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March 28, 2003
Evildo it To Me one more time...

Paul Wolfowitz, quoted at CNN: "We probably did underestimate the willingness of this regime to commit war crimes. I don't think we anticipated so many people who would pretend to surrender and then shoot. I don't think we anticipated the number of execution squads within Basra."

Who is Wolfowitz kidding? The war was sold on the notion that because Iraqi evildoers would eventually commit war crimes and other horrible acts of aggression, it was best to destroy them now even if it meant creating a new Orwellian lexicon of phrases like "anticipatory self-defense" and ignoring the U.N. Charter.

Posted by Greg Beato at 11:36 AM
March 27, 2003

Journalist says too much: "Phil Smucker, who writes for the Christian Science Monitor, told his paper yesterday that military police were going through his belongings and were concerned that he had disclosed too much information in an interview... Despite repeated attempts to contact Smucker, 'that's the last we've heard from him.'"

Some of Smucker's articles:

For U.S. Troops, The Desert Becomes a Tough Adversary

In The Field, A Fight for Iraqi Hearts, Minds

Witnesses To A Rough Ride On Road to Baghdad


Ace investigative reporter Charles Johnson on Amnesty International, published on 03/27/03: "Not a word from these loathsome moralizers about Iraqis using civilians as human shields, arming children, and falsely surrendering to carry out sneak attacks. Not one word. But taking out the Iraqi dictatorship's propaganda organ is a war crime."

From Amnesty International, published on 03/26/03: "There are reports giving rise to concerns that war crimes may have been committed by both sides in the recent fighting, Amnesty International said today... Iraqi forces are reported to have deliberately shelled civilians in Basra and to placing military objectives in close proximity to civilians and civilian objects. There have also been reports of Iraqis dressed in civilian clothes in order to allow surprise attacks on coalition troops. 'Any direct attack on civilians is a war crime. Those who blur the distinction between combatants and civilians undermine the very foundations of humanitarian law,' said Claudio Cordone."


Current Iraqi armament status

Weapons of mass destruction: 0
Mural of mass destruction: 1


From Glenn Reynolds: "EVER NOTICE HOW IRAQI IMMIGRANTS DON'T SEEM AS PESSIMISTIC as, well, a lot of people who have never been to Iraq?"

From USA Today: "On board are about 30 men. They're among thousands of Iraqis who have headed home since the first bombs exploded over Baghdad a week ago. The men on the bus say they're returning to fight against the Americans."


From the Miami Herald: " U.S. Marines, moving through this still-contested city, opened fire at anything that moved Tuesday, leaving dozens of dead in their wake, at least some of them civilians...Occasionally a tank blasted a hole in a house...U.S. troops searching houses found one woman with her husband, who was wounded, and her two sons, who were dead. All had been hit by stray bullets."

From the New York Times: "'The officers threatened to shoot us unless we fought,' said a wounded Iraqi from his bed in the American field hospital here. 'They took out their guns and pointed them and told us to fight.'"

(Last two links via

Posted by Greg Beato at 08:54 AM
March 26, 2003
The Big Mo

From the Guardian:"Pictures used in the West tend to be sanitised. The photograph with this story, taken after an air raid in Basra on Saturday, shows a wounded girl. What it doesn't show is that her foot has been blown off."

From the New Republic: "Like every other Iraqi I know, I have friends and relatives in Baghdad. I am nauseous with anxiety for their safety. But still those bombs are music to my ears. They are like bells tolling for liberation in a country that has been turned into a gigantic concentration camp."


Heart by heart, blast by blast, melodic severed foot by melodic severed foot, democracy is taking root in Iraq.

Of course, the liberal media, which got us into this mess in the first place according to Sergeant Michael Sprague ("If it weren't for the liberal press, we might have taken Baghdad last time"), is doing its best to undermine our efforts as usual. True, it seems as if there are at least as many retired military personnel embedded in the news studios of CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News as there are journalists embedded in Iraq. And so far the war that Americans are seeing on TV is perhaps even more sanitized than Martha Stewart's bathroom - Fear Factor, The Shield, and The Sopranos don't have anything to worry about just yet.

But even I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! had a longer media honeymoon than Dubya Dubya 2. After only a week of combat, the media is using the Q word, invoking images of Mogadishu and Vietnam, and implying that we've gotten ourselves into the biggest, costliest military debacle since Pearl Harbor (the Ben Affleck version, not the 1941 version).

Honestly, though - if we were patient enough to give the U.N. twelve years to ruin Iraq's economy, erode its infrastructure, and crush the spirit of its people with brutal sanctions, can't we give the Coalition of The Willing at least twelve days, if not twelve weeks, to do the same using more violent, humane, and televisually exciting means?

Which is not to say that speed isn't a factor here. President Bush just got $75 billion from Congress, but apparently that only covers a month's worth of liberation. While the cost of dissent has generated sticker shock and disgust, the cost of shock and awe - a mind-boggling $2.5 billion a day - has hardly generated any commentary at all. But what if Bush has to go to the trough again in a matter of weeks and ask for a similar amount? Another tax cut could generate the necessary funds, of course, but will the liberal Senate cooperate?

And will the American public have the resolve to see this operation through to the very end? In the fogs of promotional hype surrounding TV war coverage, we tend to forget that Walter Rogers isn't the first TV reporter to put on a helmet: television journalists were such a common part of Vietnam that New Yorker TV critic Michael J. Arlen dubbed it the "living-room war." Combat was an evening newscast staple throughout the mid-sixties, and prime-time documentaries like Morley Safer's largely forgotten Morley Safer's Vietnam made the remote, abstract business of war more immediate and personal than it had ever been: indeed, once viewers saw scenes like Nancy Sinatra singing "These Boots are Made For Walking" to men in wheelchairs whose legless bodies were now made for rolling, they started realizing Gomer Pyle wasn't exactly telling the whole story of warfare. And in 1968, in response to the Tet offensive, the carnage quotient increased substantially on network newscasts. According to journalism professor J. Sean McCleneghan, "Pictures of military casualties jumped from an average of 2.4 to 6.8 per week."

Support for the war dropped in inverse proportion, but can the same thing happen again? Well, thanks to U.N. dawdling, the Coalition of the Willing was unable to launch their attack in the midst of the fall TV season, when more entertaining programming would have kept people from watching the cable news channels so much. But now the only credible competition is American Idol, Survivor: Whatever, and Friends reruns. As a result, millions of people are watching the war each day, and significant exposure to troubling images of wounded soldiers and dead civilians is a possibility, at least in theory.

Luckily, Fox News is winning the Nielsen Wars. If it were in last place, all bets would be off, because Rupert Murdoch rarely lets discretion trump a sure-fire ratings-getter. But since Fox News is leading the pack by a comfortable margin, it can afford to be a little high-minded, especially when neither CNN nor MSNBC seem likely to lead the charge toward explicit Al Jazeera-style coverage, even though such fare could do the work of a thousand Michael Savages...

In other words, there's no stopping this war now. As Dubya's dad used to say when he was in charge, it's got the Big Mo. And who would want to stop it anyway? Saddam Hussein and his monstrous minions have terrorized Iraq for decades, and if we have to disfeet a few little girls to protect them from being raped by their swarthy oppressors, and slaughter some lethal kids to remind the world that history is written by massive armies equipped with superior technology, that's just how things work out sometimes. To win the war on global terrorism, rogue regimes capable of supplying terrorists with weapons of mass destruction must be annihilated, especially if they're as good at hiding them as Iraq has proven to be.

And the increasing tensions with North Korea, the Arab world, Russia, China, France, and Germany? The huge budget deficit we're running up? A new generation of soldiers exposed to probable health hazards (and the hundreds of thousands of disability claims and lawsuits that could follow? The further environmental devastation of Iraq? The terrible Vin Diesel movie the war is likely to inspire? The volatile precedent of preemption we've established? The ultimate showdown with Islam we're encouraging? Put all those things together and it sounds like a steep price to pay. But when you step back and realize that, thanks to the bold action we're taking now, we should be able to reduce the national terror threat from Code Orange ("high risk") to Code Yellow ("significant risk") for a good three months or so, it all seems worth it.

Posted by Greg Beato at 10:33 PM
March 25, 2003
The Yanque Manque Confesses

Andrew Sullivan: "I'm not a military expert..."

A sentence earlier, before this rare dose of reality flu overtook him, he wrote: "And if we weren't bending over backward to act scrupulously while the enemy behaves like barbarians, we'd be even further along."

The implication: if we weren't so reluctant to engage in a little war-is-hell unscrupulousness, we could really teach those fucking Iraqis a thing or two about freedom and democracy.

Alas, when you initially argue that one of the reasons a pre-emptive strike is warranted is because our enemies are evil, bloodthirsty, unscrupulous monsters, it's pretty disingenuous to start flirting with the idea of fighting barbarism with barbarism. And only five days in, no less.

Posted by Greg Beato at 09:24 AM
Evil Dictator Downgraded

"I'm sick of being told how brilliant our enemies are and how our troops are going to get whupped up on by some Kmart Hitler."

-- Ralph Peters, NY Post, 03/25/03

Posted by Greg Beato at 08:18 AM
March 24, 2003
Operation Enduring Hack

For years now, New York Post columnist Steve Dunleavy has been shocking and awing his ragtag army of denditric branches with massive blasts of alcohol consumed during late-night Manhattan sorties. Such combat has left him with a face as lined as Mickey Rooney's nutsack, and a mind as sharp as Michael Moore's ass.

How long does it take to knock out a 400-word column like this one?

My guess: as long as it takes to destroy a bottle or two of Jack Daniels, collaterize some whores, stagger into your office ten minutes before deadline, stare at the copy your low-paid assistant has crafted for you by ripping off a website, hack up one phlegmy and incoherent sentence of original material near the end, pause for 100-proof inspiration, resume with a boilerplate wheeze about how liberal celebrities who speak their minds should be shot, then finish off with a liquid prayer of thanks to a universe where you get paid big money to do this day after day, yelp after yelp, whinny after whinny, year after year...

Posted by Greg Beato at 09:47 AM