis to name some Syrian officials in his report, as well as several pro-Syrian Lebanese officials and others.
It was not clear whether the suspects would include members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's inner circle.
From The Washington Times: Bashar Assad under seige by Nir Boms.
Since the beginning of his tenure in June 2000, Mr. Assad has little to show to his credit. Following the collapse of Iraq, Syria lost not only its remaining Ba'athist ally, but also a significant source of income that came, partly, due to its involvement with the oil-for-food scheme. Mr. Assad's perceived lack of ability to curb international pressures has caused Syria to unilaterally withdraw and lose much of his grip over Lebanon, creating a severe financial and prestige crisis in the ranks of the Syrian army. But that withdrawal, unlike the Israeli withdrawal of Ariel Sharon from Gaza, has brought little international credit to Mr. Assad. On the contrary, Syria's lack of ability (or will) to control its border with Iraq has not only showed its weakness but also further heightened the level of American frustration with Syria. Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said recently that the United States's "patience [with Syria] is running out" and that other options will be considered should Syria fail to take matters into its own hands.
To see more Newsmaker Caricatures by John Cox, click here.
UPDATE -- Oct. 25: From FoxNews: Arabs Silent on Syria's Alleged Role in Hariri Assassination.
Arab countries have remained silent in the days after a U.N. report was released implicating top members of Syrian President Bashar Assad's inner circle in former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's assassination.
The United States was trying to muster support among its allies for a tough U.N. Security Council resolution that would include sanctions against Syria for its alleged role in the Hariri assassination. The Security Council was to meet on the issue Tuesday.
From FoxNews: Neo-Nazi March Causes Riots.
Protesters at a white supremacists' march threw rocks at police, vandalized vehicles and stores and cursed the mayor for allowing the event.
Mayor Jack Ford said when he and a local minister tried to calm the rioters Saturday, they were cursed and a masked gang member threatened to shoot him. ...
At least two dozen members of the National Socialist Movement, which calls itself "America's Nazi Party," had gathered at a city park to march under police protection. Organizers said they were demonstrating against black gangs they said were harassing white residents.
The violence broke out about one-quarter of a mile away along the planned march route shortly before it was to begin. One group of men pounded on a convenience store, and others overturned vehicles. ...
When the rioting began, Ford tried to negotiate with those involved, but "they weren't interested in that." He said people in the crowd swore at him and wanted to know why he was protecting the Nazis.
They were mostly "gang members who had real or imagined grievances and took it as an opportunity to speak in their own way," Ford said.
"I was chagrined that there were obvious mothers and children in the crowd with them," he said.
Thomas Frisch, 76, said a large group of men destroyed the exterior of a gas station next to his home of 30 years.
"A whole big gang started to come in here. Next thing you know, they're jumping on the car. Then they overturned it. Then they started on the building, breaking windows, ripping the bars off," he said.
Ratajski and his nephew left Jim & Lou's Bar as a crowd gathered in front, pelting police with rocks and breaking the windows. "I was shaking. I feared for my life," said Ratajski's nephew, Terry Rybczynski.
UPDATE I: FoxNews has updated the above link, adding and deleting information. This was added:
The neighborhood northwest of downtown, full of tree-lined streets and well-kept brick homes, once was a thriving Polish community. But within the last decade it's become home to poorer residents. ...
The neo-Nazi group became interested in the neighborhood because of a white resident's complaints to police about gang violence, Bill White, a group spokesman, said earlier this month. ...
Rioters set fire to 86-year-old Louis Ratajski's neighborhood pub, Jim & Lou's Bar, but he and his nephew, Terry Rybczynski, escaped the flames.
And in a Reuters article, Mayor Ford said of the violent reaction by gangs: "That's exactly what (the white supremacist group) wanted."
UPDATE III: From CNN: Mayor: Nazis had right to march in neighborhood.
FoxNews reports today that voting for the Iraqi constitutional referendum has begun.
Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, also weighed in, ordering Shiites to vote "yes" in the referendum, one of his aides, Faisal Thbub, said. It was the most direct show of support for the charter by al-Sistani, whose call brought out huge numbers of voters to back Shiite parties in January elections.
Though the constitutional compromise is being hailed, VOA reports: Some Iraqis Fear Constitution Will Give Power to Iran (via Free Thoughts).
For months, secular Iraqi politicians like Mithal al-Alousi have been warning that Shi'ite Iran is trying to stoke sectarian tension and is aiming to create a breakaway Islamic state in the mostly-Shi'ite southern Iraq.
"I am very sure we have Iranian influence in Basra. We have Iranian influence in Amarah. We have the Iranian intelligence agency. They have control in Basra," he said.
U.S. and British military intelligence officials say they believe Iran is running intelligence-gathering operations in southern Iraq and providing arms and money to several active Islamic groups operating in the region.
The groups are accused of carrying out attacks on coalition forces, imposing Islamic laws by force, and assassinating former members of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party.
The largest of these Islamic groups is the Badr Organization, a Shi'ite militia force of about 20,000 men, trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The Badr group also acts as the armed wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which operated out of Iran for decades during Saddam's rule and is now the largest and the most powerful political party in Iraq.
The head of the SCIRI party, religious cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, has been the leading proponent of a provision in Iraq's draft constitution, which calls for the creation of a Shi'ite mini-state in the oil-rich south.
The federalist arrangement is also supported by members of the Islamic Dawa Party, led by interim Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Like SCIRI, the Dawa Party has strong ties to Iran. [Emphasis added]
Other expressions of concern over Iran's influence in Iraq:
From Space War: Iran's Influence Growing In Iraq by Martin Sieff, UPI Senior News Analyst:
Prime Minister al-Jaafari and the United Iraqi Alliance he leads represents the Shiite majority and dominates the government. Al-Jaafari's own al-Dawaa party has very strong ties to Iran. For that matter, so does Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi who runs energy policy. U.S. intelligence concluded last year that he may have given crucial U.S. intelligence secrets to Tehran. ...
Jaafari's United Iraq Alliance looks to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani as its political as well as religious mentor. Sistani has been quiet, politic, cautious and shrewd since Saddam was toppled. But two facts about him stand out. He remains a citizen of the Islamic Republic of Iran and in the two and a half years since U.S. forces liberated Baghdad, he has never once officially met any U.S. representatives.
Jaafari's appointment as prime minister was welcomed in Washington as a giant stride toward the goal of establishing a peaceful, stable, constitutional state in Iraq friendly to the United States. But his emergence as the first Shiite national leader of Iraq in its history may also be seen part of a very different process -- the rise of a new, militant, politicized and revolutionary Shiism articulated and shaped by the late Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran.
From the New Hampshire Union Leader: Iran hopes constitution bolsters Shiites by Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press Writer:
There is little question that Iran hopes the referendum on the Iraqi constitution will help consolidate the power of Shiites in Iraq after decades of Sunni Arab domination.
Others see more sinister goals.
U.S. officials have accused Iran of secretly backing the Sunni-led insurgency in Iraq to reduce the impact of America's victory there as it tries to strengthen democracy in the region. Tehran has repeatedly said it doesn't see Iraq as a battleground between Iran and the United States.
This cartoon is from October 2003 and is in our book Black & White World II.
Two years later and Syria has still not been confronted with much more than warnings. CNN reports the latest in Bush's war of words: Bush demands Syria be 'good neighbor'.
President Bush on Wednesday called on Syria's government to be a "good neighbor" in the Middle East, warning Damascus not to interfere in Lebanon, incite Palestinian militants or allow insurgents to cross into Iraq. ...
He also demanded that Damascus pay closer attention to its border with Iraq, where U.S. troops have battled an insurgency since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
"We expect Syria to do everything in her power to shut down the transshipment of suiciders and killers into Iraq," Bush told reporters at the White House. "We expect Syria to be a good neighbor to Iraq."
U.S. officials have complained that insurgents, including Islamic militants linked to waves of suicide bombings, have been crossing into Iraq from Syria.
U.S. and Iraqi troops have launched recent offensives in towns near the border to crack down on insurgents, who have killed hundreds of U.S. troops since Bush declared an end to "major combat" in May 2003.
After the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, warned last month that "time is running out on Damascus," U.S. officials even debated launching military strikes inside the Syrian border against the insurgency. But at an Oct. 1 "principals" meeting, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice successfully opposed such a move, according to two U.S. government sources who are not authorized to speak on the record. Rice argued that diplomatic isolation is working against al-Assad, especially on the eve of a U.N. report that may blame Syria for the murder of Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri.
Robert Tracinski commented:
Rice's argument that diplomatic isolation is "working" has some merit -- under pressure from a UN investigation, the Syrian interior minister and former intelligence chief for Lebanon just committed "suicide" under predictably mysterious circumstances.
But the real goal in Syria is not to "squeeze" them and get better cooperation against the insurgency in Iraq -- as the article implies. The goal is to topple a terrorist-sponsoring regime, and for that reason we should be stepping up our pressure on Syria to include military action, rather than holding our fire. [Emphasis added]
Yet in his speech just last week President Bush said:
... [W]e're determined to deny radical groups the support and sanctuary of outlaw regimes. State sponsors like Syria and Iran have a long history of collaboration with terrorists, and they deserve no patience from the victims of terror. The United States makes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbor them, because they're equally as guilty of murder. [Emphasis added]
"Deserve no patience"? When will Bush's actions match his words?
Tomorrow night -- Thursday, October 13, at 8:30 pm Eastern -- John and I will be interviewed in a TIA Daily subscribers-only telephone conference hosted by Robert Tracinski. Robert is the editor and publisher of the TIA Daily e-mail newsletter and the monthly magazine The Intellectual Activist where our cartoons and cover illustrations appear regularly. A question-and-answer period will follow the interview.
We figure that a few of our blog readers who are not TIA Daily subscribers might be interested in hearing the interview. So TIA is offering ten C&F guest passes for the chance to listen and participate. The first ten people to e-mail me (at [address deleted]) will be added to a guest list on a first-come-first-served basis. We wish we could offer more, but there's a limit to how many phone lines will be available for the conference call. (And keep in mind that you will have to pay your own phone charges for the call, which will be about an hour. Participants will be sent full instructions.)
We're looking forward to the interview and a chance to talk about our work. I'll post an update when the guest list is full.
UPDATE I -- Oct. 13 Guest passes still available for tonight's interview. E-mail request to [addrss deleted].
UPDATE II The guest list is closed. Thanks to everyone who requested a pass. If you haven't already received dail-in instructions, you will.
Last Friday, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency and its head, Mohamed ElBaradei, won the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize. Iran Press News posted an AFP story stating that Iran fears an emboldened IAEA after Nobel prize. And today FoxNews reports that diplomats say Iran may compromise on nukes to avoid U.N. Security Council sanctions.
Besides seeking access to two military sites, the [IAEA] agency also wants to interview military officials thought to be associated with what Iran calls a purely civilian nuclear program. ...
Iran strongly denies assertions from the United States and its allies that its nuclear program is a cover for a weapons program or that its military is involved in atomic activities.
But is there any reason to believe this isn't more of Iran's "cheat and retreat" delay tactics? No. In fact, other news last week indicates there is even more reason for concern. The Washington Times reported that, contrary to public statements by the regime, the Iranian military has effectively taken control of nuclear program.
Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has placed the military firmly in control of his nation's nuclear program, undercutting his government's claim that the program is intended for civilian use, according to a leading opposition group.
Leaders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the force created specifically to defend the 1979 Islamic revolution, now dominate Iran's Supreme National Security Council, the country's top foreign policy-making body under the constitution.
Mr. Ahmadinejad, a little-known former mayor of Tehran before his surprise election in July, is a former IRGC commander, as is new council Secretary-General Ali Larijani, who has taken the lead in negotiations about Iran's nuclear programs.
Revolutionary Guard commanders also have taken charge of the council's internal security, strategy and political posts, according to a report issued by the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran. A Revolutionary Guard veteran even serves as the council's press spokesman.
The simply fact is Iran cannot reconcile a "purely civilian nuclear program" with its weekly calls for "Death to America!"
When Ahmadinejad addressed the UN general assembly last month, far from offering a compromise on the nuclear issue, he laid into the US and its allies, including Britain, accusing them of sponsoring terrorism. Mr Straw's response? To reassure the Iranians that the crisis between Iran and the West would "not be resolved by military means, let's be clear about that". And even when the IAEA finally agreed to refer Iran to the security council, the timing and manner of reporting Iran was deliberately left open "to allow room for more negotiation", as one IAEA official explained.
Mr ElBaradei's disinclination to make Iran fulfil its international obligations is, of course, one of the reasons that he has been awarded the Nobel peace prize, a decision that will have the mullahs falling about with laughter in Teheran this weekend. This, after all, was the same ElBaradei who said he had no evidence that Libya was building an atom bomb until Colonel Gaddafi saw the light after the Iraq war and publicly renounced his nuclear weapons programme.
I've noticed that we live in an age in which judges and legal minds seem to hide their own judicial philosophy from themselves. And that might explain why a Harriet Miers has reached the age of 60 and no one seems to know what she thinks.
Having a philosophy is all too big and too dangerous--paper trails, insights inadequately phrased that come back to haunt. Lawyers with ambition seem to have become adept at hiding their essential intellectual nature from themselves. They break the law down into tiny chewable pieces and endlessly masticate them. They break it down into small manageable bits, avoiding the larger abstractions. It's one of the reasons they're so boring.
In a highly politicized climate it's not really convenient for lawyers to know their deepest beliefs and convictions. Robert Bork, serious thinker and mature concluder, became bork, living verb. Or rather living past-tense verb.
Only reluctantly and only with time do lawyers now develop a philosophy. They get on the court, and reveal it to us day by day. And reveal it, one senses, to themselves.
Right Wing News polled right-leaning bloggers about the Harriet Miers nomination. See the results here.
Glenn Reynolds wonders if there is a Meirs meltdown in process.
To see more Newsmaker Caricatures by John Cox, click here.
UPDATE -- Oct. 11 From FoxNews: Conservative Critics Question Miers' Abilities.
Conservatives continue to criticize President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court although no senators have joined the opposition yet.
Almost half of GOP senators are not convinced that Miers is the right person for the job, according to a survey conducted by the Washington Times. Most senators said they plan to announce whether they will vote for the nominee after her confirmation hearings, which aren't yet scheduled.
From AFP: Islam permits killing of 'infidel' civilians: Zarqawi tape (via Jihad Watch).
DUBAI -- Al Qaeda frontman in Iraq Abu Musab Al Zarqawi has said Islam permits the killing of "infidel" civilians, according to an audiotape broadcast on the Internet early Saturday.
"In Islam, making the difference is not based on civilians and military, but on the basis of Muslims and infidels," said the voice attributed to the fugitive leader who has a 25-million-dollar price on his head.
"The Muslim's blood cannot be spilled whatever his work or place, while spilling the blood of the infidel, whatever his work or place, is authorized if he is not trustworthy," said the tape, whose veracity could not be determined.
The recording comes a day after US officials claimed to have seized a letter allegedly sent to Zarqawi by Al Qaeda number two Ayman Zawahiri, in which he raised concerns over the impact on Arab opinion of videotaped executions.
Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born Islamist extremist, is Iraq's most wanted man.
His Al Qaeda Group of Jihad in the Land of Two Rivers has claimed responsibility for some of the most gruesome attacks in Iraq, including the beheadings of foreign hostages and Iraqis.
UPDATE I -- Oct. 10: Regarding President Bush's speech last week, I'm happy to note that he finally -- four years after 9/11 -- came out and explicitly named the enemy: "Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; still others, Islamo-fascism." For this, we applaud the President. Unfortunately, in the very next sentence he quickly added: "Whatever it's called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam." "Very different"? There may be many secularized, moderate Muslims today. But to say what motivates the terrorists is somehow foreign to Islam is ridiculous. Apparently Bush is still disarmed by the some sort of multicultural/religious sensitivity. Investor's Business Daily had an excellent editorial detailing the shortcomings of President Bush's speech: Defining The Enemy.
Continuing to pretend that terrorism is a distortion of Islam's supposedly "peaceful" and "tolerant" nature — and not a predictable outcome of jihad, its 6th pillar — may soothe the savage beast of political correctness. But it's no way to win a war against real savages. That can only come from frank national discourse over what is motivating them, where they are getting that motivation, and how to implement effective methods to disrupt it.
UPDATE II: The first article above mentions a letter seized by the U.S. military, which indicated "concerns over the impact on Arab opinion of videotaped executions." There was even more to the letter than that. From CNN: Pentagon: Bin Laden deputy complains about money, Iraq tactics.
An intercepted letter from Osama bin Laden's deputy to the al Qaeda leader in Iraq complains that the terrorist network is short of cash and faces defeat in Afghanistan, a Pentagon spokesman says. [Emphasis added]
UPDATE III -- Oct. 11: The seized letter has now been fully released and has made the main story on CNN's site: Al Qaeda letter called 'chilling'.
The letter outlines a four-stage plan to expand the war in Iraq: Expel U.S. forces, establish an Islamic authority, take the fight to Iraq's secular neighbors and battle with Israel -- "because Israel was established only to challenge any new Islamic entity."
The U.S. government is getting set to add billions of dollars to its budget to build a stockpile of drugs to fight the threat of a deadly avian flu virus, and European drugmakers are considered the top candidates for federal funds.
But White House officials will meet with representatives from the U.S. pharmaceutical industry Friday to encourage them to get involved in making flu vaccine amid fears of an avian flu pandemic, CNN has learned.
Most U.S. drugmakers have stopped making flu vaccines for a variety of reasons, but many public health advocates believe having a reliable supply of the vaccine may be the best way to contain a "bird flu" pandemic in humans.
The avian flu, also known as H5N1, has killed more than 60 people in Asia. Some public health experts are concerned that it could surface here, particularly after scientists announced Wednesday they had reconstructed the influenza virus that killed up to 50 million people in 1918 -- and discovered that it was a bird flu that had jumped to humans. ...
"People are really starting to get nervous," said [analyst for German bank WestLB Andreas] Theisen, who has seen colleagues in Germany buy avian flu vaccines for their families. "If [avian flu] really materializes, it will be hard to get anything.
UPDATE II -- Oct. 10: From CNN: MD: Avian flu must mutate for it to sicken humans.
A physician monitoring the threat of avian influenza says a key question is whether the strain of bird flu in Asia has mutated into a flu that could result in a human pandemic.
Dr. Marc Siegel, author of "False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear," said it's likely that such a pandemic could occur "over the next 50 years and maybe even over the next 10 or 20," but he said "it may very well not be this bug."
This cartoon was originally posted on Feb. 8 when the story first broke.
Here's the latest from The New York Sun: Senate Will Probe Saudi Distribution Of Hate Materials.
The American government is demanding that Saudi Arabia account for its distribution of hate material to American mosques, as the State Department pressed Saudi officials for answers last week and as the Senate later this month plans to investigate the propagation of radical Wahhabism on American shores.
The flurry of activity comes months after a report from the Center for Religious Freedom discovered that dozens of mosques in major cities across the country, including New York, Washington, and Los Angeles, were distributing documents, bearing the seal of the government of Saudi Arabia, that incite Muslims to acts of violence and promote hatred of Jews and Christians.
Via Charles Johnson who has more information in this post.
UPDATE -- Oct. 13: Robert Spencer posts information on a campaign to hold the Saudis accountable: Take action to stop Saudi Hate Propaganda in America (via Tom Pechinski).
From The Sun: Muslims win toy pigs ban.
NOVELTY pig calendars and toys have been banned from a council office -- in case they offend Muslim staff.
Workers in the benefits department at Dudley Council, West Midlands, were told to remove or cover up all pig-related items, including toys, porcelain figures, calendars and even a tissue box featuring Winnie the Pooh and Piglet.
From The Telegraph: Making a pig's ear of defending democracy by Mark Steyn.
Is it really a victory for "tolerance" to say that a council worker cannot have a Piglet coffee mug on her desk? And isn't an ability to turn a blind eye to animated piglets the very least the West is entitled to expect from its Muslim citizens? If Islam cannot "co-exist" even with Pooh or the abstract swirl on a Burger King ice-cream, how likely is it that it can co-exist with the more basic principles of a pluralist society? As A A Milne almost said: "They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace/ Her Majesty's Law is replaced by Allah's."
From FoxNews: DeLay Indicted on Money Laundering Charge.
A Texas grand jury on Monday re-indicted Rep. Tom DeLay (search) on charges of conspiring to launder money and money laundering after the former majority leader attacked last week's indictment on technical grounds.
The new indictment, handed up by a grand jury seated Monday, contains two counts: conspiring to launder money and money laundering. The latter charge carries a penalty of up to life in prison. Last week, DeLay was charged with conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws.
Defense lawyers asked a judge Monday to throw out the first indictment, arguing that the charge of conspiring to violate campaign finance laws was based on a statute that didn't take effect until 2003 — a year after the alleged acts.
To see more Newsmaker Caricatures by John Cox, click here.
From AP: EU Wants Shared Control of Internet.
BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Union insisted Friday that governments and the private sector must share the responsibility of overseeing the Internet, setting the stage for a showdown with the United States on the future of Internet governance.
A senior U.S. official reiterated Thursday that the country wants to remain the Internet's ultimate authority, rejecting calls in a United Nations meeting in Geneva for a U.N. body to take over.
EU spokesman Martin Selmayr said a new cooperation model was important "because the Internet is a global resource."
A stalemate over who should serve as the principal traffic cops for Internet routing and addressing could derail the summit, which aims to ensure a fair sharing of the Internet for the benefit of the whole world.
At issue is who would have ultimate authority over the Internet's master directories, which tell Web browsers and e-mail programs how to direct traffic.
That role has historically gone to the United States, which created the Internet as a Pentagon project and funded much of its early development. The U.S. Commerce Department has delegated much of that responsibility to a U.S.-based private organization with international board members, but Commerce ultimately retains veto power.
Some countries have been frustrated that the United States and European countries that got on the Internet first gobbled up most of the available addresses required for computers to connect, leaving developing nations with a limited supply to share.
From Free2Innovate.net: The Internet: Brought to You By Iran, Syria and China (hat tip Free Thoughts).
Make no mistake, this bid is about control of the Internet, its operations and its content - and it's horrible news for anyone who wants to see the Internet flourish as an engine of technological innovation, economic growth and the free exchange of ideas and information.
The U.S. Government has signaled it will stand by the current system of a business-government partnership to determine the best policies for the Internet.
ICANN may have its faults -- indeed, I have documented some of its flaws on this site -- but right now it looks pretty good compared to what the EU and "Axis of Bureaucracy" are dreaming up for the future of the Internet.
UPDATE I -- Oct. 3: From last week's Washington Times: U.S. tells nations hands of Internet (hat tip J.P. Medved).
UPDATE II -- Oct. 10: From The Wall Street Journal: The World Wide Web (of Bureaucrats) (hat tip Tom Pechinski).