Like Dr. Seuss, Walt Disney is not the first person who comes to mind when thinking of editorial cartoons. But like Dr. Seuss, Walt Disney also produced a wealth of work during World War II, and you'll find it all in the excellent DVD set Walt Disney Treasures: On The Front Lines.
The topics of these animated shorts range from the Seven Dwarves selling war bonds to the proper use of a .55 caliber anti-tank rifle. But there are films with strong editorial content as well. "Education for Death" follows the life of a boy in Nazi Germany as he is indoctrinated to become an unquestioning soldier. "Reason & Emotion" examines how Hitler enslaves reason by making appeals to fear, hate, racial pride, and sympathy.
But by far the highlight of the DVD set is the feature-length 1943 film "Victory Through Air Power," based on the book by the same title. The film stars Alexander P. de Seversky who, with the invaluable help of Disney graphics and animation, made the case for the development of long-range bombers as the best route to victory over Japan. Walt Disney, being convinced of these ideas, sought to convince both politicians and the public.
Seversky argued that bombing the industrial centers of Japan was the only way to cut the long supply lines to the Japanese war front and end the war. The same strategy was being used successfully against Nazi Germany but only because of the close proximity of central Germany to allied air fields in Europe. To come within the a similar range of Japanese industrial centers, many battles for small islands would have to take place costing countless more American lives. Seversky convincingly argues that long-range bombers would eliminate the necessity of island-to-island battles, and that as such limited resources should be devoted to their speedy development.
According to the DVD, the film "changed FDR's way of thinking -- he agreed that Seversky was right." And that "it was only after Roosevelt saw Victory Through Air Power that our country made the commitment to long-range bombing."
Think about that for a moment. To influence the opinion of American citizens and politicians, a film was produced during a time of war that openly advocated victory through the swift, total destruction of the enemy's war-making capabilities in a way that would spare as many Americans as possible. Clearly we live in different times.
Besides being a strong political statement, "Victory Through Air Power" is also an amazing work of art. The climax of the film is the bombing of Japan, which is entirely animated. Seeking to underscore the idea emotionally, the final sequence (frames excerpted above -- click to enlarge) shows an American eagle sweeping down on a Japanese octopus whose tentacles are forced to release captive lands. It's a powerful sequence that leaves it's message clear: We can defeat Japan by striking the command and industrial centers from the air until it dies or surrenders. (You can see the influence of this visual in one of our cartoons here.)
You can learn more about the book and film at Wikipedia: Victory Through Air Power.
UPDATE -- May 4: I have fixed an important mistake above. I meant to say "in a way that would spare as many Americans as possible." Instead I had "in a way that would spare as few Americans as possible" -- the "few" was residue from another edit, as in "risk as few American lives as possible." Thanks to Jonathan Murray for pointing out the error.
This carrtoon was originally posted on August 6, 2006 and is one of over 400 illustrations you'll find in our latest book Black & White World III, which can be ordered via Cox & Forkum, The Steyn Store, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.
From World Politics Watch: How the Media Partnered With Hezbollah: Harvard's Cautionary Report.
While the war between Israel and Hezbollah raged in Lebanon and Israel last summer, it became clear that media coverage had itself started to play an important role in determining the ultimate outcome of that war. It seemed clear that news coverage would affect the course of the conflict. And it quickly transpired that Hezbollah would become the beneficiary of the media's manipulation.
A close examination of the media's role during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in Lebanon comes now from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, in an analysis of the war published in a paper whose subtitle should give pause to journalists covering international conflict: "The Israeli-Hezbollah War of 2006: The Media as a Weapon in Asymmetrical Conflict." Marvin Kalb, of Harvard's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, methodically traces the transformation of the media "from objective observer to fiery advocate." Kalb painstakingly details how Hezbollah exercised absolute control over how journalists portrayed its side of the conflict, while Israel became "victimized by its own openness."
In commenting on the report, Charles Johnson notes:
It’s interesting that in an age of obsessive media focus on scandals, no wire service or newspaper has ever followed up on that story in any real way. Adnan Hajj seemed to simply vanish off the face of the earth; no interviews, no photos of him, no investigations, nothing; just that one statement where he claimed his fakery was to “remove dust.”
For blowing the whistle on Hizballah’s manipulation of Reuters, LGF was smeared by numerous leftists; the diversionary tactics ranged from personal attacks to attempts to minimize the importance of the faked photos.
Now the Harvard Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, hardly a bastion of neocon wingnut thinking, has issued a paper that absolutely skewers the media for their outrageously biased and terrorist-enabling behavior. Maybe this will be a little harder for them to ignore
Here's another one of our gag cartoons for the Buster McNutt humor column in AutoGraphic's Automotive Report newspapers.
And just for fun, here's a Snopes Urban Legend post about VIN Car Theives.
One project John has been working on working during our break involves caricaturing Iraqi politicians. Here is the first of four that we will be posting.
From AP: Construction on Baghdad barrier halted.
Iraq's prime minister said Sunday that he has ordered a halt to the U.S. military construction of a barrier separating a Sunni enclave from surrounding Shiite areas in Baghdad after fierce criticism over the project at home.
The challenge to the U.S. initiative came as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki began a regional tour to shore up support from mostly Sunni Arab nations for his Shiite-dominated government as sectarian violence persists despite a nearly 10-week-old security crackdown.
The U.S. military announced last week that it was building a three-mile-long and 12-foot-tall concrete wall in Azamiyah, a Sunni stronghold in northern Baghdad whose residents have often been the victims of retaliatory mortar attacks by Shiite militants following bombings usually blamed on Sunni insurgents.
U.S. and Iraqi officials defended plans for the barrier as an effort to protect the neighborhood, but residents and Sunni leaders complained it was a form of discrimination that would isolate the community. A large protest was scheduled for Monday in the area.
In his first public comments on the issue, al-Maliki said Sunday that he had ordered the construction to stop. ...
It was not immediately clear if the announcement by al-Maliki in Cairo was part of an effort to win Arab Sunni support. Al-Maliki is said to fear rising support among U.S.-allied Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan for a rumored Iraqi national salvation government led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a favorite of Washington.
To see more Newsmaker Caricatures by John Cox, click here.
Continuing our hiatus posts about past cartoonists we admire, today we highlight Victor Vashi. This cartoon is from his 1967 book RED Primer for Children and Diplomats, which I highly recommend. The book is long out of print, but used copies can be found online. And fortunately the link above is a Web site featuring the entire book. From the text on the back of the book:
Mr. Vashi cartooned his way through the years of Nazi and Soviet occupation of his country [Hungary]. He emerged from these experiences with no visible changes in his optimistic outlook or sunny personality.
The Nazis "loved" his tart cartoons, so much so that they ordered him to stay on for fifteen years. Fortunately, he managed to be engaged elsewhere during his "trial" and never served the sentence.
The Russians later became equally "fond" of his humor. He was locked in solitary confinement and was overlooked the day they cleaned out the Godollo Prison Camp, sending all able-bodied males to Siberia. This undoubtedly saved his life, but left him available for a "death march" to another concentration camp. Thus began the Communist indoctrination.
In December of 1948 Mr. Vashi managed to escape to Austria. In the process of making his way to America, he cartooned for a number of European newspapers ...
Mr. Vashi seriously considered writing a book, but after thinking it over decided to tell a story in cartoons, this time for the benefit of "children and diplomats." This primer is the result.
The foreword states that the book's message is clear: "Those who do not read history are condemned to repeat it." There's no reason to believe that the donkey in the cartoon is meant to represent Democrats, but considering their recent overtures to the likes of Syria's Assad, the cartoon fits.
This cartoon was originally posted on April 20, 2006 and is one of over 400 illustrations you'll find in our latest book Black & White World III, which can be ordered via Cox & Forkum, The Steyn Store, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.
This cartoon was originally posted on October 4, 2005 and is one of over 400 illustrations you'll find in our latest book Black & White World III, which can be ordered via Cox & Forkum, The Steyn Store, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.
From BBC News on April 2: [British] Schools 'avoid Holocaust lessons'.
Some schools avoid teaching the Holocaust and other controversial history subjects as they do not want to cause offence, research has claimed. Teachers fear meeting anti-Semitic sentiment, particularly from Muslim pupils, the government-funded study by the Historical Association said. ...
The Historical Association report claimed: "Teachers and schools avoid emotive and controversial history for a variety of reasons, some of which are well-intentioned.
"Staff may wish to avoid causing offence or appearing insensitive to individuals or groups in their classes.
"In particular settings, teachers of history are unwilling to challenge highly contentious or charged versions of history in which pupils are steeped at home, in their community or in a place of worship."
The report gave the example of a history department in a northern city which decided not to teach the Holocaust as a topic for GCSE coursework.
This cartoon by Dr. Seuss originally appeared on August 13, 1941. It can be found in the book Dr. Seuss Goes To War; The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel by Richard H. Minear, which I highly recommend. The book does not contain every Dr. Seuss editorial cartoon, but fortunately the author has a Web site that does: A Catalog of Political Cartoons by Dr. Seuss.
Minear suspects that "The Appeaser" in this cartoon might be Charles Lindbergh who was accused of sympathizing with the Nazis prior to America's entering WWII. Lindbergh was the explicit target of a few of Dr. Seuss cartoons.
Starting today, John and I will be taking a temporary break from editorial cartooning for a month, maybe less. We had planned to take off a week, but since we've never taken an extended break, and since we both have other projects we need to focus on, we decided longer would be better.
You won't be rid of us completely though. There will be occasional posts, a Newsmaker Caricature here, an old cartoon there. And it's possible we won't be able to resist creating a new cartoon. But our regular postings will be suspended while we recharge the batteries.
The above drawing is one John did of us a while back that seemed appropriate for this post. If you don't recognize it, see this.
UPDATE: Bryan Siegfried suggests, in part, that we post other cartoonist's work during the hiatus. We've done this in the past with some historical cartoonists we admire, so don't be surprised if you see a few more over the coming days and weeks.
From USA Today: Imus' firing leaves doubts about Imus Ranch for cancer-stricken kids.
Don Imus' banishment from the public airwaves also deprives him of a critical platform to raise money for the sprawling Imus Ranch, where children with cancer and other illnesses get a taste of the cowboy life. Before he was fired last week for calling the Rutgers University women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos," Imus pointed to the northern New Mexico ranch to make his case that he is "a good person who said a bad thing."
With Imus out of a job, some wonder whether the pipeline to charity money will eventually dry up.
Just as corporate sponsors backed away from his radio show, "I think you'll see a similar effect on the charity, where the corporate donors will find a less hot-button charity to support," said Trent Stamp, president of Charity Navigator, a New Jersey-based charity watchdog group.
To see more Newsmaker Caricatures by John Cox, click here.
The U.N. nuclear lapdog ElBaradei tries to reassure us; from AFP: Iran nuclear plant still in early stages: UN atomic chief.
Iran is still in the early stages of creating a plant to enrich uranium, the chief of the UN atomic watchdog said on Thursday, adding that fears over its nuclear programme arose over what the uranium would be used for.
"Iran is still at an early stage of building a plant to enrich unranium... There is no fear caused by Iran's uranium enrichment (in itself), but fears arise from the purpose of this enrichment," the International Atomic Energy Agency's Mohamed ElBaradei told reporters.
"Iran is pressing ahead with building the Natanz reactor to have 54,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium. Now it is still at the hundreds stage," he said in what appeared to be a downplaying of Iran's progress.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced this week that the Islamic republic's controversial uranium enrichment work had reached an "industrial scale."
But Russia, which is building Iran's first nuclear power plant, as well as other nations have cast doubts on the accuracy of his statement. ...
Uranium enrichment is the key sticking point in the standoff between Iran and the West, because as well as producing nuclear fuel the process in highly extended form can also make the fissile core for an atomic bomb.
Iran says its nuclear drive is solely aimed at generating energy and that it does not aspire to nuclear weapons.
Yeah right. Here are a some recent examples of Iran's "peacefulness." From CNN: Iraqi insurgents being trained in Iran, U.S. says
Iraqi insurgents are being trained in Iran to assemble weapons and Iranian-made weapons are still turning up in Iraq, the U.S. military said Wednesday.
The statement comes two months after the United States said it had asked Tehran to stop the flow of weapons into Iraq.
Coalition forces found a cache of Iranian rockets and grenade launchers in Baghdad on Tuesday, spokesman U.S. Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said Wednesday. ...
Caldwell showed reporters photographs on Wednesday that he said were found in the weapons cache. In February, Caldwell said the United States had asked Iran to stop the transfer of weapons. ...
He accused the Quds Force of supplying Iraqi insurgents with armor-piercing roadside bombs, called explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs. Caldwell said extremists are getting training on how to "assemble and employ EFPs."
"We know that they are being in fact manufactured and smuggled into this country, and we know that training does go on in Iran for people to learn how to assemble them and how to employ them," Caldwell said. "We know that training has gone on as recently as this past month from detainees' debriefs."
He said Shiite extremists are being trained inside Iran and said the use of such weapons requires "very skilled training." Much of the violence in Iraq is blamed on fighting between Shiite and Sunni insurgents. An overwhelming number of Iranians are Shiite.
Here is a list of articles indicating that Iran is not waging "peace" against us in Iraq:
US troops attacked by Iranian military last year (The Jerusalem Post, March 25, 2007)
Iran's influence grows in Iraq, region (Chicago Tribune, March 7, 2007)
Iraqi extremists trained in Iran: US intelligence (AFP, February 28, 2007)
Military: more evidence of Iran-made explosives (Seattle Times, February 27, 2007)
U.S.: Large Cache of Weapons Discovered in Iraq Traceable to Iran (AP via FOX News, February 26, 2007)
Iraqi insurgents using Austrian rifles from Iran (The Telegraph, February 13, 2007)
Iran involvement suspected in Karbala compound attack (CNN, January 31, 2007)
Donkeys harboring weapons stopped at Iran-Iraq border (Army Times, November 2, 2006)
Barbero: Iran training Shiite insurgents (AP via Army Times, August 24, 2006)
Casey cites Iran hand in attacks by Iraqi Shiites (The Washington Times, June 23, 2006)
Rumsfeld accuses Iran of troublemaking in Iraq (AP via Army Times, March 7, 2006)
EXCLUSIVE: Iraq Weapons -- Made in Iran? (ABC News, March 6, 2006)
Rumsfeld: Iraq bombs 'clearly from Iran' (CNN, August 10, 2005)
And finally MEMRI reminds us of the kind of government confronting us: Thief’s Hand Amputated in Public in Iran; Official Cleric Calls for Reinstating Islamic Punishments. (via Little Green Footballs)
The reformist website Rooz reported on April 5, 2007 that the Friday prayer leader of Shiraz, a city in the heart of Iran, had called for more public punishments, as prescribed by "hodud," Islamic penal law.
After a convicted thief’s hand was amputated in public in Kermanshah, Ayatollah Mohiyeddin Shirazi, an appointee of the supreme leader of Iran, criticized the halting of public punishments, and added, "Those who say that practices like amputating hands belong to the past are themselves part of the past." He also claimed that imprisonment had no effect "on educating criminals and reducing crime."
At a meeting with judges from Fars province, Shirazi argued that public punishments are more effective that imprisonment: "Prison and imprisoning individuals do not have an effect on educating criminals and reducing crime. They also add to corruption." He also called for using criminals convicted for drug-related charges as forced labor.
Kermanshah judiciary head Allahyar Malekshahi promised more amputations in the future and said that citizens had requested the public amputation.
According to Rooz, following the punishment Malekshahi told IRNA that the punishment had been approved by Iran’s Supreme Court.
This cartoon was originally posted on April 17, 2005 (on the occasion of Chinese protests against Japan), and it is one of over 400 illustrations you'll find in our latest book Black & White World III, which can be ordered via Cox & Forkum, The Steyn Store, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.
From TIME: Japan and China: Is the Ice Breaking? by Bryan Walsh.
China is usually the first nation to protest any perceived backsliding by Japan on its acceptance of guilt for World War II abuses. So it was notable that not a peep came out of Beijing last month over the international furor ignited by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's denial that Japan's wartime army had forced tens of thousands of Asian women into sexual slavery. Beijing's diplomatic silence — much appreciated in Tokyo — was the latest sign of an unexpected thaw in the two nations' often troubled relationship.
Japanese diplomats who could barely talk to their Chinese counterparts a year ago say communication has never been better, and on Wednesday, Tokyo welcomes Premier Wen Jiabao for a three-day stay that will be the first high-level Chinese visit to Japan in nearly seven years. ...
Despite the strains — and the rivalry dating back millennia — today's China-Japan relationship is held together by an overwhelming imperative: business.
Even when ties were at their frostiest over Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni [a Shinto memorial to Japan's war dead viewed by many nations as an irredeemable symbol of Japanese imperialism] and the response of Chinese protestors, economic ties continued to strengthen — last year, bilateral trade passed $200 billion, and China will soon become Japan's top trading partner. ...
Public opinion in both countries is not exactly fueling a thaw: A recent survey on college campuses in both countries found that 46% of students in Japan and 57% in China held a negative view of the other country, while over 80% of both characterized Japan-China relations as "bad." ...
In China, the simmering sense of humiliation over Japan's wartime atrocities can unleash waves of public rage with the least provocation. And should Abe eventually give in to his conservative political base and visit Yasukuni, the reaction from China would be swift and angry. "That is the worst scenario," says Kokubun. "The relationship between the two countries might end up worse than it was before."
From The New York Sun: After Grilling by Sharpton, Imus Is Suspended.
There was a different tone in [Don Imus's] voice yesterday during his nationally syndicated morning show, "Imus in the Morning."
Not only did he spend much of his airtime giving a lengthy apology for describing the Rutgers University women's basketball team as "nappy headed hos," but he vowed to permanently change the nature of his show. ...
By day's end, he had been grilled on-air by the Reverend Al Sharpton and suspended by MSNBC for two weeks starting April 16. ...
One of Mr. Imus's most vocal critics in the last days, Rev. Sharpton, said that he accepted Mr. Imus's apology, but still wanted him to resign.
"You could be fired and the nicest guy in the world, but you ought to be fired," Rev. Sharpton told him during a conversation on "The Al Sharpton Show." Meanwhile, the Rev. Jesse Jackson rallied outside the headquarters of NBC in Chicago and called on the company to fire him. ...
During his on-air conversation with Mr. Imus, Rev. Sharpton said: "I'm not going to call you a bigot. I'm going to say what you said was racist. I'm going to say what you said was abominable. I'm going to say you should be fired for saying it."
Mr. Imus argued that it was "an ill-informed decision" to call for his resignation because people didn't know what was "in his heart."
David Horowitz at FrontPageMag.com had some strong criticism for Sharpton: The Imus lynching:
Don't you just love the fact that Al Sharpton is leading the Imus lynch squad? There's a certain appropriateness of course in that Sharpton is America's most successful racist, having personally incited the lynchings of eight people, not counting the half dozen whose lives were ruined by Tawana Brawley's lies.
UPDATE I: IBD Editorials has more on Sharpton and double standards: Imus And Andy.
What struck us was that his most vocal accuser, the Rev. Al Sharpton, on whose show Imus begged forgiveness, is hardly the poster child for racial sensitivity. Big Al rose to fame back in 1987 by charging that New York prosecutor Steve Pagones "on 33 separate occasions" had "kidnapped, raped and abused" Tawana Brawley.
Brawley was a 15-year-old black girl who went missing and was found four days later covered in dog feces with racial slurs written on her body. She claimed six white men, one of them carrying a badge, had raped her repeatedly in a woods in upstate New York. Sharpton accused Pagones.
Pagones sued and won a $65,000 judgment for defamation. In 1988, a grand jury concluded Brawley "was not the victim of forcible sexual assault" and the whole thing was a hoax. In 2002, when Sharpton was asked if he'd apologize to Pagones, Sharpton replied: "Apologize for what? For believing a young lady?"
In 1991, a 7-year-old black child was killed in a Crown Heights (Brooklyn) traffic accident when a car driven by a Hasidic Jew went out of control. Sharpton showed up to lead protests, calling Jews "diamond merchants" and saying, "If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house." A young Talmudic scholar would later be surrounded by a mob and stabbed to death. Sharpton paid no lasting price, but then liberal Democrats rarely do.
UPDATE II -- April 11: From The Kansas City Star: Imus isn’t the real bad guy.
Thank you, Don Imus. You've given us (black people) an excuse to avoid our real problem.
You've given Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson another opportunity to pretend that the old fight, which is now the safe and lucrative fight, is still the most important fight in our push for true economic and social equality.
You've given Vivian Stringer and Rutgers the chance to hold a nationally televised recruiting celebration expertly disguised as a news conference to respond to your poor attempt at humor.
Thank you, Don Imus. You extended Black History Month to April, and we can once again wallow in victimhood, protest like it's 1965 and delude ourselves into believing that fixing your hatred is more necessary than eradicating our self-hatred.
The bigots win again.
"Firebrand" used to be the most common adjective the media attached to Shiite cleric/thug Muqtada al-Sadr. Today the adjective seems to be "powerful," as the two articles below illustrate. But this article reports that al-Sadr is struggling to rebuild his image as a "unifier."
Thousands of anti-U.S. protesters marched in the Shiite holy city of Najaf on Monday to mark the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.
Powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for the demonstration, which Najaf police said included tens of thousands of protesters. ...
On Sunday, al-Sadr called on his followers to stop killing Iraqi forces and focus instead on resisting Americans.
In a statement attributed to al-Sadr and released in Najaf the cleric purportedly said insurgents should not be killing Iraqis and that Iraqi police and troops should be on the side of the militias.
"You, the Iraqi army and police forces, do not walk alongside the occupiers because they are your enemy," the statement said. "I am here to advise you the honest resister hope for two things from God: either victory or martyrdom. But at the same time, the honest resister should not kill a fellow Iraqi."
Throughout the weekend, U.S. and Iraqi forces battled al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia south of the capital in Diwaniya.
The New York Times version soft-pedals al-Sadr's comments but has a little more on his history:
Mr. Sadr led two rebellions against the Americans in 2004 and emerged more powerful from each, even though thousands of his fighters were killed. He entered mainstream politics, and his followers now hold at least 30 seats in Parliament and critical cabinet postings. He also has a powerful protector in Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a conservative Shiite who gained the top job because of Mr. Sadr’s support.
Although Mr. Sadr has a home in Najaf, his current whereabouts are a mystery. American military officials say he is in Iran, but supporters insist he is still in Iraq.
Some history not mentioned by NYT: Coalition forces had an arrest warrant for al-Sadr on charges of complicity in the death of a rival Shiite cleric, and al-Sadr has declared his support for Palestinian terrorist groups and said that 9/11 was a miracle from God.
We should not have allowed al-Sadr to get this far.
(As an aside, the NYT article also mentions more Iranian involvement in Iraq: "The American military said Sunday that at least 39 people suspected of being militiamen had been detained during the weekend fighting, and soldiers had uncovered caches of particularly deadly explosives that American officials contended came from Iran.")
UPDATE -- April 10: The New York Times follow-up story at least raises questions about al-Sadr's influence, but there's still no mention of his ugly past: Huge Protest in Iraq Demands U.S. Withdraw.
Tens of thousands of protesters loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the Shiite cleric, took to the streets of the holy city of Najaf on Monday in an extraordinarily disciplined rally to demand an end to the American military presence in Iraq, burning American flags and chanting “Death to America!”
Residents said that the angry, boisterous demonstration was the largest in Najaf, the heart of Shiite religious power, since the American-led invasion in 2003. It took place on the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, and it was an obvious effort by Mr. Sadr to show the extent of his influence here in Iraq, even though he did not appear at the rally. Mr. Sadr went underground after the American military began a new security push in Baghdad on Feb. 14, and his whereabouts are unknown.
Mr. Sadr used the protest to try to reassert his image as a nationalist rebel who appeals to both anti-American Shiites and Sunni Arabs. ...
The protest unfolded as heavy fighting continued in parts of Diwaniya, a southern city where American and Iraqi forces have been battling cells of the Mahdi Army since Friday. Mr. Sadr issued a statement on Sunday calling for the Mahdi militiamen and the Iraqi forces there to stop fighting each other, but those words went unheeded. Gun battles broke out on Monday, and an American officer said at a news conference that at least one American soldier had been killed and one wounded in four days of clashes.
That fighting and the protest in Najaf, as well as Mr. Sadr’s mysterious absence, raise questions about how much control he actually maintains over his militia. Mr. Sadr is obviously still able to order huge numbers of people into the streets, but there has been talk that branches of his militia have split off and now operate independently. In Baghdad, some Mahdi Army cells have refrained in the last two months from attacking Americans and carrying out killings of Sunni Arabs, supposedly on orders from Mr. Sadr, but bodies of Sunnis have begun reappearing in some neighborhoods in recent weeks.
From the Union Leader: Jonah Goldberg: The 'Queen of Nice' has gone nuts, and ABC lets her rant on and on.
RENOWNED metallurgist Rosie O'Donnell proclaimed on TV Thursday of last week that Sept. 11, 2001, was a more significant date than most of us realized. It was, in her words, "the first time in history that fire has ever melted steel."
This, of course, came as news to steelworkers, welders, blacksmiths, firefighters, manufacturers of samurai swords and other fools who hadn't realized that steel is forged in magic furnaces using dragon breath and pixie dust.
O'Donnell made this and other profoundly stupid comments on the daytime talk show "The View," ABC's update of the ancient practice of women chattering around the village well.
The former "queen of nice" seems to think that the show is the perfect venue to audition for grand marshal of the next tinfoil hat parade. ...
[I]in last week's rant, O'Donnell focused on World Trade Center Building 7, which has become the grassy knoll for 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Asked if the government was responsible for its collapse, she coyly replied that she didn't know, wink, wink. All she knows is that it's "impossible for a building to fall the way it fell without explosives being involved" and that, for the "first time in history, steel was melted by fire." Wink, wink, again. For the record, fire can melt steel, and buildings collapse when heat weakens steel. But that misses the point. The point is we shouldn't have to argue with crazy people.
Hot Air has the video.
UPDATE -- April 9: Tim Sumner has more evidence of Rosie O'Donnell's ignorance.
From AP: Iran gains in standoff with Britain.
Iran emerged with a measure of strength from its standoff with Britain over the captured sailors — deflecting attention from its disputed nuclear program and proving it can cause trouble in the Middle East when it chooses.
Yet the country's hardline leaders also shied away from all-out confrontation with the West — backing down once they had flexed their power, apparently worried they might go too far. ...
Whether that is a sign of internal dissent in Iran or finely honed, clever brinkmanship, Iran clearly gained some respect from the dispute — at least enough to make the West cautious that the Islamic regime would be willing to dive into such a tussle again. ...
Iran can't help but be pleased that for several weeks, international focus was off the [Iranian nuclear] issue.
But if Western pressure on the nuclear program gathers again, Iran will most likely respond with the same mix of fierce rhetoric and pragmatic dealing it showed during the British standoff.
Ahmadinejad hinted at that even as he announced the British sailors would go free. Speaking of U.N. Security Council sanctions that have targeted Iran's banks over the nuclear issue, he said: "If they want to create disturbances ... for parts of our economy, (our) banks, we will retaliate."
Interestingly, if the URL is any indication, the original title for this article was "Iran Out On Top."
For some time, Tony Blair has been trying to show that for all his support of President Bush, he is no warmonger. He has been a consistent "softliner" on Iran's nuclear program, supporting the Europeans' search for a diplomatic solution and repeatedly insisting that any military options be taken off the table. ...
The mullahs in Tehran clearly see the new pacifist trend in Britain not as a hopeful sign of future accord, but as supine surrender. Just as clearly, they have singled out Britain as the latest weak link in the Coalition fighting in Iraq and in the War on Terror. ...
Today, British politicians seem determined to make the same mistake [made by British politicians after World War I]. They exude the spirit not of Winston Churchill or Margaret Thatcher but of diplomat and Labor Party stalwart Harold Nicolson, who used to sigh to friends in the dark days after France's surrender in 1940: "All we can do is lie on our backs with our paws in the air and hope that no one will stamp on our tummies."
The capture of 15 British sailors should serve as a warning. Nations cannot "opt out" of their responsibilities in the War on Terror when they feel it, like players in a pickup basketball game or cricket match.
Enemies like the mullahs and their terrorist allies recognize no time outs, no neutral ground. They see only strength and weakness, those nations they can manipulate and those they have to fear. Today they clearly feel they can pull the British lion's tail with impunity.
If the hostages are finally released unharmed, it will have a lot more to do with the presence of two American carrier groups off the Iranian coast than anything Blair is doing - and the British will have learned that what they really lost when they gave up their fleet and abandoned the fight in Iraq is their own self-respect.
By committing an act of war, Iran has simultaneously made itself look peaceful and made the West look impotent. ...
The way the crisis played out will have serious consequences in the Middle East. Iran proved that it is the region’s dominant power. Could any other country have attempted this and gotten away with it? Syria? Saudi Arabia? Egypt? Surely not. Britain, meanwhile, reinforced Iran’s view of the West as a decadent society that does not respond effectively to provocations and need not be feared. Perceptions matter: Recall the conclusions Osama bin Laden drew after the American retreat from Somalia. What we can expect now is greater aggression, from both Iran in particular and Islamists in general.
That’s what we can expect, anyway, if Britain does nothing to salvage the situation. ...
It’s right to be glad that the young Britons are headed home. But into that humanitarian feeling irrupts the darker realization that their good fortune comes at an unacceptable price. Unless Britain and her allies act quickly and cleverly to show that they are, appearances notwithstanding, powers to be reckoned with, a great many lives will be at risk for a long time to come.
UPDATE III -- April 6: At FOX News: British Sailor Maintains Crew Was in Iraqi Waters When Detained by Iran.
UPDATE VI -- April 9: From The Telegraph: Buoyant Teheran warns of further kidnappings.
Hardliners in the Iranian regime have warned that the seizure of British naval personnel demonstrates that they can make trouble for the West whenever they want to and do so with impunity.
The bullish reaction from Teheran will reinforce the fears of western diplomats and military officials that more kidnap attempts may be planned.
The British handling of the crisis has been regarded with some concern in Washington, and a Pentagon defence official told The Sunday Telegraph: "The fear now is that this could be the first of many. If the Brits don't change their rules of engagement, the Iranians could take more hostages almost at will.
"Iran has come out of this looking reasonable. If I were the Iranians, I would keep playing the same game. They have very successfully muddied the waters and bought themselves some more time. And in parts of the Middle East they will be seen as the good guys. They could do it time and again if they wanted to."
Americans also expressed dismay that the British had suspended boarding operations in the Gulf while its tactics are reassessed.
"Iran has got what it wants. They have secured free passage for smuggling weapons into Iraq without a fight," one US defence department official said.
It is also clear that the Iranian government believes that the outcome has strengthened its position over such contentious issues as its nuclear programme. Hardliners within the regime have been lining up to crow about Britain's humiliation, and indicated that the operation was planned.
From CBS News: $500M Pledged To Fight Childhood Obesity.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said Wednesday it would spend $500 million over the next five years to combat an "epidemic" of childhood obesity.
Childhood obesity is threatening the health of one-third of the nation's young people. Nearly 25 million children age 17 and younger are considered obese or overweight, costing $14 billion a year in medical expenses, the foundation said.
"These children live sicker and are likely to die younger if our nation continues to have this problem with childhood obesity," Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, the president and CEO of the foundation, told CBS News.
To halt a trend building over the past four decades, the foundation is offering to fund programs that focus on improving access to affordable healthy foods or on how to increase physical activity in schools and communities.
"We know that we are going to need to use this to help families have safer places for kids to play and get exercise, and get back to being active," Lavizzo-Mourey said. "What we hope to do with this money is pull people from all across the country, galvanize them, to work together to reverse this epidemic."
A glut of cheap junk food and convenience — fewer of today's kids walk to school or need to get up to change the television channel — have obscured the facts of the "energy balance," Lavizzo-Mourey said.
Simply put, people are eating more energy than they burn, she said.
UDPATE -- April 6: Is the "childhood obesity epidemic" as overblown as man-made global warming? Reader Jeremy Morton pointed us to Sandy Szwarc's blog -- Junk Food Science -- where she argues that that is the case. Two relevant posts:
Where’s the crisis?
From FOX News: Bush: Pelosi Meeting With Syria's Assad Sends Wrong Signal.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip to Syria to meet President Bashar Assad sends a signal that the rogue nation is part of the international mainstream when it is not, President Bush said in a Rose Garden address Tuesday.
Pelosi, D-Calif., arrived in Syria earlier that day, leading a Congressional delegation on a trip that the White House has criticized.
“It’s one thing to send a message,” Bush said. “It’s another thing to have the person receiving the message actually do something. Sending delegations hasn’t worked, it’s simply been counterproductive.”
Pelosi, who was met at Damascus airport by Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, is the highest-ranking American politician to visit Syria since relations began to deteriorate in 2003.
The United States accuses Syria of interfering in Iraq and Lebanon and sponsoring terrorists — charges that Damascus denies. A White House spokeswoman has described Pelosi's visit to Syria as a "really bad idea."
Pelosi has shrugged off the criticism, pointing out that Republican members of Congress have also visited Syria. During a visit to neighboring Lebanon Monday, she said she considers the visits to be an "excellent idea" and was hopeful of rebuilding lost confidence between Washington and Damascus.
And IBD Editoirals: Mrs. Chamberlain.
We've seen how well Iran plays with others, capturing 15 British sailors in what in earlier times would have been considered an act of war. It is killing U.S. troops with advanced armor-piercing IEDs it supplies Iraqi jihadists. It plays host to Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi army has tried to destabilize Iraq's infant democracy.
Still, Pelosi insists we follow the ISG's advice. Come, let us reason together. But we've seen Iran's response to the ISG and to the international community that has rightly sanctioned Tehran for building weapons of mass destruction.
Syria and Iran were partners in crime in Hezbollah's unprovoked attack on Israel and used the democracy of Lebanon as a human shield as it helped provide weapons that rained death and destruction on civilians in Israeli cities and towns. It acted as a conduit for arms flowing to Hezbollah from Iran used in Hezbollah's attacks.
Syria has been linked to the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and a host of other anti-Syrian political leaders as it works to destabilize the country it occupied for over two decades. Pelosi won't be able to talk to Lebanon's former industry minister, Pierre Gemayal. He was assassinated as part of Syria's and Hezbollah's plan to destabilize Lebanon.
UPDATE I: From CNN: Pelosi receives warm welcome in Syria.
Pelosi stood by the U.S. assertion that Syria supports groups that the United States considers terrorist organizations.
"Of course the role of Syria in Iraq, the role of Syria supporting Hamas and Hezbollah, the role of Syria in so many respects -- we think there could be a vast improvement," she said. "We think it's a good idea to establish the facts, to hopefully build some confidence between us. We have no illusions, but we have great hope."
UPDATE II -- April 4: With its headline, CNN seems to be trying to help Pelosi seem tough on Syria: Pelosi pushes Syria on Hamas, Hezbollah links. "Pushes"? Here's what the article says:
Pelosi said she and her delegation "expressed our concern about Syria's connections to Hezbollah and Hamas" and discussed the issue of militant fighters slipping across the Syrian border into Iraq. "These are important issues not only in the fight against terrorism but important priorities for us for peace in the Middle East," she said. ...
In the talks with Assad, the delegation raised the issue of Israeli soldiers kidnapped by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas and conveyed "the importance of Syria's role with Hamas in promoting peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis," Pelosi said.
"Expressed our concern" and "raised the issue" -- I don't see any pushing going on, particularly when Pelosi suggests that Syria has an interest in promoting peace in Israel, a notion shown as ludicrous by the next paragraph:
Syria hosts the exiled leadership of Hamas, as well as other Palestinian radical groups, and is a major patron of Hezbollah. But while the United States regards Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups, Syria insists that Hamas is a legitimate resistance movement working for Palestinian freedom and Hezbollah is a regular Lebanese political party.
It's impossible to have a "dialogue" about peace with an intransigent and bloody state sponsor of two groups who openly want to destroy the free state of Israel. This is the mess that Pelosi and her ilk refuse to see.
UPDATE III -- April 5: A surprisingly spot-on editorial from The Washtington Post: Pratfall in Damascus; Nancy Pelosi's foolish shuttle diplomacy.
HOUSE SPEAKER Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered an excellent demonstration yesterday of why members of Congress should not attempt to supplant the secretary of state when traveling abroad. After a meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Ms. Pelosi announced that she had delivered a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that "Israel was ready to engage in peace talks" with Syria. What's more, she added, Mr. Assad was ready to "resume the peace process" as well. Having announced this seeming diplomatic breakthrough, Ms. Pelosi suggested that her Kissingerian shuttle diplomacy was just getting started. "We expressed our interest in using our good offices in promoting peace between Israel and Syria," she said.
Only one problem: The Israeli prime minister entrusted Ms. Pelosi with no such message. "What was communicated to the U.S. House Speaker does not contain any change in the policies of Israel," said a statement quickly issued by the prime minister's office. ...
"We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace," Ms. Pelosi grandly declared.
Never mind that that statement is ludicrous: As any diplomat with knowledge of the region could have told Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Assad is a corrupt thug whose overriding priority at the moment is not peace with Israel but heading off U.N. charges that he orchestrated the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. The really striking development here is the attempt by a Democratic congressional leader to substitute her own foreign policy for that of a sitting Republican president.
Meanwhile, Pelosi's trip was further discredited by praise from a Hamas supporter: Carter backs Pelosi's trip, despite Bush's rebuke.
UPDATE III: More praise from the wrong sources, as reported by Ynet News: Terrorists endorse Pelosi's 'good policy of dialogue'.
Abu Abdullah, a leader of Hamas' military wing in the Gaza Strip, said the willingness by some lawmakers to talk with Syria "is proof of the importance of the resistance against the US. "The Americans know and understand they are losing in Iraq and the Middle East and that their only chance to survive is to reduce hostilities with Arab countries and with Islam. Islam is the new giant of the world," he said.
UPDATE IV -- April 9: A Union Leader editorial: Pelosi's diplomacy: She speaks only for herself.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton raised $26 million and transferred an additional $10 million from her Senate war chest to post $36 million in the first quarter of the 2008 fundraising cycle, the New York Democrat's presidential campaign announced Sunday. ...
Senior campaign aides noted that Clinton, a front-runner for the Democratic nomination, had raised the $26 million in a 10-week period, but still said their goal for the year remains at $75 million. Political analysts suggest the fundraising figure for Clinton and a handful of other presidential contenders is more likely to be in the $100 million range for the year. ...
It is likely Clinton will lead the Democratic field in fundraising this quarter, as her finely tuned political machine, honed during her husband's years in the White House, kicked into high gear. Former President Bill Clinton played a high profile role in the senator's presidential campaign in the first 10 weeks by headlining fundraisers and reaching out to key party activists.
And from ABC News: Bill Clinton Puts New 'Spin' on Fundraising.
This cartoon was suggested to us by reader Mike Baram.
UPDATE -- April 3: From CNN: Clinton slips, Edwards climbs in New Hampshire poll.